A New Year, Introducing a New Generation

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Tue, Jan 10, 2017 @ 09:29 AM

Here at YouthBeat, we’re always keeping our eyes on the shifting nature of youth generations. We recognize these generations are shaped not just by birth rates and demographic trends, but also by the prevailing characteristics and spirit of the times in which they are born.

Everyone’s read a lot about Millennials.  And many brands have been paying attention to Generation Z for several years now.  But we have some news for you—move over Generation Z, there’s new kids on the block!  Yes, Gen Z is still crucial for brands to understand and create content for – in fact, check out our report.

That leads us to the introduction of Generation Alpha.  Born starting in 2010 (the year the iPad was introduced), they are demographically different from their two preceding generations.

  • The world in which they’re growing up is substantially more technological, accelerating, and crowdsourced.
  • And brands need to start paying attention to them too and incorporate them in their long-term strategies (or now for those who serve preschoolers!).

Click here to download our infographic comparing Millennials, Generation Z, and Generation Alpha. 

And don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions or for more information about how we can help your brand stay on strategy now and for years to come.

Tags: youth research, millennials, Gen Z, generation research, generation alpha

Youth Marketing Strategy Recon

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 @ 09:57 AM

At YouthBeat, we’ve known Millennials since they were children, and now we are deeply familiar with Gen Z.  Recently, we contributed to Voxburner’s Youth 100 USA Report 2016, the cornerstone of the Youth Marketing Strategy conference in New York.

The conference was a gathering of the finest minds in branding for teens and young adults.  Content focused on understanding the pathos and need states of today’s 16-24 year-old cohort, and celebrating the brands who are successfully creating the products and messaging that touch the hearts of this segment.

In the Youth 100 Report, the brands that rose to the top as favorites (ranked on sentiment) reflect the myriad needs of teens and young adults.  At YouthBeat, our POV is that to be a “favorite,” brands must be, and their marketing must reflect, the core defining emotional drivers of teens and young adults at that time.  We assert that the highest-ranking brands offer these benefits:

  • Instantaneous accessibility
  • A conduit to seemingly infinite content
  • Connection to other people
  • Comfort in a scary modern world

The Top 10 brands who are, this year, pinging the most of these drivers, are:

  1. Amazon
  2. Google
  3. Netflix
  4. YouTube
  5. Oreo
  6. Hershey’s
  7. Target
  8. Amazon Prime
  9. Disney
  10. M&M’s

To download the full report, click here.

 

Tags: Teens, millennials, Gen Z, young adult, marketing, brands

In the Era of Millennials and Stay-at-Home Dads, Has Parenting Fundamentally Changed?

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 @ 10:14 AM

In an homage to modern dads, on Father’s Day this past June, Chicago columnist Heidi Stevens called out the softer, more caring adults that are portrayed in the media today. In this, she compared them to the fondly remembered, but not as nice portrayal of adult relationships of 80s and 90s movies. That got us thinking: how is “real” parenting different now?

Certainly, demographics have shifted across a generation. Pew Research data shows that dads are increasingly stay-at-home caregivers, and less likely to be the sole source of household income.  Of preschool dads in our sample, 5% are stay-at-home dads. Even when dads work outside the home, they’re responsible for more traditional child caregiving tasks than ever before. Our YouthBeat data shows that more than half of our preschool dads report being involved either “somewhat” or “very much” in the daily activities of their children’s lives; in everything from shopping for children’s clothes to communicating with a school/daycare to planning children’s birthday parties.*

Most of these preschool parents are Millennials. In our YouthBeat data, half of Millennial moms and dads with children in 1st-4th grades said they feel that their parenting style is different from their own parents’ approach to raising children.** Though, interestingly, while 75% of Millennial parents feel that it’s much harder to be a parent today than it was in the past, this is less than those who felt that way four years ago (83%)***. So is parenting, then, getting a little easier?

