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					                                                                                           TO BE
                                                                                           ABOUT
                                                                                           TO BE
                                                                                        Today’s crop of 21-year-olds already antes up about
                                                                                        $187 billion a year in consumer spending. But as young
                                                                                        people shed their childhood ways, their influence real-
                                                                                        ly begins to crescendo. Here’s how Gen Y’s youthful
                                                                                        traits will evolve as the cohort crosses the portal of
                                                                                        adulthood…and what that portends for marketers.
                                                                                                                           By Michael J. Weiss
                                                                                        When Michael Piercey turned 21 last            lion Americans turning 21 this year as the




                                                                                        W
                                                                                        November, he celebrated the milestone          vanguard of Generation Y, a group whose
                                                                                        like those before him have done for gen-       population is almost the same as the Baby
                                                                                        erations: He got mildly drunk. A part-         Boomers’ and is expected to be every bit as
                                                                                        time college student and radio engineer        powerful as a shaper of business markets.
                                                                                        from Kensington, Md., Piercey gathered a       While demographers debate its size—
                                                                                        handful of friends, ordered in pizza and       many define Gen Yers as those 72 million
                                                                                        Kevin Smith videos, and then drank too         Americans born between 1977 and
                                                                                        much booze—mostly shots of Jack                1994—there’s less dispute about Y’s
                                                                                        Daniels chased with Coca-Cola. By mid-         spending power: an estimated $187 billion
                                                                                        night, he was loudly declaring his goal of     annually, destined for industries ranging
                                                                                        becoming a radio talk-show host and            from apparel to wireless tech.
                                                                                        toasting his newfound status as an adult.          Take that $187 billion, factor in the
                                                                                            “It’s great to be able to legally do       arc of career growth, household and fam-
                                                                                        anything 24/7,” says Piercey, running his      ily formation, and multiply by about
                                                                                        fingers through a scraggly brown beard         another 53 years in life expectancy, and
                                                                                        and ponytail. “I have a lot dreams and         you’re in the $10 trillion range in con-
                                                                                        expectations.”                                 sumer spending over the life span of
                                                                                            Piercey isn’t the only one with big        today’s 21-year-olds. The generation of
                                                                                        hopes for his future. Today’s businesses are   Echo Boomers—which put Happy Meals
                                                                                        eagerly courting the approximately 4 mil-      and Lunchables, Sonic the Hedgehog and

