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The homebody economy arrives, just in time for New Year's Eve
FOR the socially anxious, or even just the socially inept, New Year's Eve is a historically tough holiday. The intense pressure to have A Great Time, combined with bizarrely expensive prix fixe menus, crowded roads, Uber surge pricing, and the fact that counting down from 30 to one is not an inherently exciting thing to do makes for a less-than-fun evening.
As you get older, you start to realise that having cool, fun New Year's Eve plans is overrated. And now brands are starting to realise that, too. As part of a larger effort to capitalise on the "homebody economy" - or millennials who prefer to stay at home and spend money on self-care items rather than go out - services such as Netflix and Domino's Pizza are launching promotional campaigns on Instagram and Twitter explicitly targeted at the stay-at-home crowd.
Because while there is certainly money to be made off drunk youths teetering from house party to house party in a valiant attempt to get laid by 3 am, there is arguably more money to be made off drunk youths staying at home and feeling superior to the tourists freezing their asses off in Times Square. At least, brands know where to find them - which is more than you can say about anyone who has found themselves trapped on public transit between parties at 11:55 pm.
Home delivery brands such as Domino's, for instance, have partnered with food bloggers for sponsored ads for #DominosNYE, a code that offers 20 per cent off online orders till Dec 31. Domino's sponsored posts appear to be actively trying to downplay the glamour of New Year's Eve, instead catering to a more sweatpants-and-messy-bun crowd.
"There is literally nothing that sounds more horrific than getting dolled up, putting on heels, and celebrating 2019 with a group of strangers in a crowded nightclub," food blogger Frosted Petticoat groused in a sponsored post, next to photos of plastic gold utensils and iceberg lettuce salads.
Bed Bath & Beyond also tweeted a blog post specifically targeted at people staying home on New Year's Eve. "Might we recommend an evening in? You won't have to deal with waiting in line anywhere. You can keep it casual, comfortable, and you won't have any less fun," the copy reads before recommending a plush bathrobe (US$59.99) and a magnetic cheese plate (US$49.99):
Netflix too is targeting the stay-at-home crowd, albeit not necessarily people who are staying at home by choice. The company recently released a series of 14 New Year's Eve countdown videos featuring characters from popular kids' Netflix shows such as All Hail King Julien, Super Monsters, and Fuller House.
In a statement, the streaming service said that it conducted an internal survey which found that 77 per cent of parents with young children prefer to stay home instead of going out on New Year's Eve (though considering how tough it is to find a babysitter on New Year's Eve, "prefer" may be a bit of a stretch).
Netflix's statement also cited data from the research and marketing firm YPulse, which found that "seven in 10 Gen Z & Millennials would also rather stay in on New Year's Eve" - a convenient finding, given that about 77 per cent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 are Netflix subscribers.
For brands, the benefits of catering to this demographic are obvious. According to an (admittedly not super scientific-sounding) survey from WalletHub, almost half of Americans spend the night of Dec 31 at home, while only about 9 per cent say that they go to a bar or a party to ring in the new year. Per the WalletHub survey, that is in part for financial reasons, as people might be more reluctant to drop a few hundred dollars on a bottle of vodka at a shitty club if they've just spent a ton of money on Christmas gifts for their friends and family.
But it is not that people are not buying stuff at all on New Year's Eve, a holiday that ranks just behind Christmas and Valentine's Day in terms of encouraging luxury item consumption. According to Postmates data from last year, alcohol sales spiked 164 per cent on New Year's Eve, and GrubHub has similarly reported huge spikes in New Year's Day food delivery orders. It is not so much that millennials are averse to celebrating New Year's Eve. They just do not want to leave their houses to do it.
That makes a lot of sense, considering the emergence of the homebody economy, or the consumer market for people who love nothing more than to sit, eat, and buy shit. As Vox's Kaitlyn Tiffany explained in a piece earlier this year, the homebody economy consists of streaming services, self-care startups such as skincare brands, and delivery-on-demand services such as Seamless, Postmates, Drizly and Amazon Prime, which cater to "younger Americans who are ensconced in their homes and uncharmed by nightlife, with all its associated 'effort'."
While the homebody economy caters to consumers of all ages, it does seem to appeal specifically to millennials, who spend 70 per cent more time at home than members of previous generations. To that end, many millennials have leaned into the couch potato identity, literally wearing it on their sleeves with Instagrammable T-shirt phrases like "I just want to stay at home with my dog" and "Netflix and wine" and "introverted AF," or posting photos of themselves sipping an adult beverage in the tub while reading Ferrante on a Saturday night.
The homebody identity is so popular on social media that it has evolved into something of a cliche, with some influencers clearly using it as a way to telegraph relatability without compromising the otherwise aspirational nature of their brands.
But it is also significant that the homebody economy has taken root among millennials, a generation that has a lot less disposable income and financial stability than its predecessors: If you are poor, staying at home on New Year's Eve to watch Twilight Zone reruns and do face masks is going to seem a hell of a lot more attractive than Ubering to clubs and buying bottles of Cristal, even if brands try to market the former option as a form of "self-care".
At the end of the day, it is a bit of a chicken-or-egg question as to who is actually responsible for creating the homebody economy: Is it the millennials who do not want (or cannot afford) to go out, or the brands that tell them to sit back, relax, stay in, and buy stuff? VOX