Not Looking Good for Millennial-Focused Airline

It was announced recently that Air France is reviewing what to do with Joon, its boutique airline geared towards Millennials. With the admission from Air France that the brand was “difficult to understand from the outset for customers, for employees, for markets and for investors” there will undoubtedly be many that pile on the airline whose days seem numbered.

While this will be added to the list of misguided efforts to market to Millennials, Air France’s efforts were not without merit. Air travel is generally a horrible experience. Trying to create a niche brand focused on experience isn’t a bad idea. Neither is creating a product/service specifically for a segment of customers. But…

When setting out to create an experience-based brand for a specific segment, the full experience needs to resonate with that group. One of the aspects of airline travel that makes it so terrible is the other passengers. Presumably, Millennials would prefer an experience filled with other Millennials. In order to create this Millennial-only environment, Joon would need Millennials to be willing to pay more (like a brunch place selling $30 avocado toast) or make the experience terrible for other generations (like the Firefly Festival). Joon offered low fares (remember, Millennials are poor) and an all around pleasant experience for everyone. So why wouldn’t a Baby Boomer booking a flight from Paris to Capri book this cool, new low-cost airline?

So was Joon really a Millennial’s dream when it comes to air travel? Or was it Ryan Air with craft beer? They get points for trying to improve the air travel experience, but it was probably doomed to fail, as Millennials are not going to shell out more money to upgrade their air travel experience. Until this cohort gets out from under student loans and is no longer confronting skyrocketing housing costs, it seems unlikely for a Virgin-for-Millennials airline to take flight.

This also begs the question of whether or not Millennials are enough of a homogeneous cohort to represent an actionable segment for businesses to market to. Of course, when we say that “market to Millennials” we are referring to the selfie-taking, brunch-loving, job-hopping hipsters society loves to hate. But the reality is that a lot of Millennials are currently leading normal, suburban lives driving kids to school and commuting to office parks. Me lugging my two year old onto a Joon flight isn’t what anyone had in mind for the Millennial airline.

Did Millennials really kill the Scion?

I recently published a list mocking the many lists of things Millennials have killed. Pretty far down on that list was the Toyota Scion. Although the ranking methodology put it low on the list, it does fall into my favorite category – failed attempts to market to Millennials. Scion was supposed to be a fun car brand that teens and twenty-somethings who wanted to eschew automotive norms, would flock to. What it really ended up being, was a value mobile that younger and older drivers warmed up to.

For anyone unfamiliar, the Scion is the cube-like, futuristic car launched by Toyota in 2002, known for its transformer-inspired commercials. It was supposed to be cool and different, appealing to Gen Y (the term Millennials hadn’t been popularized yet) when we were barely old enough to drive. 2006 was the most successful year for the Scion, selling 173,000 cars.

So what happened? A few things. First, cars are a mass-market product. For the economics of a line of cars to work, it needs to appeal to the masses (like the Camry). Or if not all of the masses, a niche that represents a pretty big chunk of the masses (like the Mini Cooper). Or if not a sizable niche, then it had better command a high price point (like Jaguar). The Scion found a niche, but it wasn’t large enough. If anything, Toyota succeeded at what they tried to do – the average age of a Scion buyer was 36. The cohort it appealed to was just not large enough.

The other issue was the or economics  didn’t work. The business model for the Scion was that the MSRP alone would not sustain the car, so Millennials were supposed to add lots of features to it (a la Pimp My Ride). This never really panned out, and the Scion became a value brand to its customers. Not a problem if the car’s MSRP was enough to sustain it economically, but that was not the case.

Another issue with the Scion was that it was supposed to be cool. It sort of was for a time, but then Baby Boomers noticed this bargain-box on wheels. It wasn’t a gas guzzler, got you from point A to point B, and it wouldn’t break the bank if you didn’t have Xzibit installing an Xbox in the trunk. So what happens when a 20 year old sees their mom driving the same car that is supposed to make everything epic? They start to view the car as responsible and safe. Probably not what the makers of the epic commercial had in mind.