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          Nickelodeon’s Rugrats on the map as bil-         at home in a virtual world, spending six        be caught dead in their father’s Camry,         of racial diversity, but 21-year-olds live it.”
          lion-dollar franchises—is crossing over          hours a day online, surfing Web sites of        America’s best-selling car. Recognizing         Winter, now the CEO of U30 owner Tracy             RESPONDING TO ONLINE ADVERTISING
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Young Americans are more likely than other consumers to respond to interactive ads and play
          from MTV’s The Real World into the real          cartoon art and instant messaging his           the power of the 21-year-old consumer in        Locke Partnership, observes that a com-            online games but less likely to participate in an online sweepstakes or coupon offer. They seek out
          world. Now that more than 20 percent of          friends. “I guess I have 200 people on my       the marketplace, Toyota declared its audi-      mon denominator among these ethnically             ads with high entertainment value.
          the cohort has reached the age of majori-        buddy list,” Piercey says. “One of my best      ence for Scions to be thirtysomethings,         diverse 21-year-olds is their urban sensi-                                                      18-24       25-34     35-44      45-54         55+
          ty, what should we make of a generation          friends is a guy from Milwaukee who I’ve        although it launched an advertising cam-        bility, reflecting the influences of hip-hop       Visited a Web site related to an ad           49%         48%       47%        46%          39%
          peering into adulthood whose sensibilities       never met. We both like comics.”                paign targeting 21-year-olds—“because           and singers like Eminem and J. Lo. He
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Entered an online sweepstakes                42%        43%         44%           47%            43%
          were shaped by years of calm followed by             You might think young Piercey is a          they have more influence on the 30-year-        recalls one focus group he conducted in
          days like Columbine and September 11,            consumer aberration, but marketers rec-         olds,” says James Farley, vice president of     which twentysomethings dismissed their             None of the above                            32%        33%         32%           29%            35%
          by years of economic exuberance followed         ognize that he looks more and more like         Scion. “We’re going after a mind-set, the       ethnic heritage: “One young man said,‘My           Played a game online                         28%        25%         24%           24%            23%
          by months and months of recession, and           the future. Today’s 21-year-olds serve as       trendsetter within that group, for the          father describes himself as a fourth-gener-
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Registered on a particular site
          by years of world peace followed by weeks        the nation’s key trendsetters, whose pas-       heavy lifting.” That meant a stealth mar-       ation Jamaican. I think of myself as a first-      to receive a coupon/discount                 23%        28%         32%           31%            31%
          and weeks of wars whose end is nowhere           sion for MP3 players, camera phones and         keting campaign: displaying the car out-        generation urban.’ ”
          in sight?                                        instant messaging is transforming popular       side coffee shops and raves, and offering            Though Generation Y is often com-             Purchased a product or service online        16%        19%         20%           25%            25%
                                                                                                                                                           pared with the Baby Boom—which is                  Viewed additional content inside the
                  Attitudes of the Y axis: “My father describes himself as a fourth-                                                                       slightly larger, at 78 million people—
                                                                                                                                                           today’s 21-year-olds are much different in
                                                                                                                                                                                                              ad itself (such as a movie preview)          15%        10%         14%           14%            14%
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Purchased a product or service in
                 generation Jamaican. I think of myself as a first-generation urban.”                                                                      temperament. Young Boomers challenged              a traditional store after seeing online ad   13%        16%         15%           19%            21%
                                                                                                                                                           authority, but in the patriotic wake of
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Interacted with an ad but without
                Flash back to about 1971, when the         culture. More than half of all 21-year-olds     test drives to the writers at hip-hop maga-     9/11, current 21-year-olds aren’t itching          leaving the site I was visiting              11%         9%          8%            7%             6%
          same number (16 million or so) and per-          still live at home, so they still hold sway     zines like Yellow Rat Bastard. But early        for upheaval. Where young Boomers
          centage (about 20 percent) of Baby               over their teenage brothers’ and sisters’       reviews of the car have been mixed—one          rebelled against their parents, today’s Yers       Forwarded an online advertisement
                                                                                                                                                                                                              to a friend                                  10%         9%          7%           11%            11%
          Boomers had reached their 21st birthday.         product preferences. These Echo Boomers         called it “a cross between a skateboard and     want to connect with theirs. An online
          Business, politics, careers and culture          also influence the tastes of their Baby         a toaster oven”—and even Farley admits          survey conducted last year by Monster-             Called a 1-800 number to order
          would never be the same as young                 Boomer parents, creating such a potential-      that it’s an uphill climb to move 21-year-      TRAK.com, a job search firm, found that            a product advertised online                  5%          6%          6%            9%            10%
          Boomers emerged from a cloud of ideal-           ly powerful phenomenon that marketers           old consumers who spend more time in            60 percent of college students planned to                                                                            Source: Jupiter/Ipsos-NPD, December 2002
          ism to assume the responsibilities, the          are calling it the “Boom-Boom” effect.          the virtual world than the real one. “We        move home after graduation. “They’re
          privileges and the powers of adulthood.               Companies that ignore the tastes of        started a whole new company just for Gen        close to their parents, both physically and
                That’s where we are now with Gen Y’s       today’s 21-year-olds do so at their peril. If   Yers,” he says. “But we’re going to have to     emotionally,” says Angela Weltman, a Los          days will filter into highly acquisitive con-       came of age in an era of scaled-back
          About-To-Be’s. The attitudes of youth            a brand missed the 21-year-olds of Gen X,       be fluid.”                                      Angeles-based psychologist whose expert-          sumer behavior in the decades to come.              government and leaner corporations
          have begun evolving into the values that         it could survive because that audience was           In the tricky business of selling the      ise is in consumer motivational behavior.             Their split personality—conventional            and now seem ready to fend for them-
          come with being a grown-up. History and          relatively small. Not so with Gen Y. These      trappings of adulthood to this particu-         “They admire their parents.” Weltman,             at home, urbane in the marketplace—                 selves in a global economy. According
          culture’s defining moments—Columbine,            newly minted adults are the bellwether of       lar set, no one is ready to claim victory.      who has served as a marketing consultant          makes today’s 21-year-olds a special chal-          to Tracy Locke’s Winter, some 70 per-
          9/11, the impeachment of the President,          what the nation’s consumers will soon be                                                        to automotive companies, observes that            lenge to marketers. Gen Yers tend to be             cent of them already hold a full- or
          the Dot Bust—have helped forge a sensi-          doing, buying and thinking. And that’s                            *******                       both young motorists and their Boomer             skeptical consumers who, after years of             part-time job, and they expect to work
          bility that will last a lifetime in shaping      what keeps marketers up at night.                                                               parents now buy motorcycles once popu-            exposure to saturation marketing, are               multiple jobs over their lifetimes in a
          expectations and entitlement, in deter-               As automakers have already discov-         INSIDE THE HEAD OF A 21-YEAR-OLD                larized by rebellious teens. “They ride           hardened to traditional advertising tactics.        boom-and-bust economy. “They don’t
          mining what one will give to and take            ered, 21-year-olds are tough to please.

