Guest Post – Insights Into a New Generation of Consumers by Chris Sorbe

A veritable small river of ink has been spilled about how the rising generation, commonly called Millennials, is going to change everything about how we work, communicate and consume. We’ll see if any of that turns out to be true and to what extent.

In the interest of shedding light on the subject, I want to discuss the results of a semi-formal survey recently conducted by a Portfolio Management team at the University of Arizona. The team’s research focused on consumer discretionary and consumer staples sectors.  Rather than relying solely on traditional sources for investment information, e.g. Bloomberg, Morningstar or Value Line, the team interviewed students to gain insight into potentially hot investment ideas that were yet to come onto Wall Street’s radar.

The most compelling result was the findings on the various products and brands that young consumers consider to be staples and which ones they consider to be discretionary.

The team asked approximately 160 college sophomores and juniors to list 4 to 6 products they consider to be a “consumer staple” and 4 to 6 products or brands they consider to be “consumer discretionary.”  Here’s the top twenty or so products/brands along with their respective number of responses:

Consumer Staples Consumer Discretionary
Name

Responses

Name

Responses

Apple

45

Starbucks

40

Crest

30

Southwest Airlines

21

Blackberry

23

Sony

17

Verizon

16

Microsoft

12

Coke

13

Nintendo

9

HP

13

Chipotle

9

Old Spice

13

Nordstrom

9

Arrowhead Water

12

Verizon

8

Coors

12

McDonalds

8

General Mills

12

Cox Communications

7

LG

12

Nike

7

Sony

12

Taco Bell

6

Starbucks

12

Pei Wei

6

Colgate

11

Gatorade

6

Pepsi

11

Coach

6

Dove Soap

10

Netflix

5

Nike

10

Red Bull

5

Cox Cable

9

Polo

5

Dell

9

Dell

5

Microsoft

9

Facebook

5

Toyota

9

Victoria’s Secret

5

Gillette

8

Coors

5

Kellogg’s

8

Hershey’s

5

Guess

5

Harkin Theatres

5

I was fascinated by the responses.  And as an entrepreneur, the data made me think about this Millennial generation in a new light.

The first thing that pops out at me is that it seems as though they consider technological gadgets, like iPods, Blackberries, cell phones and cable television to be a staple good. And they consider fast food to be a discretionary item. When I was a college sophomore, however, I considered fast food to be a staple in my diet.

Additionally, I was surprised by the number of premium or luxury brands these college students listed in the survey. Coach? Really? This isn’t an Ivy League school; it’s a public university.

I hope this small, informal survey sheds a little light on the rising generation of consumers for entrepreneurs hoping to market their products to Millennials. It looks like we have a group of consumers that is highly dependant on technology and willing to part their cash for premium brand name products, even if they are unlikely to be in a position to afford it.

How do you interpret the data?

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