Preparing for the Next Generation: Lessons Learned from Gen Y

Posted: May 12, 2012 in Youth Culture & Trends
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Identity is a big deal in our culture, just ask the big-wig marketers and branding engineers for global businesses.  Everyone is looking to belong to something, to have an identity and purpose…not necessarily to be ‘branded’ in a category, but we have an innate nature to be called to and part of something bigger than ourselves.  Seth Godin expands upon this theory in his book, Tribes, which identifies the need to communicate and engage in ‘tribal communities’, as well as the need to be led…and have a leader.  Although it’s a book on leadership, it calls to mind our natural instinct to band together in community and purpose.  Hey, the bible broadcast man’s search and struggle for belonging to us long before CNN, infographs, social media or Seth Godin!

In their attempt for tribal connection and influence, today’s youth culture, also known as The Millennial Generation (or Gen Y), have inherited a branded identity.  They’ve also inherited a heavy burden of expectations due to the rapid development of technology, along with a global consumerism attitude.  While many Gen Y’ers strive for social, economic, political and education changes…calling big businesses and governments out on their attempts to capitalize, at any expense, on society…Gen Y is also the biggest global consumer of products and tech in the history of the world.  If marketers can be blamed for a “if we build it, we’ll make you feel like you need it…and you’ll buy it” mentality, then just where does our Millennial generation stand with their “if you build it, we want it bigger, better and faster…yesterday” attitude?  Or in other words, “If we want it, either you build it…or better yet, we’ll do it better than you can!

Now I know that may seem unfair, as there are multitudes of Gen Y’ers that stand opposed in the above worldviews, and not all of them are entranced consumers who only care about themselves.  If anything, we can thank my generation (Gen X), as well as the Boomers, for intoxicating and manipulating Gen Y into following our own greedy and narcissistic lead.  We have just as much a part to play, as we’re the ones who have targeted Gen Y to be the store-window models for our branding.  In as much as Gen Y pushes for identity, expression and freedom, Gen X and the Boomers have lined their pockets at Gen Y’s expense in convincing them who they are, what they need, and what success looks like.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!  I wonder how many people take the time to study the generations, not to market to/for them, but simply to understand and learn from them.  How often do we look at an infograph, stat sheet, article or news report on today’s youth generation in an attempt to better qualify how we can help them move forward in partnership with the older generations…not simply how we can use them?  I know I may sound harsh, both towards the Gen X’ers/Boomers, as well as to Gen Y.  But I think we can do so much better because we’re created to do better together.  God loves to see His creation working with each other, as opposed to working for one another.  In other words, we get more done working hand-in-hand, rather than trying to put something in,or take something out of each other’s hands.

So today’s post is dedicated to better understanding the Millennial generation, as well as preparing for the next generation to come.  There are literally hundreds of good articles and resources on the topic of Gen Y trends and forecasts, but these are simply ones I’ve come across recently that are think are worth-while to check out.  If you’ve come across anything you feel is of value on the topic, please let us know and share the wealth!

A few observations about Gen Y, gleaned from Wikipedia;

  •  generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies
  • The phrase Generation Y first appeared in an August 1993 Ad Age editorial to describe teenagers of the day, which they defined, at that time, as separate from Generation X, and then aged 12 or younger (born after 1981), as well as the teenagers of the upcoming ten years
  • In Canada, 1982 is generally thought to be the starting birth year for Generation Y, ending in the mid-1990s or 2000, sometimes even as late as 2004
  • This generation is also sometimes referred to as the Boomerang Generation or Peter Pan Generation, because of the members’ perceived penchant for delaying some rites of passage into adulthood, longer periods than most generations before them
  • In the United States, Generation Y has a lower level of religiosity to older generations, and they are more likely to be skeptical of religious institutions
  • Grew up with computers in their homes, and a 500-channel TV universe. Social media is often the media-of-choice

Marketing To Teens and Millennials: How To Turn Social Consumers Into Change Makers
Mingling with Millennials
Re-Envisioning Mentorship in the Age of the Millennial
Gen Y Still Depends on Mom & Dad More Than You Might Expect
After Gen X, Millennials, what should next generation be?

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