                                                                                                           B
                                                                                                                  orn in 1982, today’s 21-year olds are    together these days,” she says.                   They’re much less brand-loyal than previ-           expect to be taken care of from cradle
          from society, work, one’s community, etc.        When Honda tried to appeal to them with                barely old enough to remember                 Whatever attitudes and distinguishing        ous generations and are more accepting of           to grave,” he says. “They expect to go
                As they start forming their own house-     its Element, a boxy vehicle that company               when Ronald Reagan was president.        features characterized the Gen Y cohort           generic labels. A survey by Miami-based             where the jobs are.”
          holds, 21-year-olds will soon be shopping        officials described as a “dorm room on          Yet in their lifetimes, American society has    throughout childhood and the teen years,          Market Segment Research found that 18-                  Yet one thing 21-year olds are
          for their first cars, homes and mutual           wheels,” young drivers yawned. Instead,         changed dramatically. Immigration has           demographers and trendspotters will               to 24-year-olds are more likely than other          attached to is technology. Telecommu-
          funds. They’ll begin developing brand loy-       Boomers latched onto the ads, which             made the country much more diverse: 1 in        inevitably note how those attitudes evolve        consumers to buy a product on the spur of           nications, television and the Internet
          alties that could last a lifetime. But what      showed sexy college kids partying near the      3 21-year-olds are not Caucasian. Family        with each successive life stage change.           the moment and change brands if the                 are so ubiquitous in their lives that they
          sounds like a no-lose scenario for mar-          car at a beach; the average age of the Ele-     structures have also changed: 1 in 4 21-        (Life stage changes include marriage,             mood strikes. Only 1 in 5 looks for a par-          bounce seamlessly from one to another,
          keters, however, has many of them wor-           ment driver is 42. The same thing hap-          year olds were raised by a single parent; 3     birth of children, children leaving the           ticular brand, compared with the 1 in 3             sometimes consuming several media
          ried. This is the most unpredictable, adver-     pened when Chrysler unveiled its hearse-        in 4 have working mothers. And while            parental residence, etc.; entering adult-         Americans who shop for specific brands at           simultaneously. MTV found evidence
          tising-saturated and marketing-skeptical         like PT Cruiser. Though the target market       their parents are still prone to view the       hood certainly qualifies as an important          age 60. “Twenty-one-year-olds are in a              of this when it recently asked 18- to 24-
          group of adults America has ever seen.           was the young, so many Boomer moms              Internet and mobile phones as novelties,        life stage change.) As Echo Boomers               period of transition,” says Marshal Cohen,          year-olds how many hours a day they
                Like many of his peers, Michael            and dads were reminded of the hot rods          21-year-olds have literally grown up with       become adults, their already evident gen-         president of NPDFashionworld in Port                spend surfing the Web, downloading
          Piercey ignores traditional media and            of their youth that there were waiting lists    them and incorporated them into every           erational traits, their defining moments          Washington, N.Y. “They believe that                 music and e-mailing friends. The com-
          advertising channels. He prefers to play         at dealerships. Only 4 percent of the PT        aspect of their lives. “They’re more sophis-    and the current economic, political and           what’s in today is gone tomorrow. So                pany’s researchers were shocked when
          video games and watch DVDs than to sit           Cruiser’s buyers are under 25.                  ticated than their parents’ generation,” says   cultural climate sum up to what social sci-       they’re not ready to make any strong                they added up the hours and found that
          down for scheduled TV shows. He’d rather              Toyota thought it had a better idea        Edward Winter, founder of Knoxville-            entists, in hindsight, characterize as            brand attachments.”                                 the average time totaled more than 24
          read comic books than subscribe to a             with Scion, its first new nameplate in 14       based consulting firm U30 Group, which          About-To-Be behavior. Likely, the wired,              Indeed, 21-year-olds today have an              hours a day. “Young people manage to
          newspaper or magazine. And though he             years. The car, introduced this spring, was     specializes in the under-30 market.             resourceful, worldly and demanding per-           independent streak that is likely to run            squeeze 31 hours into a 24-hour peri-
          still crashes at his parents’ house, he’s more   for young shoppers who wouldn’t want to         “Boomers like to talk about being tolerant      sonalities of this generation’s youthful          through their nascent careers. They                 od,” says Betsy Frank, executive vice

          30   AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS / SEPTEMBER 2003                                                                            WWW.DEMOGRAPHICS.COM      WWW.DEMOGRAPHICS.COM                                                                                   SEPTEMBER 2003 / AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS             31
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                                                                                                        view driving as a social activity, while
                                                                                                        some of the older demographic sees
                                                                                                                                                      21 AND WIRELESS                                                tory. Credit card companies like Visa,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     MasterCard and American Express have
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       so, company reps still set up tables on
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       many campuses, handing out applica-
                                                                                                                                                      Twenty-one-year-olds are likely to use a
                                                                                                        driving as a means of escape.” With that      wireless phone for sending data, text and                      been happy to satisfy the desire for cred-        tion forms and logo-covered hats, T-
                                                                                                        in mind, Saturn’s 2003 Ion features stadi-    e-mail—which bodes well for the wireless                       it among young consumers—critics                  shirts or DVDs. “The students say, ‘I’ll
                                                                                                                                                      industry in the future.
                                                                                                        um seating, to make sure passengers are                                                                      would say too gleefully. When                     just fill out the application and keep the
                                                                                                        comfortable. And Saturn understands             21-year-old Americans                                        researchers at Nellie Mae, a Braintree,           shirt,’ ” says Prikazsky. “But once they
                                                                                                        the importance of customization to 21-          who subscribe to                                             Mass.-based student loan company,                 get the card, they start using it. And that
                                                                                                        year-olds sensibilities, offering Ion cus-      wireless phone service                          47%          examined the credit reports of student            concerns me. Never underestimate the
                                                                                                        tomers leopard-skin or brushed-steel            Subscribers who also...                                      applicants, they were shocked at what             power of a free T-shirt to a 21-year-old.”
                                                                                                        interiors. “Young motorists go through a         use data services                              50%          they found. Some 93 percent of 21-year-
                                                                                                        lot of changes at this age,” says Arm-           get two-way text messaging                     44%
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     olds carry credit cards, up from 60 per-                              *******
                                                                                                        strong, “so we wanted to give them a                                                                         cent just five years ago. More than half
                                                                                                                                                         send e-mail                                    16%
                                                                                                        vehicle that could allow for different                                                                       are carrying more than four cards.                FASHION: MORE THAN MIDRIFFS
                                                                                                        looks and experiences.”                          have wireless Internet access                  17%               “You worry about them getting in

