Here’s something I’ve been wondering: am I getting old or is the supermarket music getting better?
The standard easy listening mix of Kenny Rogers and vintage Doobie Brothers always felt like I was being held hostage in a dentist’s waiting room. But not lately. While no one’s going to mistake the deli counter for a DJ booth, the music has gotten decidedly hipper. A recent shopping trip yielded a little Major Lazer, a Warpaint track, and a David Bowie remix tucked between the Whitney Houston and post-Aja Steely Dan.
Who do they think is shopping in my neighborhood supermarket?
There are four generations all pushing shopping carts through the same aisles.
The Millennials, born between 1982 and the early 2000’s, are now reaching the age of paychecks and shopping lists.
They follow the solidly adult Gen Xers, born between 1961 and 1981, the middle-aged Baby Boomers, and the retired seniors known as the Silent Generation.
As an added twist, life stages are not as linear as they used to be.
Life stage and generation used to be pretty much the same thing. Milestones like marriage and buying a first home were fairly constant events that marketers could count on. Today you’ll find new parents in their 40’s and young adults still living at home long after the traditional age of household formation. Juice boxes and jars of prune juice, diapers and denture cream—they’re all commingling in shopping carts. There are spending differences between age groups, but they matter less than they used to.
Supermarkets brand themselves with their playlists.
They know that store atmospherics matter, especially when it comes to differentiating themselves from the competition. Music is a fast, cheap, and flexible way for a store to shape its environment. But it’s a delicate balance: with so many generations in the shopping mix, the stores are challenged to find the right music mix. The trick is to appeal to one age group without alienating the other three.
My neighborhood supermarket has clearly put the Millennial Generation in its crosshairs.
I live in the big college town of Boston, with BU dorms just down the block from the market, so that comes as no surprise. How about you? Listen up. You’ll learn who’s shopping in your supermarket.