The Millennial Mom

Posted by Christina Jordan on September 12, 2016

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The Millennial MomDepending on whose definition of “Millennial” you follow, I can squeak by as being a member of Gen Y. And there’s no question I am a new mother. The dark circles under my eyes and the fact that I may or not be wearing a shirt with a spit up stain on it can attest to that.

When you put the two together, you have a whole other genre of shopper:  the Millennial Mom.

For the longest time, the question on everyone’s mind was how to target Millennials.  Now we see a shift to the older representatives of Gen Y and the purchasing power of this new momma.

She is probably in or near her 30s, college educated, more prone to an urban environment, and a conscious consumer.  Her formative years involved digital technology.  She shops in the “all natural” section of the market and has, at some point, been a yogi, a vegan or both.  She and her significant other are likely to have purchased a home in the last couple of years.  They are still in the process of dumping the old rag tag apartment pieces and furnishing their house “like adults.”  She believes in recycling, rarely buys on impulse, and probably had to delete a few Facebook photos when she started job hunting.

Her child/children are still quite young.  She thinks about the implications of all the disposable diapers she purchases, even if she can’t bring herself to go cloth.  If she doesn’t make baby food for the kiddos herself, she’s definitely buying organic – and she wants transparent labels before she puts anything in the cart.

Do any of these products happen to bear licensed characters?  And what else is she buying for her little ones?

Well in my experience, and those of my mom friends, I am here to provide some answers.  And they may confuse you.  (note: this perspective does not touch on the digital world, gaming apps, etc. as the age range I am focusing on is just starting solids)

A Millennial Mom is a complex mix of brand loyalty with a carefully curated modern taste. (Think Scandikid, Design Life Kids, fawn & forest, even the kid section at the MoMA store) With the internet at her fingertips, she can cultivate any look she wants for her and her little one(s) – and she can purchase products from around the world to help her achieve it.

Before Baby
Millennial momma’s tastes began to take shape during her pregnancy, when she found herself needing new clothes.  There would be no massive floral tent-like numbers in her closet.  She continued to wear some of her favorite brands – from Topshop to Paige denim – who were now catering to her expanding belly.  She was going to kick off this parenthood thing as an “it” mom whatever the price tag.

A new mom doesn’t have to settle for the character-branded nursery themes of yesteryear if she doesn’t want to.  She can go to Etsy and build any theme she wants, complete with handmade mobiles, customized wall art, and anything else her heart desires.  If there is a licensed character to be found in her baby’s nursery, it probably has a minimalist/kitschy cool twist – a Miffy lamp, a framed/numbered Mickey Mouse sketch, a hand-knit (or what looks to be) Hello Kitty blanket.

Personal style will always be all over the map, for every generation.  However, with Millennial Moms, there is a definite trend away from licensed baby clothing toward a luxe, modern look.  This is particularly influenced by an Instagram era where kiddos are made famous by the online chronicling of their style-forward wardrobes.  Literally, they are living their young lives like fashion bloggers before they can go potty.

So, yea, you’re not seeing many Bugs Bunny t-shirts out there – unless they’re vintage ringer tees that look like they came off the shelf at Urban Outfitters.  When @whatblakewore or @scoutfashion come out with fashion lines, or @sincerelyjules has a baby, though, we’ll be the first online to scoop up the style.

All bets are off, however, when it comes to cute footie pajamas.  Then you can bust out anything from Chip & Dale to C-3PO and we won’t care, as long as it looks adorable and cozy.

Toys & Entertainment
Millennial mommas love toys that are educational in nature and preferably wooden.  Characters are fine but not necessary – and the idea of a character may not simply be Tigger or Pokemon.  Have you ever seen the Kokeshi dolls?  From Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld to Freddie Mercury and Iris Apfel, these wooden dolls by are a huge hit with Millennial Moms (and thusly sold out most everywhere.)

Conversely, there’s a definite sense of wanting her kids to have the same toys and games she did.  This is not a trend that started with Gen-Y, of course – but it certainly continues:  Legos, Playmobil, Etch-a-Sketch, Care Bears, Furby, Trolls.  It’s heart-warming to see babies engage with the toys we once had – and, I’ll admit, kinda fun to play with them again ourselves.

My daughter is a bit young for movies, but my husband and I are nonetheless rounding-up Blu-Ray versions of what we consider to be the classics:  Fantasia, An American Tail, James & the Giant Peach, Aladdin, Rugrats, et. al. We sometimes keep Nick Jr. and Disney Jr. on in her playroom, should she ever lose interest in trying to track down the remote, my cell phone, or the iPad.  The sounds of Peppa Pig will catch her attention, as will the sirens of Paw Patrol.

If she shows a propensity for any of these characters, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy her the corresponding consumer products.  Especially if they’re wooden.

I, for one, had every intention of making baby food for my daughter once she started on solids – but, after a long day of work, the allure of opening a jar versus hand-smashing an avocado simply won out.  Like a lot of Millennial Moms, each and every baby food item I purchase is organic.  I read labels.  I check ingredients.  And, yes, I do notice licensed characters.  Does that make me want to buy the products more?  To a degree, it does.  Sesame Street putting a classic character like Elmo on Earth’s Best pouches makes me feel like Sesame is vouching for this food.  It’s been properly vetted because, after all, Sesame wouldn’t risk their trusted brand, right?
From baby aviators to hand-sewn nursery bunting, the Millennial Mom is starting her baby off on a trend-forward little foot – and, whether or not she realizes it, licensing is playing a role in her child’s life.  It may not always be the traditional character-branded items often associated with licensed products, but there’s a reason why it feels so familiar – and why the licensing world needs to capture what the Millennial Mom is cultivating for the next generation.