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       V
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             isiting a shopping mall is a good
                                                                                                            Toyota had similar thoughts before it       Average monthly cost                            $66          over their heads,” says Nina Prikazsky,                 way to measure the influence 21-
                                                                                                        unveiled the Scion (sounds like “sigh-                     Source: Telephia, Inc./Harris Interactive, 2002   vice president of operations at Nellie                  year-olds have on fashion. First,
                                                                                                        on,” not to mention “Ion”). While devel-                                                                     Mae. “You worry about them having bad             count the number of girls whose belly
                                                                                                        oping the car, researchers learned some                                                                      credit records when they’re ready to buy          buttons poke out between crop tops
                                                                                                        interesting things about the youth mar-      know that new trends are likely to catch                        a car or get an apartment.”                       and low-rise jeans. Then count the
                                                                                                        ket. It seems these motorists practically    on with the youth market first. Take data                            The average 21-year old is carrying          number of women you see in their 30s,
                                                                                                        live in their cars; one-quarter of Gen       services. Some 53 percent, or twice the                         almost $3,000 in credit card debt; 10             40s and even 50s wearing cargo pants
          Talk about your car culture                                                                   Yers, for example, keep a full change of     national average, use their phones for                          percent have balances that exceed                 or lacy tops. Baby Boomers continue to
          Toyota commissioned 20 artists to realize their vision of the Scion. The artwork was
                                                                                                        clothes in their vehicles. So Toyota         two-way text messaging, Internet access                         $7,000. Perhaps surprisingly, Nellie              glom onto the fashion trends of the
          exhibited in a gallery, then photographed for a series of print ads targeting 21-year-olds.   designers made the Scion resemble a          or sending e-mail, according to Telephia,                       Mae found that 21-year-olds don’t                 young, in a last gasp to look young and
                                                                                                        home on wheels: It has fully reclining       a San Francisco-based marketing compa-                          default on their debts any more or less           hip themselves.
                                                                                                        front seats so drivers can nap between       ny. Young phone users are also the most                         frequently than the general population.                Today’s 21-year-olds have sparked a
          president of research and planning for                           *******                      classes, a 15-volt outlet so they can plug   receptive audience for playing games on                         Slowly but surely, they tend to pay off           rebirth of youth-oriented specialty
          MTV Networks, in New York. “They’ll                                                           in their computer, and a killer Pioneer      their handsets, listening to music and                          their bills.                                      chains like Hot Topic, the Gap and Old
          read a magazine while watching TV              AUTOMOBILES: HOME SWEET CAR                    audio system that reads MP3 music files.     taking photographs with tiny built-in                                Banks figure that if 21-year-olds            Navy. The key to success for these stores
          while going online. They’re the masters

                                                         F
                                                               ew industries have made greater          The price tag: a modest $12,500. “Gen Y      cameras. Hoping to reconnect with the                           rack up big balances today, they’ll wave          is that they sell the image of youth across
          of multitasking.”                                    attempts at understanding the 21-        consumers don’t buy cars by the pound,       youth market, Nokia is launching a                              the plastic even more when they’re                generations, to 21-year olds as well as to
              Add wireless technologies to the mix,            year-old mind-set than the auto-         like their parents, who want bigger and      dozen cell phone models this fall, includ-                      older. That’s why promoting credit                their parents. Leopard pants, lace-up
          and you have the most mobile genera-           motive industry. Knowing that Genera-          bigger SUVs,” says Scion’s Farley. “Gen      ing the biscuit-shaped 3300, which                              cards to the youth market is a big busi-          jeans and Renaissance dresses—all popu-
          tion ever. Twenty-one-year-olds are the        tion Y drivers will soon be dominating         Yers want versatility. They want a car       includes an MP3 player/messaging                                ness. Banks like Citi, Chase and MBNA             lar among the Gen Y set—are making
          most likely to throw away their home           the highways, carmakers have started           that’s more than a car.”                     device, and the 72501, which has a speak-                       flood college students with direct mail           their way into the closets of Boomer
          answering machines and to “cut the             cranking out entry-level vehicles for the                                                   er attachment to blast music from the                           pieces and place pop-up ads on the Web            mothers. Meanwhile, Gen Y’s kid sisters
          cord” on wired phones, relying entirely        youth market. Gen Y drivers currently                           *******                     handset. Its 3650 cell phone can create                         sites they like to visit. But campus give-        are picking up their edgy fashion sense
          on cell phones and voice mail. They’re         purchase an estimated 6 percent of all                                                      15-second video clips to share with                             aways appear to be the best lure for              by wearing rectangular glasses and Goth-
          jugglers who place high value on being         new cars—about 1 million vehicles              TECHNOLOGY: GOING MOBILE                     friends, an effort to move camera phones                        catching 21-year-olds where they                  ic tees and sporting not-so-private tat-
          both footloose and connected. Seeing           annually. By 2010, an estimated 63 mil-