Not so fast.  We’re seeing a few other things come into play that could explain this shift:

  1. Millennial parents’ kids are more connected to them than ever. Parents of all ages routinely say that they give their child their first cell phone so that the child can be reachable. This gives parents peace of mind in a child’s well-being, for the low, low price of a family cell phone plan.
  2. Millennials approach their parenting with a sense of humor. Just follow #parentingfail, or watch Jimmy Fallon to see how parents today poke fun at the ridiculousness of daily family life. And they’ve given advertisers permission to laugh along with them. For a cute take on how this occurs, check out the Halos spot where the girl whose parents ran out found her little brother duct taped to the wall.
  3. Technology offers parenting aids that simply weren’t available even four years ago. There is Amazon Prime Now, Uber Eats, and Netflix Kids, just to name a few. While some Millennial parents are worried about the dangers of technology and connection for their kids, the tradeoff is that they offer convenience that can offset those drawbacks.

So who’s raising our country’s kids today? It’s a very different mix than it was a generation ago. It’s more male; it’s more connected, and it sees challenges, but it has a sense of humor about the most important job in the world.

In this environment, smart brands are the ones who offer not just another product or app—but a way to bring families together for quality time, save some of the scarce resource of time that parents have to hang out with their kids, or give everyone a good belly laugh together.

*Source: YouthBeat, Jr., Spring 2016
**Source: YouthBeat, Total Year 2015
***Source: YouthBeat, Total Year 2011

Tags: kids, parents, kids tweens teens market research, dad, kids tweens teens, parenting, millennials

Pearls of Wisdom: Millennials vs. Gen Z Edition

Posted by Manda Pawelczyk on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 @ 10:30 AM

Pearls of Wisdom: Millennial vs. Gen Z Edition

Spring is graduation season – a time of caps, gowns, diplomas, and graduation speeches, where speakers pass down ‘wisdom’ to the graduates. Today’s high school graduates are members of Generation Z, so we wanted to dive deeper into the advice they are receiving on this major milestone, what that means for the overall attitudes and behaviors of this generation, and how that differs from the graduating classes that came before them. 

This is a generation that lived through the downturn of the economy. They have watched parents, older siblings, and other members of their community struggle. While Millennials grew up believing the world was their oyster, Gen Zers take a more practical approach – understanding that life won’t always be rosy and that it will take hard work and sacrifices to reach their goals. Through the years, we have seen a shift in the most popular high school commencement speeches – from a tone of hope and optimism to one of realism.   

Words of wisdom to Millennials:

Bill Clinton, Sidwell Friends School, 1997
“We celebrate your passage into the world in a hopeful time for our Nation and for people throughout the world. For the first time in history, more than half of all the world's people live free, under governments of their own choosing. The cold war has given way to the information age, with its revolutions in technology and communications and increasingly integrated economies and societies. Scientific advances and a growing global determination to preserve our environment give us hope that the challenges of the 21st century can be met in ways that will permit us to continue the advance of peace and freedom and prosperity throughout your entire lives.”

Doug Marlette, Durham Academy, 2005
“There is hope. And today is the beginning, Square One, for all of you…Ease up on yourselves. Have some compassion for yourself as well as for others. There’s no such thing as perfection, and life is not a race.”

Ray Sidney, Edwin O. Smith High School, 2007
“Know that with hard work you can achieve great goals, but also know that there’s more to life than just your career. If all you ever do is work, you will regret it.  You will look back on your life, and no matter how much you have accomplished, you will wish that you had lived differently. Play time and family time and sleep time are all necessary for you to recharge yourself, to keep yourself from burning out, to get perspective on what you’re doing and what your life means, and to get good ideas for the future.”

Jonathan Youshaei, Deerfield High School, 2009
“We also hold the power to turn our dreams into reality, which is another part of achieving 7/7ths. But at 18 years young, it’s hard to know what your dream is. Sure, some of us may know what we want to do in life, but even those people may find a new inspiration along the way. So for the many of us still trying to figure out what we want to do, just give it time, and you’ll find your dream or maybe it’ll find you. And when you find that dream, you gotta get after it, protect it, and dare to be idealistic. Just like with failure, though, society has turned us against that word — idealism. But make no mistake about it; we desperately need more idealistic thinkers in the world today.”

Said to those on the cusp of the two generations:

David McCullough Jr., Wellesley High School, 2012
“You are not special.  You are not exceptional.  Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests…you’re nothing special.  You see, if everyone is special, then no one is.  If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless…we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.  We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.  No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it…Now it’s “So what does this get me?”  As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.” 

