Millennials: a collective identity

Watching Mad Men’s Peggy smoking a spliff  while bashing out copy on her typewriter, I found myself reflecting on the 1960’s and the rebellion that defined the cohort that came of age during that era. As 70 million post-war Baby Boomers became teenagers and young adults in the 1960’s and 70’s, they demanded revolutionary thinking to change the fabric of American cultural life. It seems today’s young adults and older teens, or the Millennials as we’ve come to refer to the population born between 1980 and 1995, share some of the same spirit that defined their Older Baby Boomer parents at the same age. Millennials also want to right the wrongs of society, value progress and desire social reform. However one attitudinal difference distinguishes their behavior from that of their Older Baby Boomer parents and therefore how they are shaping the cultural narrative and what they expect from brands. Young adults in the 1960’s were more comfortable standing out, being the sole anarchist. Today’s young reformers’ identify is defined by the collective. Being part of a cultural movement or meaningful community addresses Millennial’s needs for productivity, control and security, and importantly validates their beliefs and opinions. Think of the student movements in London http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8240181/Student-protests-key-dates-for-2011.html or Chile http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8240181/Student-protests-key-dates-for-2011.html for example that sat alongside the Arab Spring in 2011 as examples of Millennial protest.  Striking when compared to visions of Baby Boomer objectors at Kent State or the sole protestor preaching in Parliament Square. Today’s students are arguing for reduction of fees – what might be thought of as better access to education - as compared to their Boomer parents in...

The seven new rules for brand leadership

“The US tax system needs an overhaul.” “A policy rethink could control the sub Saharan population boom.” “The World Bank’s leadership selection process no longer reflects today’s sources of innovation and economic growth.” These are some of the sound bites from recent press.  Clearly there’s an underlying theme - a call for reform.  At Onesixtyfourth, we found this especially interesting given the results from one of our recent CultureQ studies. We conducted the study with 763 news-engaged and earlier technology adopter Millennials and Baby Boomers in the US and UK.  Our original intent was to understand how attitudes were shifting as the old year turned into a new one.  What emerged from participants’ responses, however, was a far more profound perspective on our evolving social climate and the new rules for brand leadership. It’s time for the role that brands play in society to shift The over-riding message from participants – it’s time for the role that brands play in society to shift.  Unlike in the past, however, Madison Avenue and marketers are not driving this change.  Consumers, in other words people themselves, are appealing to brands to acknowledge the social significance they have and take on the role governments and political leaders are no longer effectively fulfilling. They are asking brands to use their influence, know-how and power to help shape a better future. 7 New Rules for Brand Leadership So, what are the new rules for brand leadership? Rule 1. Be Visionary: engage people through a clear view on how you inspire every day life. Rule 2. Be Courageous: take considered risks that propel society forward and...

Good citizenship: the new essential for sustaining brand leadership

Transparency. Supplier relationships. Social responsibility. Privacy. These terms have all been bouncing about a lot lately whether it be in conjunction with Apple, BP, Google or just general conversation.  And because of that, few people have been surprised that we’ve become more focused on brands as social reformers and been speaking more about brands advocating on behalf of their customers over the past two months.  What has startled several of our clients, however, has been the fact that we didn’t purposefully set out to deliver this message when we fielded our quantitative research in conjunction with CultureQ this past December.  The intent of our study was to get a broad understanding of general sentiment for 2012 - of Baby Boomers’ and Millennials’ aspirations and dreams to see how far apart they were and how similar and different they were between the US and UK.  We had no idea when we began to synthesise the results with our on-going conversations with Millennials that the learning would take us to this exciting, new place.  With faith in government and political leadership low, people are looking for brands to recognise their broadening social significance and with that take on some of the responsibilities for the future of humanity. So, with this in mind, and in response to several requests, we’d like to share our Brand Citizenship Quotient from  our recently released CultureQ report with you here. Brand Citizenship Quotient Index (based on top brands named as leaders)                         **Smaller or very small sample sizes ***No mentions for good or bad citizenship...

