Going Premium: Understanding What Gen Z and Millennials Value

A Q&A With Kelly Ravestijn, Senior VP, Strategic Planning, at Advantage Unified Commerce

By R. Larsson, Advertising Week

According to Kelly Revestijn, Senior VP, Strategic Planning at Advantage Unified Commerce, the pandemic “created lost time for GenZ and Millennial consumers. Now, they want to be intentional with their spending, prioritizing fulfillment and happiness” with their purchasing power.

How are GenZ and Millennials helping forge a new understanding of ‘premium’; how have values and happiness been integrated into the luxury category; and, how is the current inflationary economic environment impacting these consumers?

We spoke to Kelly about all of this and more, including how brands can stay on trend and effectively adapt their marketing strategies to the new premium customers.

Can you define what ‘premium’ means to GenZ and young Millennials?

KR: There is a shifting perception of what “premium” means right now, so it’s a moving target. When people think ‘premium’ they imagine lavishness or exclusivity, and while this remains largely true, GenZ and young Millennials (born between 1982 and 2010) are altering their intentions behind ‘premium’ shopping. When we conducted our study, we found that, rather than seek status through luxury products, this demographic pursues brands and purchases that provide meaningful value in their life and connects with them personally. Rather than buying to stand out amongst their peers, GenZ and young Millennials utilize premium as objects of self-celebration. In essence, these groups have internalized the premium category.

Are GenZ and young Millennials homogenous or do we still witness differences between the two when it comes to luxury purchases?

KR: While the two groups share a common understanding of premium, there are some important differences. Young Millennials tend to be driven by the pursuit of authenticity and truth. They seek experiences and want to participate in the brands they love. GenZ, however, possesses a more open mind for exploration. They are creators and want brands to let them lead. The resulting differentiator is: Millennials look for the aspirational, while Gen Z seeks intentional premium experiences.

What about the current economic environment: How has it impacted decision-making for GenZ and young Millennials?

KR: This generation is not ignoring the ongoing economic uncertainty or fears of inflation. However, these groups also do not plan to alter their premium spending habits. Our survey found that 65 percent of those we spoke to still plan to purchase premium over the next 12 months. And this makes sense if you remember GenZ and young Millennials feel premium adds value to their lives and overall happiness. Whereas for other groups, premium status symbols of old are not as necessary, especially during economic downturns. 

What does that indicate to you?

KR: GenZ and young Millennials are not spending into debt or poverty to facilitate these purchasing decisions, but what we are witnessing is a new development: The invention of ‘micro-concessions’. For example, instead of international travel, GenZ and young Millennials pivot to local, cheaper travel experiences. They are refusing to concede any ground, wanting to pursue life to the fullest, as they see it, and on their terms.

So how do premium brands stay one step ahead of GenZ and young Millennials?

KR: The pandemic created lost time for GenZ and Millennial consumers. Now, they want to be intentional with their spending. They are prioritizing fulfillment and happiness, even while acknowledging the potentially bleak economic realities. Brand marketers must reinvent their old ways of thinking, pivoting from commodity-centric messaging toward helping facilitate happiness, discovery, and small, everyday indulgences. Brands must resonate with GenZ and young Millennials by empowering them to spend money on more intentional products that add value and meaning to their lives.

About Kelly Ravestijn:

Kelly is Senior VP, Strategic Planning at Advantage Unified Commerce. She is responsible for strategic leadership across key accounts and the development of the strategy team. Before joining AUC, Kelly worked for shopper marketing, activation, and brand advertising agencies in New Orleans, Dallas, and New York, across many CPG, retail, and food service clients. With a noteworthy emphasis on multicultural markets, including Hispanic, African American, Asian, generational, and lifestyle cohorts, she also specializes in creative research design. Kelly holds a master’s degree from the University of Texas as well as a bachelor’s in international business through studies in Mexico, Argentina, and Spain.