Generation Y has come of age with the Harry Potter franchise. While on the surface, it would appear to be just an epic fantasy, to the generation, it means so much more. The themes of standing up for your beliefs, distrust of those in power, equality for all races and genders, as well as overcoming all obstacles through the actions of a few people, are indicative of Gen Y’s mindset. Harry Potter himself is a symbol of this generation, embodying all the characteristics they aspire to.
In my book, The New World Marketplace, I get in to details of the new values and ideological power of the youth culture. With a population estimated at 72 million, making up roughly 26% of the population, Gen Y is the most educated, diverse, tech savvy, optimistic yet disappointed, and soon to be the largest American generation–more than 3 times the size of Gen X. They have greater influence on cultural evolution than previous generation, with unique needs to connect and relate on an individual basis versus trying to fit into a “social norm.”
I explained the concept of “delaying adulthood” in both my book, and also my blog, Do You Really Know 20-somethings? Different studies have shown a range of 5-7 years of delay in reaching the five milestones to adulthood–completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. I just read the most recent data by Pew Research survey that showed 24% of adults 18-34 moved back in with their parents in recent years because of economic conditions. I wondered why my previous research showed 40%–then, I realized that the vast majority of them never moved out in the first place. So here’s the latest numbers of young adults living with parents, according to the March 2012 survey by Pew Research:
- 39% of all young adults
- 53% of 18-24
- 41% of 25-29
- 17% of 30-34
This poses a big marketing twist for companies trying to reach this generation. How should branding messages to these multi-generational households look and feel like? The challenge is that these young adults who moved back in with parents because of economic necessities don’t all have a favorable outlook, although most do. But majority of them contribute to household expenses in one form or another. This changes the picture of parental financial support altogether.
What’s even more interesting is that this generation was raised in an era where the divorce rate was high, brief marriages were the norm and numerous partners was acceptable. While this has been raised as a major issue for many social experts as it relates to commitment, it has also resulted in this generation being very culturally liberal.
Ask yourself if your company is making certain assumptions and stereotypes when it comes to branding messages toward Gen Y. Do those messages contain personal growth, relationships, causes, beliefs, values and a sense of purpose? Gen Y is transforming business and branding norms. Connections, contacts, friends or fans, word of mouth, yelp reviews, and Facebook likes may end up mattering more than just a great Super Bowl Ad.