                                                                                                        N
                                                                                                                o product better exemplifies the     to the next digital level.                                      study—which has created a backlash, as            toos—or, at least, temporary henna ink-
          this as a new kind of lifestyle—and per-       lion Generation Yers will have a driver’s              lifestyle of 21-year-olds than the       Tom Buehrer, Telephia’s director of                         hundreds of colleges have banned cred-            ings that fade after a week. The result: a
          haps as the wave of the future—the             license. Because history has shown that                mobile phone. Because they like      consumer insights, thinks such innova-                          it card marketing to their students. Even         trickle-up and -down effect.
          advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi has       few auto brands successfully attract           to be constantly on the go, these Ameri-     tions are smart moves to appeal to 21-
          come up with a name for it: “connexity.”       parents and their children, automakers         cans view their wireless phone as a life-    year-olds. “Think of them as the
          To cope with this new world, businesses        are scrambling to develop new designs          line to friends and family. Some 47 per-     always-on generation,” he says. “Using                            CARD-CARRYING 21-YEAR-OLDS
          are moving as fast as they can to develop      and marketing efforts geared to the            cent of them carry mobile phones,            wireless speaks to their desire to be                             Aggressive marketing by credit card companies has helped boost the share of college students
          products and marketing targeted to             young driver. Mitsubishi seems to have         slightly below the national average of 55    doing what they want to do and still be                           who carry plastic, from 60 percent in 1998 to 93 percent in 2001. A majority of 21-year-olds
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       carry more than four cards; nearly a quarter have more than $3,000 in credit card debt.
          today’s “connexed” 21-year-olds. Com-          found a hit with its tricked-out Lancer,       percent (older Americans get phones          touched by someone.”
          panies like Apple and Philips are finding      which looks like a sports car driven off       through work). But there’s a big differ-                                                                        Percentage who have credit cards                                                               93%
          success with miniature devices, such as        the set of Gen Y favorite The Fast and         ence in how younger and older people                              *******
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Average number of credit cards                                                                 4.9
          the iPod and the MP3 Key Ring, that            the Furious. Saturn built its 2003 Ion         use their phones. Boomers are more
          store music and images for consumers           with the active 21-year-old motorist in        prone to use cell phones as a tool while     FINANCIAL SERVICES: WAVING PLASTIC                                 Percentage who have four or more cards                                                         58%
          on the run—and then can be plugged             mind: The rear seats fold down for             traveling on business, whereas 21-year-

                                                                                                                                                     J
                                                                                                                                                         ust as 21-year-olds take technology                            Average credit card debt                                                                   $2,984
          directly into a USB port for up- and           hauling an 8-foot surfboard or kayak.          olds are integrating them into the fabric        for granted, so, too, do they assume                           Percentage with balances of $3,000 to $7,000                                                   23%
          downloading. Gadgets like these solve              “Twenty-one-year-olds drive differ-        of their social lives.                           that credit is theirs for the asking.                          Percentage with balances exceeding $7,000                                                      10%
          the problem of helping rootless con-           ently than their parents,” explains Matt           Companies keep a close eye on how        Today’s young adults have access to                                                                                          Source: Nellie Mae student loan company, 2001
          sumers feel “connexed.”                        Armstrong, a Saturn Ion manager. “They         21-year-olds use phones because they         more credit than any generation in his-

          32   AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS / SEPTEMBER 2003                                                                       WWW.DEMOGRAPHICS.COM     WWW.DEMOGRAPHICS.COM                                                                                               SEPTEMBER 2003 / AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS               33
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               There’s also something unusual           marketing messages daily—some 23 mil-              world. To them, life isn’t passive. They                   from old professional football, baseball,       “We tend to stay children longer in our        Monaco—“anything that looks modern,”
          about present-day 21-year-olds: For the       lion in their lives so far. By now they’re         don’t want to sit back and have adver-                     hockey and even roller derby teams.             families but go into adulthood sooner,”        says Cheng, adding that their fondness for
          first time, it seems that young men are       jaded. They see right through most TV              tising pour over them.”                                         A new angle is lyrical product place-      says Alex López Negrete, president of          the latest technology is “almost a cultural
          into shopping just as much as young           ads. “When you do focus groups with 21-                                                                       ment, whereby a company pays rappers to         López Negrete Communications, an               tradition.”
          women are. Stores like Structure, Diesel      year-olds, they’ll tell you the advertiser’s                          *******                                 mention the name of its product in song         advertising and public relations agency            In Japan, where more than 90 percent
          and Abercrombie & Fitch have sold             strategy,” says Tracy Locke’s Winter.                                                                         lyrics. Last April, on one of Billboard’s       in Houston. “In the Hispanic family            of college students use cell phones to send
          young guys on the notion that shop-           “They no longer watch ads for informa-             ETHNIC INFLUENCES                                          charts, the top 20 songs mentioned brand        structure, you don’t have that ‘tweener.’      text messages, Tokyo youth are called
          ping is a turn-on. Abercrombie’s Web          tion, the way Baby Boomers do. They