I referenced earlier that the niche that Scion captured wasn’t big enough. It also grew up. Millennials are moving out of their urban locales and need bigger cars to lug around their growing families. Gen Z behind them didn’t pick up the slack, and sales dipped.

It’s hard to draw any broad conclusions about designing products for Millennials based on the fact that Scion only lasted for little over a decade. One could even argue that it succeeded by getting Millennials into the Toyota family as they entered the workforce during the financial crisis. I do, however, think it warrants a moment’s hesitation before anyone that sells mass market products, such as cars, designs a product for a niche market. It is important to make sure that the niche is large enough to sustain the economics of the product. Also – understand your value proposition – a fuel efficient car at a low price point had tons of value to drivers of all ages during the financial crisis.

 

 

Did Millennials really kill Napkins?

The crime

Recently, I published the dumbest list the internet has ever seen. All 82 things that Millennials have been accused of killing, ranked according to an appropriately dumb methodology. Topping that list was the beloved napkin. The innocent, dutiful paper product is having the life snuffed out of it by those malicious Millennials.

I’m a Millennial. I usually just use a paper towel when I’m at home. So I get it, we probably are not the paper napkin industry’s favorite segment. But why is this the number one thing that Millennials are accused of killing? It appears on almost every listicle that lays out the Millennials’ victims. There must be something about napkins and Millennials that makes us true mortal enemies.

In all of these articles, Millennals come off like Walter White, fully broken bad out of greed and laziness. While napkins are Hank, the heroic figure with an uncompromising moral code. This didn’t seem quite right. So I decided to do some sleuthing to get to the root of the accusation that Millennials have killed off napkins.

On the Case

Like any good Millennial detective, my hunt started with Google. I Googled “Millennials ruined napkins” to see if I could figure out what was really up, and the most prominent search result that wasn’t a “Millennials killed” listicle was from Business Insider. It referenced a Washington Post article, which in turn referenced a study conducted by Mintel. This study appears to be ground zero for the Millennial-Napkin caper.

Mintel is a Market Research firm. It makes sense that it would conduct research on Millennials, as marketers are very vocal about how Millennials won’t play by traditional marketing rules.

So Mintel must have uncovered some pretty conclusive data to link the death of paper napkins to Millennials, right? Well, not really. What Mintel does say is that that only 56% of consumers have purchased paper napkins compared to 86% that have purchased paper towels in the past six months. Also – according to a Marketing Director from Georgia Pacific, 15 years ago 6 in 10 households used paper napkins, compared to just 4 out of 6 today. Notice that no one has even mentioned Millennials yet?

So paper napkins do appear to be on a downward trend. To get to the bottom of this, The Post reached out to a real live Millennial, who informed them that napkins aren’t on recent college graduates’ radars, but paper towels are! Fair enough.

They also reached out to someone who claims to have never used a paper napkin in their lives, bringing the perfect blend of snobbishness and an irrelevant opinion to an article about how people previously used paper napkins. The article then took us through many twists and turns with input from Martha Stewart on how we need to use linen or cloth napkins, and someone from Apartment Therapy who chimed in with thoughts about how in-home entertaining has become more informal over the years.

The article then turns to our marketing friend from Georgia Pacific, maker of several paper napkin brands. He informs us that paper napkin use has been on the decline for 20 years – a trend that would appear to indicate paper napkins have been slowly becoming less and less relevant to Americans’ lives over the past two decades.

He also mentions that Millennials are more likely to eat meals on the go, and just grab a paper towel if it happens to be on a kitchen counter or island. This makes sense. I’m seeing how you could indict a Millennial for this crime, but proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is still going to be a challenge. The Business Insider trail has gone cold. Back to Google.

Next up in our Google searching is an article from Need A Mom NYC, which quoted and linked to an article in New Republic about The Myth of the Millennial as Cultural Rebel (great article by the way). It did mention the accusation that Millennials killed napkins, but what did it reference? Our original Business Insider article! The trail has gone cold again. Back to Google.

