By Dale Filhaber

Millennials, born between 1980–2000 have grown up in a time of rapid change, giving them a set of priorities and expectations that differ sharply from previous generations. They have been judged as Internet-addicted voyeurs and given very little credit for their entrepreneurial spirit. In terms of sheer numbers, Millennials have taken over the title of largest generation since the Baby Boomers, with over 92 million individuals. They represent a population that is savvy, connected and more diverse than any previous generation. The water industry cannot afford to neglect this group. In fact, this is the right time to nurture them and make them dedicated and loyal water-filtration advocates.

Information from multiple sources are cited in this article (see References) and there are some of interesting findings from these reports. Nielsen sheds light on this diverse generation and how they consume media. Understanding the nuances of this audience is important when crafting messages and developing a marketing mix that gains traction. The 2017 WQA Consumer Opinion Study contains concrete information about buyers of water-filtration systems. Here are some of the findings from these reports:

Millennials care about their well-being
When Chipotle announced that they would no longer use genetically modified ingredients, social media exploded with Millennial enthusiasm. Millennials are dedicated to wellness, devoting time and money to exercising and eating right. Their active lifestyle influences trends in everything from food and drink to fashion. They’re using apps to track training data and online information to find the healthiest foods.

Millennials are image-conscious
Millennials are image-conscious consumers, which could be a natural byproduct of growing up among constant exposure on social media. To many, the simple act of selecting a beverage during a lunch break is the potential for a statement about their identity and values. In fact, half of Millennials believe that brands say something about how they fit into the world as a whole and 59 percent are willing to pay more for a brand that portrays the right image.

Millennials are green
Pew Research on Millennials in adulthood indicates that while less than a third of Millennials identify as outright environmentalists, they’re the most sustainable generation to date. Young adults are:

  • More likely to support strict environmental policies and regulations
  • Eighty percent prefer to work for sustainable employers.
  • Choose sustainable transportation options when possible
  • Will pay more for eco-friendly products

Regardless of how Millennials perceive the label of ‘environmentalist,’ it’s clear that many members of this age group behave in ways that are clearly sustainable. This includes considering a product’s potential environmental impact when making purchase decisions and forming loyalties.

Millennials are driving sustainable packaging trends
Millennials view taking care of themselves and the planet as one and the same. This group’s preference for healthy, convenient foods packaged sustainably have had a significant impact on the packaging industry. There is a fascinating case study by Tetra Pak that examined declines in prepared soup consumption and how they suddenly reversed. It’s all related to the recent availability of biodegradable packaging: the paper cartons of soup that have become so common. Seventy-five percent of Millennials prefer soup in paper cartons to cans. While many of these consumers might not be aware that paper cartons are 70 percent more eco-friendly than cans, the visible sustainability of Millennial-targeted soup packaging has made a clear impact.

Millennials as consumers
In light of these statistics, it’s important to take into account how these Millennials are consuming media. While they tend to choose brands that resonate with them, Millennials also trust their peers and celebrities. The Millennial generation wants to be a part of a larger conversation; they want to make individual contributions and be connected and woven into a larger discussion.

Millennial females—typically bottled-water users today
The 2017 WQA Consumer Study points out that Millennial females are typically bottled-water users. For her, it’s all about convenience and what works most efficiently with her active lifestyle. With unlimited product information at their digital fingertips, Millennials are turning to brands that can offer maximum convenience and sustainability at the lowest cost. While the Millennial female may be a dedicated bottled-water drinker today, as Millennials enter the housing market and begin to start families, the dynamics will change. There is a huge opportunity with this key group and the industry needs to start to craft the marketing message now.

Crafting the message for the future
The message needs to appeal on multiple levels: informational, social, convenience, price, social responsibility and sustainability. In terms of marketing channels, marketers will need to diversify the marketing mix. Millennials make decisions based on a lot of information gathering, including online reviews and recommendations by friends. It’s important to focus on providing quality information about the importance of pure water for health; how many glasses of water a day are necessary for a healthy lifestyle; details on how pure, filtered water provides muscles with energy; share statistics on how many liters of water are necessary for every 15 minutes of activity or how water is important for radiant skin. Dealer blogs might also include eating tips, like making healthy deserts from summer fruits.