Brands, step up to leadership in 2012

Leadership.  During this period of sustained economic uncertainty, when people are feeling a significant tension between security and risk, the absence of it is apparent.  Our interviews for CultureQ have indicated this to some degree and the Internet study we fielded over the holidays confirmed it.  With faith in government very low people are looking for brands to inspire progress in society. When asked to name companies that are bad corporate citizens and act irresponsibly with respect to society, people and the environment, Gen Yers and Boomers rank the government 5th in the US, behind BP, Walmart, Exxon-Mobil and Bank of America and ahead of McDonald’s.  In Britain, government is tied for 4th with BT (British Telecom), behind McDonald’s, BP and Shell.  Frustrated with “[government] not spending money wisely” “civil service jobs [not being] safe any more”, “[business’] wasteful spending habits” and “corporations and companies [being] profit, shareholder and bonus driven” people tell us they are disillusioned with large organisations, and they do not necessarily distinguish public sector ones from private sector ones. The concept of brand leadership is intangible Similar to what we learned in 2007, the concept of brand leadership is intangible for many – it’s relatively elusive.  And, as with many things in the past 25 years, size and visibility seem to be surrogates for influence and vision.  The brands named as good corporate citizens are nearly identical to those cited as leaders.  Although many marketers continue to have Apple-fatigue, people clearly do not.  Apple tops both lists.  Certainly, its marketing and visibility help, but it’s more than that. For many, Apple inspires daily life in...

Dynamic Culture: who has time to make music just for the sake of making noise?

“What truly has value is what’s differentiated. And sadly these days, just having a college degree doesn’t exactly differentiate you.” The quote above, extracted from our CultureQ study, offers an interesting take on achievement. Achievement defined by the “get good grades so you can go to a great college so you can get the job of your dreams” narrative that has often dominated contemporary ideas success. While there certainly are many positive results from living in a society that values merit-based, track-oriented accomplishments, it’s safe to say sunny days are not always the norm. Much of our research with Millennials has demonstrated that, even despite the current economic climate, Gen Y has an optimistic outlook on its long-term future, especially older Gen Yers. That, when all the dust clears, they will have accomplished what they set out to conquer. In other words, we think we can do anything. We have the idea that our individual merits, or lack-thereof, are worthy enough to carry us through whatever obstacles come our way. Many Gen Xers, Boomers and even those from the post WWI generation interpret this as an unfounded sense of entitlement, or sometimes even narcissism. I believe, however, that it may actually be something else that defines this; something much deeper, more nefarious, and pretty darn eye-opening. We think we can accomplish our goals in the long term, but with the current economic crisis, we’ve seen a lot of our siblings, friends, classmates, etc. fall quite short of their grand life schemas. In other words, by and large, we are a generation unfulfilled. And, with a psychological preponderance towards an...

Dynamic culture: We’re all hipsters

We are all a series of contradictions. We claim we all have these really unique and distinct identities, yet we all wear jeans that are likely within a few shades of each other. We claim we are contributing members of society—productive, and eager to learn—yet we spend countless class periods and library sessions scrolling through Facebook albums. We say don’t like to fit in into the norm, but the vast majority of us are afraid to venture too far outside it. One morning last week, I came across an article from a college that listed the top 10 most “hipster” campuses in the country. It just so happened that my school, Georgetown University, rounded out the list at number ten. Initially, I was a little confused. How could a school that was recently accused of being part of the 1% also be one of the nation’s most bohemian? How can a school where the majority of students come from private or boarding schools, a school whose business students earn the second highest starting salaries in the nation, be considered anti-establishment? The article said that this year it seems like more students are adding “hipster” to their resumes, especially at Georgetown. Resumes? Isn’t that just about as anti-hipster as you could get? But then, it all made sense. Well, not really, because that would mean that the world’s problems were solved and we could all go home and call it a day. What I meant to say, was that it kind of made sense to me. When I first stumbled upon the article, I was wearing a flat brimmed trucker...
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