Generation Me [Speed Summary]

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Marketing to Gen Y is no longer about youth marketing. In 2014 Gen Y (variously dubbed GenMe, The Entitlement Generation, Millennials or NetGen – b. 1980-2000) is today’s new adult consumer. What are their core values, and how do we market effectively to them? Psychologist Dr Jean Twenge’s classic “Generation Me”, provides some essential evidence-led insights – and we add the marketing “So What?” for connecting with today’s new adults.

  • “Need for Approval” no more – It’s my my way or the high way – a firm belief in self-expression; and the idea that the only person you need to impress is yourself.
    • The Marketing “So What?”, Opportunity to sell self-fulfilment and self-navigation, whilst using humour to point out the folly of blindly following the rules, norms and etiquette of others.
  • Assert Yourself, Love Yourself – It’s all about me, a culture focused on the self, self-gratification and self-esteem giving rise to a generation of narcissists – believing we are special, entitled and superior.
    • The Marketing “So What?” Powerful value propositions for GenMe are “Follow your Dreams” and “Because I’m Worth it”
  • Rise in The Empowered Self – We can be anything we want to be. A firm belief that dreams can become reality, that we can have it all – fun, fame, fortune and fulfilment
    • The Marketing “So What?” – Selling the dream, self-expressions and access to the best things in life.
  • The Rise of Anxiety – Stress, anxiety and depression are on the rise for GenMe, as is suicide; a self-focused generation leads to freedom, but also loneliness and pressure to stand alone.
    • The Marketing “So What?” – We are a generation open to faux-nostalgia, security and longing for connections. Your brand as a security blanket
  • A Rise in Apathy – Declining belief in the efficacy of hard work and sacrifice combines with a fading confidence in the power of collective action leads to a rise in cynicism, fall in sense of personal responsibility and civic engagement.
    • The Marketing “So What?” Countering the “adult shock” that that we are powerless to control the world as we controlled our parents by selling ‘control’ and ‘power’
  • The Sexualized Self – GenMe became sexually active far earlier than Boomers; exploring sexuality as a right and freedom. Sexual behaviour becoming increasingly disconnected from emotional involvement, with the Internet facilitating unfettered access to ‘adult’ content.
    • The Marketing “So What?” – We’re looking for the re-enchantment of relationships and intimacy.
  • Diversity. Whatever. – Abandoning of prejudice, persecution and traditional moral authority about gender, race and sexual orientation. Corresponding rise in tolerance and acceptance. But it’s no big deal.
    • The Marketing “So What?” – Opportunity for a new – more playful – identity marketing, about pride, choice and freedom.

The BG Take

Evidence-led, using comparative cross-generational US data from 1.2 million young people, Twenge has changed how we think and market to Gen Y. Earlier opinions, based more on hope, optimism and conservative fantasy than facts saw this ‘Millennial’ generation as ‘echo-boomers’ reflecting the traditional values and ethics of the post-war generation. For us, the big insight in Generation Me is that this is a generation suffering from “Adult Shock” – where naive childhood optimism about ourselves and our place in the world gives way to the hard realities of competitive and alienating workplaces, exorbitant living costs and the pressure to perform.


Paul Marsden

All stories by: Paul Marsden

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