As the U.K. budget is announced, JWT London launches the fourth quarter of its Austerity Index report, marking a full year of data tracking the impact of prolonged economic adversity on British consumers and markets. The report reveals that the younger generation are taking matters into their own hands. Meet the Resilients, aged 18-39, who set themselves apart via a strikingly proactive and entrepreneurial approach to their finances, coupled with a comparatively upbeat attitude. Rather than waiting for rescue from any institution, the Resilients are taking their own measures. They are significantly more likely than any other cohort to have found an extra job or taken on more work (35 percent), bought items specifically to “flip” for profit (20 percent) and even started their own business (11 percent). Their resilience is also in evidence when it comes to a startling willingness to make tough decisions and sacrifices: 4 in 10 regularly skip meals to save money, nearly a third (30 percent) are selling items they actually still need or want, and 18 percent have moved to a cheaper city or town.
Despite being among the hardest hit by the austerity agenda—experiencing higher unemployment and negative earnings growth—the Resilients remain pretty positive. Their Austerity Index measure is 22 points below average, indicating that their assessment of austerity’s impact on their lives is less severe than most. Their positive outlook stretches to their appraisal of others, too: They are more forgiving toward brands and institutions, including the government.
Some of this positivity is likely down to youthful optimism, but we suspect that it’s also due to the generation’s sense of connectedness. This is the cohort that has grown up witnessing and harnessing the power of social networks, so they have greater faith in themselves and their communities to wield influence and to drive change. They may well be more in control than most in the face of austerity.
For details on the ongoing study, see austerityindex.com.
Last month we wrote about an ad for Unilever’s sustainability initiative: Couples expecting a child watch a video that shows images of war and poverty before moving on to describe innovations demonstrating that, in fact, “there has never been a better time to create a brighter future for everyone on the planet and for those yet to come.” In a similar but more pop culture-y vein, a Millennial-focused commercial for the Honda Civic starts off by showing some of the things young people are anxious about today—news about Wall Street crises and home foreclosures, environmental issues like melting glaciers—before tapping into the generation’s naturally optimistic mindset and focusing on both silly and serious reasons to feel positive.
“Today is pretty bad,” laments the lead singer of Vintage Trouble, the bluesy band seen in the spot, which runs 30 seconds on TV and for a full 2:38 online. But it’s really not so bad, counter a series of perky Millennials—science, selfies, puppies, even Nyan Cat are all reasons for optimism. (The spot gets specific about new innovations, naming “meta-materials, artificial blood, space mining, genetic therapy, biotech, 3D printers.”) The band’s lyrics soon become more upbeat too: “For the most part, give or take, today is actually … pretty great.”
Millennials, observes Atlantic correspondent James Fallows, are “tired of hearing that everything is terrible.” By contrast, this approach represents a “bolder ‘glass is way more than half full’ pitch than I recall seeing in any other political or commercial campaign,” he writes, while avoiding a “boosterish/denialist” tone. While the multitude of pop culture references feels like overkill in the longer version, the campaign smartly attempts to connect with the target audience by reflecting their hope-fueled mindset.
We’ve seen brands responding to Millennial anxiety—brought on by high unemployment and ongoing economic malaise—both by addressing the jobs issue directly (Campari, McDonald’s, Benetton) and by aiming to inspire, as Levi’s has done with its “Go Forth” effort. Now two spirits brands are taking the latter course to target this generation, telling them to “Transform today” and “Defy the odds” in global campaigns.
Absolut’s “Transform Today” campaign continues the vodka brand’s focus on artists, spotlighting four young creatives: a fashion designer, a digital media artist, a graphic novelist and the artist/musician Woodkid, whose song “Ghost Lights” is the soundtrack to a manifesto spot. They are all “recreating themselves in order to become something more.” Print ads feature go-get-’em slogans like “Dare to think beyond” and “See where you take you.” Absolut’s VP of global marketing tells Forbes: “The campaign is to put a stake in the ground about what we believe in as a brand, which is ‘The future is not a given, it is what you create.’”
Johnnie Walker’s new iteration of its “Keep Walking” campaign also looks to the future—five years ahead, in the form of “a message of hope from a successful man to his younger self.” A TV commercial depicts “people trying to move themselves forward, with one foot in the frustrations of today’s workplace and an eye on the potential of the future.” The ad is empathetic—“You’re doing a job you don’t get. You’ve got talent no one’s ever seen”—before assuring young viewers that the future promises better: “One day you’ll rise up, defy the odds, silence the doubters.”
We’ve described Millennials as Generation Go: Rather than wallowing in the idea that they’re a Lost Generation, this generation is both resilient and resourceful, and notably entrepreneurial-minded. Brands that tap into this spirit will strike a chord.
The “Post-80s” (people born between 1980-1989) are a frequently targeted consumer group in China. They are often described as more Westernized, individualistic, independent and even rebellious. However, along with these glittering badges, Post-80s are under great social and economic pressures and experiencing a high level of anxiety due to high housing prices, a stagnant job market and their single-child identity. Ford EcoSport, a small SUV targeting Post-80s, adopted a straightforward approach to openly address this anxiety.
In this online video, a young man with a realistic, down-to-earth manner talks honestly about his pressure from family and work, and his anxiety about being “short of money.” He mocks the idealistic “pursue your dream” attitude that most youth brands romanticize in their communications and says his “dream” car is one that balances the expectations from his parents, girlfriend and boss. Rather than an aspirational approach, the campaign takes the practical stance that the EcoSport is an affordable vehicle that meets the needs of the different people and occasions in your life. This is the first time in China’s car market that a brand has acknowledged this imperfect reality and addressed consumer anxiety in a direct and pragmatic way, rather than just promising a far-fetched dream.
To view the commercial, click here.