Millennials Aren’t Destroying Bar Soap

They’re Intolerant of Tedium… 

Millennials can’t catch a break. Instead of empathy for their situations or even open listening for why they choose what they do, our media tackles them left and right with the blame game.  Millennials are killing categories, they’re responsible for the demise of entire sports, and they’re destroying legacy brands.

Here are a couple of things we’re all going to have to accept about Millennials, or we’ll never be in business to serve GenZ:

  • Millennials support what they believe in, and they don’t support what they oppose. Do not disregard this.
  • Millennials are done with being bored. They’ve mostly grown up with a device at the ready – they have no reason to tolerate boredom anywhere, so they don’t and won’t.

Let’s swing this back around to soap.  Indeed, Millennials have often reported back that they believe bar soaps to be “germy.”  But they’re also environmentally aware, and surveys like that are often skewed with questions like “Why don’t you buy bar soap?” Items like this Softsoap® and others packaged similarly put a ton of plastic into the environment, and the pumper portion of this bottle isn’t recyclable anywhere in the US.

The problem isn’t just an issue for this brand, it’s a challenge for anything packaged this way, and most Millennials know this. Perhaps we should be asking what Millennials buy and why, or maybe we should be watching and listening?

I invite all of us to consider that the biggest “thing” Millennials turn their backs on is tedium. A brand or a store can be inexpensive or it can be pricey.  A product can be useful or it can be delightful.  But it cannot be boring.  Let’s look at this bar soap selection again, without the text in front of it, and the rest of the bar soap in the background:

What’s missing is a vast array of legacy brands: the old-school, heavily promoted and couponed, advertised on television, bar soaps.  There might be a few on the bottom shelf of the set, out of view of the camera – but clearly those brands aren’t the priority for New Seasons Market, a hybrid natural and conventional retailer in the Northwest. There are liquid soaps, but they also aren’t the priority. The priority is an array of soaps that are interesting to the senses.  They also happen to be reasonably priced, but that isn’t their main appeal. The appeal is the visual spectacle and the sensual experience of the textures and scents presented.  My city happens to be full of farmers markets, so much so that they can be found in different neighborhoods nearly any day of the week. Our neighborhood farmers markets have artisans offering bath products consistently, and my questions of them tell me that their bar soaps are their best sellers.  Why are Millennials attracted to these but not Dial or Irish Spring?  These are interesting.

The following image showed up in my social media feed earlier in the week, and I think it’s a perfect analogy for the “loyalty” of today’s shoppers. If we don’t give them a reason to continue to support our brands, our products, our stores, they simply won’t:

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