Millennials, many of whom saw their parents struggle with jobs and mortgages during the recession, generally have less interest in buying the big house, flashy sports car and designer clothing that previous generations sought as status symbols of success. Nevertheless, they will pay for the right experiences and technology.
"It's where you go on vacation, what you do and what technology you have," said Allen Adamson, one of the founders and managing partners of Metaforce, a brand marketing and consulting firm, and one of the authors of "Shift Ahead: How The Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast Changing World." Those experiences need to be "Instagram-worthy," too. The quirkier, flashier and more offbeat the experience, the better, he said.
And businesses are catching on.
IMAX, for instance, rolled out six virtual reality theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Manchester and Toronto over the last year as a pilot project to attract millennials. And it has plans to open four more.
IMAX charges roughly $10 for a 10-minute VR experience, which is far cheaper than the $1,500 or more needed to buy an in-home VR technology system with a high-end PC and headset. A visitor steps into a pod, snaps on a VR headset and is virtually transported on a 360-degree journey that can include flying over volcanoes, diving into the world of criminals and hit men from the John Wick films, or stepping into the shoes of virtual game superheroes like Batman and Wonder Woman.
Afterward, the players receive a video of their VR experience, which they can share with friends on social media. "Millennials want really special experiences and ones that are hard to replicate," said Rich Gelfond, the chief executive of IMAX.
When it comes to automobiles, many millennials don't care about high-end cars the way that previous generations did, but they do want the in-cabin technology and luxury features that often go with them, said Sam Russell, Buick's marketing director.
So Buick started marketing the brand as "attainable luxury" to attract younger buyers, and it added features normally seen in cars like Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and BMW to many of its models in recent years, like 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay and Ionizer air purifiers.