Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Guilty Generation

OK, my generation is probably guilty. Of all that generational cohort naming business, that is. I was born at the end of the Baby Boomer generation, and I think it's us that named ourselves, then went on labelling subsequent generations. Previous generations were, I think, too busy fighting wars and surviving the after-effects of wars to bother about something so trivial.

Now that even the youngest Baby Boomers are over 50, all of us that still work in advertising have got over all those "oh my God, I feel so ancient, everyone else is younger than me" moments and it's now funny to watch our younger Gen X or Y colleagues nervously looking over their shoulders at the next cohort to come along. And the attitude of the authors of such articles is always a sort of make-the-reader-believe-I'm-one-of-this-generation-they-are-just-so-great tone.

Here's an example from Brand Republic: Forget Millenials, brands need to win over Generation Z. The imaginatively-named Generation Z are those born mid 1990s to mid 2000s, so today's teenagers. The article is full of wisdom such as "they are active rather than passive" and "books and music are downloaded, games are played online..." or "they want to be part of debates, they want to feel involved in world issues - look at the recent hit of the Ice Bucket Challenge." There are facts, too: "They make up a quarter of the UK population and have huge spending power." Hmmm, yes, given that half of them aren't legally allowed to work, I wonder where the huge spending power comes from...  now, here's a clue: There's even a chipper head of an ad agency gushing in a Proud Mummy way about how "lucky" she is to have "classic Gen Z" daughters - the engaged, active and empowered young things have started a group called Teenage Feminists!

I have blogged about this stuff before, and I know that it's really just a bit of fluffy marketing fun. But I would warn against taking it too seriously, or basing your entire marketing plan on it. Remember where it comes from: 12-19s saying in a survey (probably online) what they think, believe, do.

For a real look at teenage attitudes, try a WhatsApp chat - you'll be lucky to find a monosyllable amongst the candy necklaces of emoticons. Or for teenage behaviour, try mumsnet for vile things found in teenage rooms - although, who knows, maybe these are all made up, too.

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