                                                                                                           T
                                                                                                                 he current crop of 21-year-olds is not               names no fewer than 47 times, including         Real life creeps up on you fast.” At age 21,   “thumb tribes.” And that trend has emi-
          site looks a lot like a Playboy centerfold    look at ads for entertainment.” Advertis-                just the most ethnically diverse ever,               21 references to cars, 12 to clothes and        some 68 percent of Hispanics are               grated to the U.S., where young Asians go
          spread—albeit one with an online              ers have to be creative and often must                   it’s also the most influential—in part               nine to drinks (other mentions were for         employed full-time, and a large portion        online more than average and have more
          “Lifestyle” section filled with photos        craft an ironic message to pique a 21-             because of those multicultural roots.                      Magnum condoms, Barbie dolls and Play-          of their budgets goes for major appli-         DVDs, cell phones and digital cameras.
          and postcards of hot female models            year-old’s interest, notes Winter, who             Although the number of young Hispanics,                    boy magazine). According to Lucian              ances and electronic gadgets. “You have a      “They like tech trinkets because they’re so
          suitable for e-mailing to buddies. WSL        also singles out Budweiser’s popular               Asians and African Americans is growing,                   James, a San Francisco-based brand              lot of new married couples getting their       cool,” says Cheng. “Cool is important
          Strategic Retail, a New York-based mar-       bullfrog campaign and Volkswagen’s                 these minorities’ tastes in music, fashion                 strategist who counted the references,          washers, dryers and CD players at Wal-         because it helps them feel assimilated.”
          keting and retailing consultancy,             quirky spots. One commercial for the               and cars have a disproportionate influence                 Mercedes is the king in hip-hop brand           Mart,” adds López Negrete.                     And to reach these consumers in the
          reports that today’s young men have           VW Golf, in which two guys in a car pick           on popular culture.“You’re starting to hear
          evolved into shoppers out of necessity.
          “These guys grew up in households
                                                        up a discarded chair, is a Gen Y classic.
                                                             Some advertisers are finding that
                                                                                                           rap songs used as ring tones,” says Que
                                                                                                           Gaskins, president and CEO of Ad*itive, a
                                                                                                                                                                      Attitudes of the Y axis: “Think of today’s 21-year-olds as the always-on
          where moms worked,” says WSL part-            the best tool for reaching 21-year-olds            Philadelphia-based advertising, public                     generation. Using wireless speaks to them.”
          ner Candace Corlett. “If they needed          is a new twist on an old approach: word            relations and marketing firm. “Carmakers
          khakis for a Friday dance or track shoes      of mouth—though today, word also                   are making chrome wheels and MP3 play-                     mentions. And Foxy Brown manages to                  It’s no news that the Hispanic popula-    future, she advises marketers not to target
          for a Saturday meet, their mother left        spreads by e-mail and instant message.             ers standard factory equipment. That’s the                 name-drop seven brands in one song:             tion in the U.S. is booming; this year, the    Asians in native languages but to learn to
          money on the counter and said, ‘Go, get       For example, when Toyota began mar-                influence of this consumer group.”                         Frankie B. jeans, Juicy Couture sweats,         Census Bureau reported it had reached an       speak the language of cool.
          it yourself.’ ”                               keting the Scion, it sank 70 percent of                 Marketers are finding new ways to                     Marc Jacobs handbags, Nike, Bentley,            all-time high of 38.8 million. By 2015, the
                                                        its budget into nontraditional promo-              woo minority audiences. Gaskins, for one,                  Range Rover and Burberry. For the rap-          number of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 is                            *******
                            *******                     tions–or, as Toyota executive Farley               downplays the impact of TV spots that                      pers, an endorsement may mean a                 expected to increase by 34 percent, to 6
                                                        puts it, “marketing where the consumer             feature African American sports stars and                  check—over or under the table.                  million. But to reach young Hispanic con-      CUSTOMIZATION: HAVING IT THEIR WAY
          MEDIA AND ADVERTISING:                        can discover our product in the flesh.”            entertainers; he says the approach is “too                      For marketers trying to cut through        sumers, marketers remain divided on the

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     W
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                hen 21-year-olds want a new
          LIFESTYLE INTERRUPTUS                         As part of the rollout this summer,                obvious and stereotypical.” Because he                     the clutter, lyrical product placement pro-     best media choice and the preferred lan-                  music CD these days, it’s likely