The next several tabs of Google searches are all just listicles. Well, listicles are how we got here in the first place. Let’s go back to our list 11 “Millennials are killing” lists that got us started. Guess where each and every single one of them linked to. Either our original Business Insider article, the Washington Post article, or both. Credit to Marketwatch who also linked to an article about how Millennials are eating less at home. For whatever reason, they also decided Martha Stewart was a good person to weigh in on Millennials with jabs such as “they don’t have the initiative to go out and find a little apartment and grow a tomato plant on the terrace”. Because every young adult has a terrace, we are just too lazy to grow vegetables on ours.

Has a crime even been committed?

I think I’ve done enough chasing my tail to determine that the Millennial/Napkin conspiracy is based solely on the research conducted by Mintel. Remember, they never even linked their study to Millennials.

The paper napkin industry has been in steady decline for several decades now. Millennials have come of age, entered the workforce, started living on their own, and making their own purchase decisions during this same time. In this same time the work day has gotten longer, people are cooking at home less frequently, and we all seem more likely to eat on the go. These things all correlate together nicely, but doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something inherent about Millennials that have caused them to reject napkins. We didn’t volunteer to work 60 hour weeks just to make ends meet!

So what really happened here? Likely, Mintel was hired by a paper products company to conduct research on consumer trends in their industry. They noticed the trend of declining napkin use. The Washington Post saw the study, noticed it correlates nicely with the rise of Millennials, and put together an article seeking to explain why napkin use is in decline. Like Mintel’s report, The Post didn’t even mention Millennials in its headline. This, of course, did not prevent Business Insider from sniffing out another good “Millennials killed” story. Then, the cottage industry of listicles about things Millennials have killed scooped up the story and added it to their lists.

So that is how the infamous Millennial murderers got their bad name. An industry slips into decline. There is a sliver of data suggesting the trend correlates with Millennials coming of age. Anecdotal evidence is applied, and the court of public opinion is whipped into a frenzy ready to convict an entire generation for the murder of something that was always just a dead tree anyways.

As Ranker astutely pointed out, aren’t the companies that make paper napkins the same ones that make paper towels?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millennials Love Killing Things

When I type “Millennials  Ruined” into Google, it suggests that you complete your search with the following:

  • millennials ruined divorce
  • millennials ruined brunch
  • millennials ruined Applebee’s
  • millennials ruined music

As a Millennial, my response to these is: You’re welcome. Agree. Are you sure that WE ruined Applebees? Disagree.

If I complete the search of simply Millennials Ruined, there is no shortage of articles detailing the many things Millennials are accused of ruining.

It seems as if Millennials have created a cottage industry of sorts. It has become lucrative to write about all the things Milliennials are killing. So, in true Millennial fashion, I am here to kill the lists about Millennials killing things.

Dumb lists deserve dumb ranking systems.

What have I decided to do? Create a list of course. If you believe in Nate Silver’s approach to aggregating polls, as I do, it would seem that the appropriate thing to do here is to use a dumb version of his approach. I have aggregated 11 “Millennials are killing” lists from a variety of sources, some serious, some less so.

Once I combined things that are really the same thing (“Applebee’s” is the same as “chain restaurants”), this gave me 82 unique things that Milliennials have been accused of killing. I then ranked each thing that met its demise at the hands of a Millennial based on how many lists each item appeared on, and assigned point values based on where in each list it appeared.

Here’s the list:

  1. Napkins
  2. Golf
  3. Diamonds
  4. Bar Soap
  5. Beer
  6. Chain Restaurants
  7. Motorcycles
  8. Marriage
  9. Cereal
  10. Department stores
  11. Fabric Softener
  12. 9 to 5 Work Day
  13. Lunch
  14. Relationships
  15. Wine corks
  16. Handshakes
  17. Vacations
  18. Light yogurt
  19. Football
  20. Hotels
  21. Running
  22. Movies
  23. America
  24. Home Depot
  25. Cruises
  26. Gyms
  27. Banks
  28. Oil
  29. Starter homes
  30. The Real Estate Industry
  31. TV
  32. Crowdfunding
  33. Wine
  34. Marmalade
  35. Focus Groups
  36. The Canadian tourism industry
  37. The McWrap
  38. Democracy
  39. Dinner Dates
  40. Serendipity
  41. Sex
  42. Brunch
  43. Baby names
  44. Dating
  45. J Crew
  46. Housing Market
  47. Photos
  48. Canned Tuna
  49. Pants
  50. Costco
  51. McDonalds
  52. Large Turkeys
  53. Face-to-face interaction
  54. Cars
  55. Homeownership
  56. Designer handbags
  57. Toyota Scion
  58. American Cheese (Kraft singles)
  59. Gambling
  60. Divorce
  61. The anti-aging industry
  62. Travel Marketing
  63. Working
  64. Credit
  65. Trees
  66. The American Dream
  67. Self-pity
  68. The 2016 presidential election
  69. Consumerism
  70. Suits
  71. Loyalty programs
  72. Loyalty in general
  73. Taking risks
  74. Patriotism
  75. Fashion
  76. Hangout sitcoms
  77. The Big Mac
  78. Stilettos
  79. Romance
  80. Gen X’s retirement
  81. The Olympics
  82. The European Union

Yes, that’s right. You just read a list of 82 things that Millennials are accused of ruining.

Dumb lists deserve dumb analysis.

So I have my master list of things Millennials have either killed or ruined. Naturally, my inclination is to group these “things” into categories that explain why it is that Millennials have killed them. I categorized them into Behavioral Change (Millennials behaving differently than previous generations), Financial (Millennials are poorer than previous generations or something costs more now), Taste Changes (Millennials tastes are different than previous generations), Societal Shift (society has changed, not just Millennials), Technology Advancements (changes in technology are the reason for Millennials’ behavior differing from previous generations), Political Opinion (it is really just a matter of political opinion that Millennials have ruined a particular thing, usually the way they voted), Misguided Marketing (a thing was created to please Millennials and it failed), and External Forces (some other thing has caused a shift in consumption).

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Categories of things Millennials are accused of killing

So what does this tell us? Well, for starters Millennials do exhibit some behavior that has upended industries, products or social norms. This isn’t unique to Millennials. Remember how the Greatest Generation used to eat real cheese from cows and goats? Baby Boomers then came along and started buying gelatinous substances shaped like cheese. The rise of fake cheese singles represented a shift in behavior. Well, Millennials are no different.

There are also a large number of these that are financially related. Why aren’t Millennials buying houses? Is it because they don’t believe in home ownership? They’d rather be brunching? No. Is it some combination of them being poor and home prices skyrocketing to prices that are significantly higher than they were for previous generations, even when accounting for inflation? Yes

There are also several that reflect society, technology or other external factors playing a role. Nobody shops at department stores anymore, but because their demise coincided with the rise of “Millennials killed everything” lists, Millennials get the blame. This is especially ironic when you consider the fact that Jeff Bezos isn’t even a Millennial.

There are two categories that are especially dumb. The first is political opinion. Millennials get blamed by both sides of the political spectrum because they didn’t vote in line with which ever bloggers political affiliations go. To be fair, these were mostly relegated to fringe blogs, but they made it onto lists from Mashable and others, so we’re counting them. Basically, a blogger is mad about the way that America or the American Dream is going and applies a heavy dose of confirmation bias to the way they already feel about Millennials, and decide the generation is to blame for the country becoming too progressive or not progressive enough.

Also, especially dumb are the misguided marketing efforts. Items like the McWrap and Toyota Scion that were created for and marketed to Millennials that really just missed the mark. McDonald’s figured out that Millennials weren’t buying Big Macs because they were health conscious, so they created a healthier alternative for them. The only issue is that health conscious customers aren’t going anywhere near a McDonald’s, so they aren’t going to try some carb-reduced chicken sandwich.

Please, no more lists

So there you have it. The dumbest thing you’ve ever read. If this does somehow lead to the demise of the lists of things Millennials have killed, I will proudly own up to that one. Until then, I will continue to roll my eyes every time someone talks about all the things that Millennials have killed.

They Grew Up on Instagram

As a millennial, I am used to being talked down to by older generations. My generation had and has many perceived weaknesses. One of those weaknesses is an addiction to our phones. I think this is a real weakness, but is by no means exclusive to our generation.

