The Essentials of Gen Z and Millennial Marketing


Our 2019 Essentials of Gen Z and Millennial Marketing lies at the core of our mission, deep diving into the essentials of generational marketing.

The Big Shift


The Big Shift analysis continues the investigation on the role of multicultural consumers in the context of the rebounding economy.

Interest in Cannabis Spikes Among Millennial Moms

Michigan’s new marijuana legislation is the latest win for the American cannabis industry. With US sales expected to generate over $40 billion by 2021, industry entrepreneurs have been taking their stake of the market in the form of cannabis-infused drinks, edibles and topicals. It should come as no surprise that these are items you’d typically find in your pantry. Cannabis brands want to normalize marijuana as a part of an everyday consumer experience, and have already done so through eye-opening, realistic advertisements. And despite the historical taboo that once had a grip on many Americans (no thanks to the masterpiece Reefer Madness), the biggest opportunity now is dispelling the “stoner stereotype” while appealing to the broad market.

But who are the consumers? Cultural lore suggests that stoners are generally lazy young males living in their parent’s basement. To a remarkable degree, today’s potential marijuana demand actually comes from women.


Of individuals in favor of recreational legalization, women are more likely than men to express interest in ingesting cannabis infused products if they’re in the form of baked goods, candies, cooking ingredients and non-alcoholic beverages. And when you take age into consideration, the desire to consume marijuana infused products is the most prevalent among millennial women.

Given what we have learned in our America in 2019 study about the stress many Millennials feel, perhaps marijuana is being perceived as a way to relieve anxiety. The preference for edibles and candy among women may suggest that discretion might be key to getting Millennial attention: edibles don’t smell and they’re perfect for using on the go. And for first-time consumers, edibles and candy offer up a different appeal. Individual servings take the question out of dosing and ease the risk of “overdoing it,” which is otherwise a challenge when using inhalants.


Being female isn’t the only surprising factor associated with an interest in marijuana. Of women who approve legalization for recreational purposes, our data show that those with kids are even more interested in products containing cannabis. Given this data, it’s easy to imagine a future where the modern mom is trading up wine bottles for weed buds, unwinding from stress using cannabis. This notion subverts the stereotypical narrative that all good moms are anti-pot. The trend is only likely to grow given the greater openness of Millennials, especially as more and more Millennials enter parenthood.


What’s the big takeaway? Sure, entrepreneurs and their counterparts in large corporate food & beverage companies looking to capture this share of the market obviously need to pay close attention to how cannabis may be fitting into the lives of Millennial woman. But there is a lesson for all marketers: this surprising shift in interest toward cannabis among Millennial women with kids may be reframing the very idea of modern family and what it means to be a good mom.

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The Food and Beverage Revolution: Unlocking Younger Consumers’ Preferences

The food and beverage industry is seeing shifting consumer behaviors, particularly among younger consumers. These consumers—Gen Z and Millennials—differ from older generations in three main ways.

First, they are more informed. For example, younger generations grew up in the information era and had exposé documentaries on the food industry baked into their middle school and high school educations.  They absorbed this information as they were formulating their opinions and habits around food. This exposure to information makes younger generations more conscious consumers, meaning they focus on how their purchasing decisions impact themselves, the environment, and society.

Second, younger consumers are experiential, as you can see in the graph below. They’ve become used to seeing a variety of beautifully presented food on social media and they in turn want their food to deliver experiences. Millennials in particular are more adventurous, have tried more “trendy” foods and beverages, and seek experiences when they dine out. For brands to keep up, they must know where the trade-offs lie and what they can do to garner the attention of these younger consumers.

Third, Gen Zs and Millennials feel especially short on time. This bleeds into how they approach shopping, cooking, and dining. Marketers need to understand how these convenience-focused generations behave differently because of restricted schedules and help alleviate the anxiety around cooking.

To support Collage Group members, we conducted two nationally-representative surveys of 2,880 and 2,877 respondents separately. With your input, we designed a series of questions testing key hypotheses on how Gen Z and Millennial consumers compare to older generations, and one another, when it comes to food and beverage.

Takeaways and action steps implied by our research include:

  • Many Millennials gravitate towards “trendy” health foods: Make sure your brand offers a variety of healthy “trendy” options, but don’t be trendy for the sake of it as Millennials find this off-putting
  • Millennials are shopping at big-box stores more than national grocery chains: Capture Millennial shopper attention by partnering with both big-box stores and national grocery chains when distributing your brand’s products
  • Young consumers care about brand values: Adopt and promote the values of smaller brands in your portfolio when they align to those of younger consumers. Show how your company promotes its values through these acquisitions
  • Millennials and Gen Zs are cooking at home, but find it to be a chore: Provide simple recipes that use your brand and prepped products with few ingredients that will make the process of cooking more enjoyable and less of a burden
  • Gen Z has a distinct preference for tea over coffee: Focus on Gen Z’s preference for tea and specialty coffee drinks to continue to drive this preference into the future, even as they develop more of a taste for coffee

*Respondents were asked if they agreed to three statements, including: “I consider myself a foodie,” “I have a more adventurous palette than most people,” and “I like to eat foods from different cultures.” “Experiential Eaters” agree with all three. “Seekers” agree with any two statements. “Occasional Deviators” agree with just one statement. “Safe Players” agree with none of the statements. Note: agreement is top 2 box.