          A
                 t first glance, 21-year-olds’ media    Scion displayed its cars at youth hang-            believes a celebrity pitch works better                    vides the most authentic form of advertis-      guage. Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds watch                 that they’ll visit Web sites like
                 preferences are similar to those of    outs in California so prospects could              when it comes off subtly and reaches con-                  ing today, maintains Gaskins. “Whatever         17 hours of TV per week—three hours            Kazaa or Morpheus rather than go to the
                 other Americans. Each week, 18-        take a test drive and then use an Inter-           sumers where they live and play, he advo-                  celebrities are doing naturally in their        more than the general population, accord-      local record shop. They’ll download just
          to 24-year-olds spend an average of 10        net kiosk to e-mail their friends about            cates hiring celebrities for product place-                lives, that’s what these consumers want to      ing to Market Segment Research in              the songs they want, place the tracks in
          hours online, 10 hours in front of a TV       the experience.                                    ments. For example, Total Sports hired                     replicate,” he says. “If they see a rapper in   Miami. The big question remains: Should        the order they desire and then burn the
          and five hours listening to radio,                 “Twenty-one-year-olds like to pass            basketball star Allen Iverson to wear a                    an ad, they know he’s being paid to push        an ad be in Spanish or English?                disc themselves. Even if this activity is
          according to Jupiter Research. But it’s       stuff around, even advertising,”                   throwback jersey ($300 a pop) at press                     the product. But if Jay-Z or P. Diddy sings          Language is not as big an issue with      technically illegal, burning CDs this way
          how 21-year-olds behave online—and            observes psychologist Weltman. “It’s               conferences; now there’s a cottage industry                about a certain brand of champagne or           Asian American 21-year-olds. Most were         has raised Generation Y’s expectations:
          respond to media offline—that sepa-           subversive in a way. They don’t hate               of companies, such as Total Sports and                     car, they feel an emotional connection.”        born in this country or came here as           This group wants products customized
          rates them from their parents. In 2002,       advertising. It’s just not part of their           Mitchell & Ness, selling throwback jerseys                      Hispanic 21-year-olds are especially       young children—the so-called “1.5 gen-         to suit its own tastes, wastes and whims.
          Jupiter found that more than half of 18-                                                                                                                    influential consumers because of their          eration.” As a result, they tend to be         B. Joseph Pine, author of Mass Cus-
          to 24-year-olds play games and do                                                                                                                           sway within traditional tight-knit families.    assimilated. Asian 18- to 24-year-olds         tomization (Harvard Business School
          instant messaging; more than a third           BRAND ATTITUDES                                                                                              So many are the children of immigrants          spend less than an hour a week reading         Press) believes there’s another reason
          download music. Older Americans, by            At 21, American consumers have not yet made many brand affiliations. They’re more sensitive to               that 70 percent of 21-year-old Hispanics        native-language newspapers and maga-           why 21-year-olds like products their way.
          contrast, are more likely to passively         price than quality and, compared with older consumers, more apt to switch brands on a whim.                  talk to their parents in Spanish. Young         zines. That’s one-fourth the time that         “They’re used to getting their own way
          surf Web sites for information, the men                                                  18-24       25-34      35-44          45-54           60+          Latinos serve as translators of the Ameri-      Hispanics spend reading magazines in           after being pampered by their Baby
          interested in sports and finance and the       I often buy items on the spur of
                                                                                                                                                                      can experience for their parents, often         Spanish, reports Market Segment                Boom parents,” he says. “They see no
          women in health and shopping.                    the moment                               32%         35%        17%            17%            22%          making big purchasing decisions on their        Research. “The assimilation curve has          reason not to continue getting what they
          “Younger Americans are more interac-           Once I find a brand I like, it is
                                                                                                                                                                      behalf. “They have the difficult task of try-   speeded up for young Asians,” says             want from companies.”
          tive online than other age groups,” says        difficult to get me to change brands      30%         39%        35%            42%            37%          ing to be true to their culture of origin       Wanla Cheng, president of the Asia Link             Generation Y’s fondness for cus-
          David Card, a Jupiter senior analyst in        I like commercials that show me
                                                                                                                                                                      while hearing the siren song of the new         Consulting Group, in New York. “In             tomization is also trickling up to Baby
          New York. “They like the intersection of         how to use a product                     25%         29%        27%            26%            33%          culture,” says Andrew Erlich, a psycholo-       many ways, young Asians act not much           Boomers, creating a synergistic Boom-
          information and entertainment.”                Store/generic brands are just as
                                                                                                                                                                      gist who is president of Los Angeles-based      different from mainstream 21-year-olds.        Boom effect—which may mean big prof-
               When it comes to television, adver-        good as name-brand products               29%         25%        26%            26%            34%          Erlich Transcultural Consultants.               They don’t want to be outsiders.”              its for companies. “Young people are the
          tisers are finding that 21-year-olds are       When I go shopping, I prefer to
                                                                                                                                                                           But Hispanics also face economic                But Cheng does believe that Asian         ones teaching their parents how to use the
          growing immune to the traditional hard          buy brand products                        20%         24%        22%            29%            33%          obstacles, because they tend to marry,          youth are more trend-conscious than            Internet,” says Pine. “With customization,
          sell. They grew up in age of advertising                                                                      Source: Market Segment Research, Inc., 2003
                                                                                                                                                                      start working and form households at a          young whites. These Asian Americans            they’re setting the tone for many fami-
          assault, exposed to an estimated 3,000                                                                                                                      younger age than the general population.        favor the Gap, Crate & Barrel and Club         lies.” For example, Land’s End, the catalog

          34   AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS / SEPTEMBER 2003                                                                        WWW.DEMOGRAPHICS.COM                     WWW.DEMOGRAPHICS.COM                                                                           SEPTEMBER 2003 / AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS   35
21
TURNING




          clothing company popular with middle-                           *******                       sages won’t hit them over the head with
          aged Americans, several years ago began                                                       corporatespeak. Ideally, an ad will be so
          offering customized chinos on its Web         MARKETING THE FUTURE                            entertaining or useful that Gen Yers will
          site. Today, 40 percent of Land’s End

