So much has been researched and written about the Millennial generation (including by ourselves) over the past five years, and as an agency we’ve seen how brands and industries have been getting to grips with designing for and marketing to Millennials, who now in 2017 are aged between 20 and 35.
But with all this focus on the Millennial generation, we fear that companies might have lost sight of the next generation of power consumer; those people we used to call ‘young people’ before the Millennial razzle dazzle took hold. We’re talking about the current generation in between Millennials and Generation Z, currently aged between 16 and 25.
The iGEN is the forgotten generation. Sandwiched uncomfortably between older Millennials who have come of age, stolen the limelight and are worth something to traditional banks, and Generation Z who are still in school.
The eldest members of the iGEN were 10 when the first iPod was released. The whole iGEN cohort has grown up in the Steve Jobs era, surrounded by iPods, iPhones and iPads as standard. That’s not to say that this generation are all Apple devotees, but that the star of Apple as one of the world’s coolest brands has been shining as long as they can remember.
5 important macro trends affecting the iGen
1. No tribes, no labels – Unique identities
Young people are no longer limited by geography; they are no longer exposed only to those cultures and sub-cultures that exist in their immediate location. Access to the internet allows young people to interact with one another cross-culturally. They are, at the same time, exposed to a thousand wild and wonderful sub-cultures they might otherwise have never encountered.
Despite what you may have heard, today’s youth are generally label averse. This is not to say that sub-culture is dead. However, young people no longer feel the need to box themselves within one or two sub-cultures, many simply take what they want, what they’re inspired by, and incorporate into their own ‘kaleidoscope-like’ identity.
The traditional tribe is dead and classic markers of success and maturity, like marriage, children and career, have been left behind in favour of a more flexible model of ‘figuring it out’. “Micro-moments” or small moments of personal achievement have become a tool for measuring success, a tool made all the more popular by the YouTube stars and online influencers who choose to publicise their own lives as a series of micro-moments. Rather than a distinct sub-culture, those within the 16 to 25 age group are informed by a variety of influencers as well as their own desire to reach the same milestones or ‘micro-moments’ as their favourite home-grown celebrity. iGEN culture is formed around new and flexible milestones, accessible and varied influencer-informed sub-cultures, and a more fluid sense of self.
2. Access over ownership
Among the many monikers attributed to the 16 to 25 age group, one that’s recently cropped up is ‘The Subscription Generation’. Nearly a quarter of UK households subscribe to Netflix and 8 in 10 British adults now subscribe to a product or service. Subscription services like Spotify and Netflix are competing with the entire concept of owning media.
The iGEN value access over ownership, and this preference (or concession) is propelled by businesses like Uber, Airbnb and car rental service Zipcar, as well as subscription box services like Birchbox and Graze. This ‘preference’ to rent or subscribe rather than buy may be fuelled in part by a desire to always have access to the best or most recent version of a product.
The 16 to 25 age group also value experiences, particularly those experiences that can be shared online via social media and build on their own personal brand. A study by Harris Group found that 72% of Millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. This preference is driven by a desire to be recognised and build a following, as well as a general ‘fear of missing out’.
Whether it’s a preference or a practical response to a collapsing economy, the iGEN is no longer investing in housing and cars. The 16 to 25 year old age group is eco- conscious, pessimistic about their financial future, and more inclined to share their experiences online than ‘waste time’ struggling up the property ladder.
3. Instant gratification
The ‘instant gratification’ generation are accustomed to high-speed Internet access, next day-delivery, instant streaming, online banking and contactless payment. Now some retailers are offering same-day delivery, Wells-Fargo has been experimenting with pre-staged transactions allowing customers to queue up banking transactions from their phones in advance to save time in branch, and the Amazon Dash button, introduced in 2016, is a Wi-Fi connected device which allows customers to reorder their favourite products with the press of a button.
The demand for instant gratification is shaping the future of retail, media and banking. In a survey by Trustev, 56% of young people said they expected retailers to have the option of same-day delivery. A separate survey conducted by Coldwell Banker Commercial Affiliates reported that 64% of young people were more likely to make a purchase from a retailer that offered same-day delivery.
Only innovation will satisfy this craving; efficiency is expected and immediacy is what industry leaders should be aiming for. The iGEN want what they want and they want it now.
4. Trust in “real” people
Traditional celebrities are not as popular with the iGEN as they were with generation that came before and branded messages do not resonate in the same way. The 16 to 25 year old age group want real recommendations from ‘real’ people. According to Nielsen, 92% of them would trust recommendation from individuals (even if they don’t know them personally) over brands. This decline in trust in brands has driven the rise in Influencer Marketing which according to Technorati is now a £156M industry.
It is important to remember, however, that the relationship between the iGEN and modern influencers is built primarily on trust and a sense of accessibility and authenticity. If paid posts and brand sponsorships from vloggers, instagrammers and bloggers aren’t authentic or relevant, the iGEN will simply choose to ignore.
The influencer marketing ‘trend’ is no longer ‘emerging’, it’s here and it would seem it’s here to stay. The iGEN looks for community; relatable personalities they can develop friendship-like relationships with. Platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Instagram are getting better at providing valuable consumer insights and brands and businesses are getting better at recognising the benefits of long-term relationships with social influencers and their audiences.
5. Rising debt and the struggle to save
As the number of young people attending university increases, the number of 18 year olds beginning to build up debt increases also. The university fee cap is set to rise next year from £9,000 to £9,250 and maintenance grants have been abolished in favour of more loans. Just over half of 18 to 24 year olds have said they regularly worry about money.
The struggle to save is real and banks are not offering the same incentives to set money aside they once were. In August 2016 UK interest rates were cut from 0.5% to 0.25%, a record low and the first cut since 2009. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies young people are set to be poorer than their parents at every stage of their lives.
It’s obvious that a great number of young people are struggling to manage their money:
- 37% of 18 to 24 year olds in debt say they do not have a plan to repay what they owe.
- 42% said they have found managing their money more difficult than expected.
- One in eight (12%) do not expect to ever be able to repay what they currently owe.
Not all debt is academic either. According to Joanna Elson, chief executive of the MAT, significant proportions of students hold debt on credit cards, overdrafts and to family and friends. Once in debt, only a tiny minority (2%) will seek advice from a money or debt advice charity and only 12% will contact a student money advisor. Throughout our research we found that younger people are not necessarily aware of the support that is available to them, but are generally grateful for a little extra help when it comes.