I must admit, it’s a pretty outlandish statement. The thought that a single generation of young consumers could halt the wheels of product consumption seems, well, absurd. We’re all about the products. Aren’t we? Having more possessions than we can all truly enjoy. The advertisements are everywhere we look. There’s no getting away from any of it. We want it all. Right?
Well, we do want it all. However, what we want, what Gen-Y wants, has significantly evolved from our consumer notions of the 1990s and 2000s. A recent study, the 2010 MetLife Study of the American Dream, has more than a few interesting tidbits of information regarding this. And it all beings with 95% of Gen-Y believing it’s possible to achieve the American Dream within their lifetime. A number that has grown from 85% in 2006.
Call them young, naïve and inexperienced. They’re a generation that faces the highest unemployment rates, rising debts, and uncertainties created by the recession. Frankly, you could go on and on. Even with all that, their dream grows with wants for “family, children” and “successful careers” leading the way, which are significantly higher than other generations. And though, “financial security” is part of their dream, it’s remarkably lower than that of all other generations. Just another gap in the generational story.
Their unbridled optimism is irrefutable. And this is where the fun begins. What’s extraordinary about Gen-Y’s dream is that it’s not as materialistic as everyone would have you believe. 39% of Gen-Y believe they “already have what they need, and the necessities in life will remain constant.” A notable increase from 26% in 2008.
And like many writers, entertainers, researchers and bloggers, I’ve saved the best for last. One characteristic that is absolutely fascinating but equally holds some serious implications. Not only are those amongst Gen-Y less materialistic, those in Gen-Y who believe that there is a “growing pressure to buy more and better material possessions” has dropped an incredible nineteen percentage points, from 66% in 2006 to 47% 2010.
In a world of increasing competition and unimaginable marketing dollars, a few percentage points means quite literally everything. And when you’re talking about a group as large as Gen-Y, a 19% drop in buying more and better material possessions is undeniably profound. However does this mean that Gen-Y will kill the product brand? Not immediately. But the Gen-Y dream is clearly less ambivalent and concerned about product brands.
Call it what you want. Lack of financial aptitude, growing debt and high-rate of jobless Gen-Y, one thing is clear and that is these trends have grown in their respective directions over the last four years. A couple of years of which were clearly before the recession.
The Gen-Y [American] Dream might not kill the product brand – yet – but it’s clear that Gen-Y is dreaming of a less materialistic future. A future that isn’t interested in product brands. And though it might seem like a cynical viewpoint towards products and their brands, the reality is times are changing and everyone has to adapt to this change. The ones ahead of the curve understand the shift to lifestyle brands and what values Gen-Y has in them.
And maybe you don’t even believe in the American Dream, or in any dreams for that matter. If the numbers suggest anything, they suggest about 95% of Gen-Yers do. The same Gen-Yers who believe in a family, children and successful careers to achieve it. The same Gen-Yers who are dreaming less of materialistic goods year-over-year. If you don’t believe in the Dream, you shouldn’t forget that Gen-Yers do.