                                                        F
                                                              or marketers, the questions are stark:    fire off instant messages and text pages to
          clothes are customized.                             How can they earn the patronage of        their friends about it. Telephia’s Buehrer
               Although personalized products                 these overstimulated, savvy and           thinks advertisers could get past consumer
          used to be too pricey for the younger         demanding young adults, now and in the          resistance to ads on mobile phones if they
          shopper, they’re becoming more afford-        years to come? And how can they get it          just found the right message to appeal to
          able—and inviting—to Yers, thanks to          right without turning them off for the rest     the young and restless mobile phone user.
          increased manufacturing efficiencies          of their lives? There are signs that these      “If a movie company offered them tickets
          that are driving down costs. A 2002           Gen Yers are repulsed by the proliferation      to a new show, they’d be receptive to that
          Jupiter Research study found that 51          of media messages. They’re using TiVo to        kind of promotion,” he says, noting that
          percent of respondents would pay an           cut out TV commercials. They’re installing      the offer would be forwarded dozens of
          extra $10 to have a pair of pants custom      software on their computers to block pop-       times within minutes. “And they’re the

          Attitudes of the Y axis: “When it comes to marketing, never underestimate
          the power of a free T-shirt to a 21-year-old.”
          fitted; 18 percent said they would pay an     up ads and spam. “They’re surrounded by         most influential group when it comes to
          additional $30. And Yers do not let pri-      so much stimuli that they’re whiting out a      movies. They’re all about word of mouth.”
          vacy concerns get in the way; they seem       lot of it,” says Corlett.                            Above all, the power of 21 is an idea:
          willing to share personal information              If there’s one message that marketers      youth. Products that appeal not just to 21-
          for customized products—as long as            agree on, it is that they need to be            year-olds but also to youth-obsessed Baby
          they end up with psychedelic sneakers         smarter—and more covert—about reach-            Boomers who wish they could recapture
          or a perfume named after their pet (a         ing 21-year-olds where they live: in their      21 are bound to create superbrands. Take,
          popular order at reflect.com).                cars, at clubs, online. For African Ameri-      for example, The Osbournes, MTV’s suc-
               But will the enthusiasm of 21-year-      cans, that means tapping into their lifestyle   cessful reality show about heavy-metal
          olds for customization last? Should           through product launch parties, in rap          rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his family.
          companies revise their business models        songs and on the backs of celebrities—          MTV’s Frank points out that Boomer par-
          and retool their manufacturing plants?        “living media,” as Ad*itive’s Gaskins puts      ents are watching The Osbournes right
          Nobody is certain. In one industry after      it. To reach Hispanics, Erlich advises com-     along with their children. Tracy Locke’s
          another—from the automotive sector to         panies to sponsor banda concerts, rock ’n’      Winter has three candidates of his own as
          telecommunications—companies are              español dances, even church socials. To         superbrands that appeal to the Boom-
          already forecasting that they will have to    reach the active 21-year-old, innovative        Boom audience through multiple plat-
          offer more personalized products for          sporting goods stores like REI and              forms: Nike, which reaches its customers
          21-year-olds as they age. Pine believes       Galyan’s are installing rock-climbing walls     with shoes and with its Niketown stores;
          that customization will become a way of       so that customers can try out equipment         BMW, which now publishes a magazine
          life for American consumers. “Mass cus-       before buying it. And Budweiser and Bac-        and draws people to short films on its
          tomization will be as prevalent in the        ardi are sponsoring pub crawls to push          Web site; and ESPN, which has extended
          21st century as mass production was in        new alcoholic beverages in the bars where       its name from the TV channel to a maga-
          the 20th,” he says.                           the young hang out.                             zine to a chain of theme restaurants. “All
               WSL Strategic Retail’s Corlett, how-          Everyone agrees that as 21-year-olds       are selling a youth lifestyle,” says Winter.
          ever, disagrees with Pine. She thinks that    get older, they will spend even more time       “And that’s what 21-year-olds have come
          the priority for a significant number of      in a digital world, both online and with        to expect from a brand.”
          consumers won’t be naming their shoes         wireless products—and often simultane-               Marketers who tap nontraditional
          but instead will be finding the cheapest      ously. “They’ll be triple-tasking in the        venues to reach 21-year-olds appear to
          pair around. And for 21-year-olds, there      future,” says Jupiter’s Card. “Instead of       have the brightest prospects. Like Michael
          is another strike against customization:      spending an hour online, they’ll dip in and     Piercey, the newly minted 21-year-old who
          It takes time for manufacturers to deliv-     out of different digital devices.” And much     lives off the grid of traditional media and
          er personalized products, conflicting         of what 21-year-olds do online today—           advertising, these Gen Yers are not averse
          with the Gen Y desire for instant gratifi-    swapping music files, photos and other          to marketing campaigns. They just want
          cation. “Young people love to see it, buy     digital content—will be mainstream activ-       them to be entertaining. And if the mes-
          it and wear it all in the same hour,” says    ities tomorrow.                                 sages are successful, the odds are that these
          apparel expert Corlett. “They grew up              “Connexity” is what advertisers should     21-year-olds will be bigger customers of
          with a short attention span, and that         be thinking about when they try to reach        exclusive, expensive and high-powered
          may carry into the future as well.”           21-year-olds. And the most effective mes-       brands than their parents ever were.        I


          36   AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS / SEPTEMBER 2003                                                                         WWW.DEMOGRAPHICS.COM

				
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