Millennials are social; they enjoy the companionship of others. Messaging needs to focus on the hospitality/social aspect of enjoying good-tasting water with friends. Photos may include a group of friends sitting around the pool, drinking water with sliced fruit in it from cool glasses. A blog may showcase using fruit or edible flowers to make unique ice cubes (thank you, Culligan, for that great post). Or post a YouTube video on how to use the mold to make the special, big ice cube for scotch. Or depict a couple at home enjoying quality coffee made with quality water.
The BCG Perspectives study indicates that convenience and 24/7 availability was rated as one of the three top reasons for choosing a brand. Millennials can enjoy quality water 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from a home water-filtration system. The industry also needs to focus on comparing the cost and sustainability of a filtered water system versus the cost of buying bottled water.

While findings from the 2017 WQA Consumer Study indicate that the price of bottled water has had little impact on the decision to purchase alternatives, as this huge cohort takes on home ownership and the costs associated with it, one of the keys will be focusing on the smart investment of a water filtration system. Millennials are also very price-conscious, with many having student-loan debt. This does not mean that they are not buying. They are exploring new ways to purchase the items they want in a financially responsible way. Some are choosing new financing options that allow them to buy an item now and spread out their payments over several months, all while avoiding compounding interest and hidden fees. Millennials are trying these new financing innovations they believe help them maintain greater control over their financial health.

Social responsibility/sustainability
Millennials placed tremendous importance on the causes a brand supports; they love Starbucks and Tom’s Shoe because of their values and social commitments. Interestingly, the green movement has had little impact to date on the decision to purchase bottled water. Eighty-three percent of respondents answered that the green movement has had no impact on an individual’s decision to purchase bottled water. As Millennials become homeowners and stakeholders in their communities, however, they will start to rethink bottled-water purchases, because they can now have a convenient, low-cost alternative in their homes. We will also begin to see Millennials gravitating to trendy re-useable water bottles that they can show off to their peers when they go to exercise class or drop off their children at preschool. As they start to have children, their environmental worldview will also begin to change as they look toward a sustainable future for their children.

Different style of marketing engagement
In marketing, calls to action need to inspire engagement, rather than robotic consumption. For Millennials, editorial content that is valuable and sharable may be more effective than traditional advertising. It’s not only about winning over Millennials so that they buy a system; we need to convert the female Millennial into an advocate for in-home filtered water who espouses the benefits to her peers. Websites need to be agile, mobile-friendly and offer a review module that enables users to see public reviews of your products and services and post their own reviews to share with others.

Make sure you offer compelling photos, stories and solid content. Be part of the larger world of water and make your dealership look larger than it is. Your marketing strategy needs to provide Millennials with opportunities to take control of their well-being, build relationships with your dealership, make it easy to share information and photos and start a genuine conversation about health and sustainability for themselves, their families and the planet.


  1. Millennials – Breaking the Myths. 2014. Nielsen.
  2. 2017 WQA Consumer Opinion Study. Water Quality Association.
  3. How Millennials Are Changing the Face of Marketing Forever. 2013. BCG Perspectives.
  4. Data Story: Millennials Coming of Age. Goldman Sachs.
  5. Millenials in Adulthood. 2014. Pew Research.

About the author
Dale ‘Data Dale’ Filhaber, Listologist Supreme, Author and Direct Marketing Commentator, is President of Dataman Group, a direct marketing company based in Boca Raton, FL. Data Dale has been working with water quality dealers for over 30 years and is a featured speaker for the WQA on marketing and lead generation. Her latest book, Lead Generation for Water Quality Dealers, was launched at this year’s WQA Conference & Exhibition.

About the company
Dataman Group was founded in 1981 and has provided thousands of clients across the country with accurate, high-quality, direct-mail and telemarketing lists. Dataman Group specializes in lists of new homeowners, parents of new babies, homeowners, modeled credit-score lists, families with children, mortgage data, as well as lifestyle, donor and compiled lists.


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