Cue Gen Z. This is a generation so addicted to their phones, they supposedly have no real-world skills. They don’t understand the difference between the virtual world and real world, and will have no skills to contribute to the economy by the time they reach a working age. Or so we were told.

What happened after the tragedy in Parkland has flipped a lot of that on its head. The day after the shooting, students looked straight into CNN’s cameras and spoke eloquently and directly to those that hold power in our country. At first, skeptics said it was like outcries for change following previous tragedies. But this time felt, and still feels, different. The actual victims of previous massacres haven’t been so direct in their response. Also, never before had victims of a tragedy seemed so prepared to lead a movement.

I don’t think this is an aberration or even a coincidence. Instagram and Snapchat are designed to make us feel like celebrities. We pose for the camera, select the picture that will most impress our followers, and we send it out into the world. Then…we get feedback. From the likes and comments we receive, we determine the best time of day to post, the best subject matter, and the best filters to use. To those that know social media the best – those that grew up on it – the lessons run deeper. They learn how to pose, how to engage the camera, the best facial expressions to use, the best way to posture. When I was entering the real world, we called these presentation and interpersonal skills.

It struck me about a month after the tragedy in Parkland that the students always seemed so poised in front of the camera. They know how to interact with all forms of media, social and otherwise. It is very clear that this generation understands how to navigate the complex world we live in today, which has been exacerbated by social media. Older generations have scoffed that high schoolers only know how to communicate through tweets and snaps. Guess what, those teens engaged a US Senator face-to-face on national television. It was clear that they weren’t fighting fair. Rubio was engaged in a game of the past, they were playing by the new rules. Just because they are effective on Twitter, doesn’t mean they can’t communicate effectively in person too.

Gen Z possesses skills for the world that is coming. Whether they possess all the skills society needs for them to move the world forward is something that we will only learn with time. All I know is that the brief glimpse we have gotten into the future through the actions of students from Parkland has me feeling better about the future than I have in a long time.

Final Four on Cable

I was surprised on Saturday night to find that the Final Four was airing on TBS, rather than CBS as it has for most of my life. As a cord cutter with access to a login to get me TBS, this did not prevent me from watching the Final Four. I imagine that it did for many in the cord cutting generation, especially those for whom the Final Four is not particularly important.

I suspect that this recent channel switch is driven by cable companies. They either believe that the Final Four is a big enough event that people would find a way to watch on TBS; or cable companies are trying to migrate tent-pole events to cable stations, in an effort to stem the tide of cord cutting. After all, we are already accustomed to the NCAA Championship in football being aired on ESPN, why not have a similar arrangement with basketball?

I understand the motivations of TBS and its fellow basic cable friends. They need these kinds of events to ensure they solidify a place in our lives. They seem to be throwing enough money at the NCAA to let them air one of its pinnacle events on a station that not all that many of us pay for anymore.

This is very shortsighted from the NCAA’s standpoint. While CBS/TBS is probably paying them handsomely today, they risk losing an entire generation of fans. Surely, many Villanova students asked their parents for a log in on Saturday night, but what about the casual sports fans? Young people have plenty of entertainment options today – especially on a Saturday night – and it is likely that for many casual fans and non-fans, the Final Four will stop being a part of their lives. The ratings were unsurprisingly down from the 2017 Final Four, which aired on CBS. This is despite a Final Four consisting of a remarkable cinderella story featuring Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean, two number one seeds, and one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in Michigan.

The network executives that decided to air the games on TBS are probably ok with the drop off in ratings. It likely fits their broader strategy of TBS emerging as a place for quality sporting events to live. However, the NCAA needs to make sure they are not hurting their brand. For Americans over the age of 25, the Final Four is undoubtedly must-see television. March Madness is an American holiday on par with Thanksgiving. This used to be true of the World Series, now the average baseball fan is 53 years old. That is not a lucrative advertising market, and is further compounded by a decrease in interest of children to play baseball. The NCAA has enough problems on their plate, they don’t need to further complicate matters by ostracizing younger generations by airing the Final Four on a network none of them subscribe to.