And the graduation messages given to Generation Z:

Michelle Obama, Santa Fe Indian School, 2016
“Now, I know that perhaps I’m asking a lot of all of you. And I know that sometimes all those obligations might feel like a heavy burden. I also know that many of you have already faced and overcome challenges in your lives that most young people can’t even begin to imagine—challenges that have tested your courage, your confidence, your faith, and your trust.

But, graduates, those struggles should never be a source of shame—never—and they are certainly not a sign of weakness. Just the opposite. Those struggles are the source of your greatest strengths. Because by facing adversity head on and getting through it, you have gained wisdom and maturity beyond your years.”

Larssa Martinez, McKinney Boyd High School, 2016
“Let me be frank.  I am not going to stand up here and give you the traditional Hallmark version of a valedictorian speech.  Instead I would like to offer you a different kind of speech. One that discusses expectations versus reality…When people see me standing up here, they see a girl who is Yale bound, and who seems to have her life figured out.  But that is far from the whole truth.  So at this time, if I may, I would like to convey my fair share of realities.”

The messages given during graduation ceremonies are just one of the ways we have seen a shift in the way that Millennials and Generation Z think and act. If you would like to find out more about how Generation Z and Millennials differ, Mary McIlrath will be presenting a retrospective look at both generations at the Marketing to Generation Z Conference in New York on July 20, 2016. You can click here to register attend the conference! If you plan to attend, let us know so we can give you our sponsor discount code!

Tags: Education, youth research, school, millennials, Gen Z, generation research, high school, graduation

How “Z” Are You?

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Fri, May 20, 2016 @ 09:01 AM

Here at YouthBeat, we’ve been surveying youth for more than a decade.  We had Millennials in our data set when they were teens, and we have Generation Z now.  This gives us the unique ability to compare the attitudes and behaviors of these two generations, based on their actual responses to our survey questions.

We’ve recently undertaken a large-scale analysis of more than 20,000 responses to our holistic lifestyle study from 2009-2015, and we’ll be reporting out the findings at the Marketing to Generation Z Conference in New York in October 2016 (click here for a link to the conference website).  Let us know if you plan to attend—as conference sponsors, we can give you a discount code to use.

This was a fascinating exercise for us—we entered into it with several hypotheses (“stereotypes” is such a negative word), and the results were very surprising! Themes that we expected, but didn’t necessarily see validated, include:

  1. Millennials Lite: Being so close in age to Millennials, Gen Z (which some call Centennials) should largely share the attitudes and behaviors of those who passed through a few years ahead of them.
  2. Bleak Financial Outlook: Both generations lived through the housing and stock market crashes of 2007, so both should have similar behaviors when it comes to saving and spending.
  3. Social Creatures: Gen Z, living in a connected age, should be more active on social media than their Millennial counterparts.
  4. Multicultural Melding: The youngest Gen Zers come from no single majority ethnic background (some call them Plurals for this reason). All ethnic groups, then, should think and act in similar ways.
  5. Principled + Charitable: Growing up in the age of TOMS, Gen Zers should be more likely than Millennials were to put their money into brands that engage in cause-related marketing.
  6. Media Multitaskers: With so many functions available on mobile devices, Gen Zers should be more likely than Millennials to be engaged in multiple activities at a time.

In each of these areas, we identify marketing campaigns that fit squarely with the preferences and ideals of Generation Z…and some that miss the mark.

And here’s the best part…we crafted a fun quiz so you can find out whether your mindset is more aligned with the Millennial or the Gen Z generation. 

  Click Here to Take the Quiz!

 

Tags: kids tweens teens market research, kids tweens teens, millennials, Gen Z, generation research

Why Character(s) Matter to Kids, Tweens and Teens

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 @ 03:09 PM
522397525 webFor many marketers, the importance of properties and characters in kids’, tweens’ and teens’ lives comes to the forefront only when they’re considering promotional partners. For others, who have committed to understanding youth culture apart from their own category, knowing the characters that matter to youth can serve as a fun intro to what are often perceived to be deeper, more strategic and more influential trends. Tracking the top characters in kids’, tweens’ and teens’ lives is often seen as a nice to have, but not a necessary part of a marketers’ research plan.

But we would argue that the characters that populate the ever-changing landscape of youth culture provide invaluable and incomparable clues to the mindset of a cohort. A new book with one of the most intriguing titles we’ve read in a while, makes a similar argument. In Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation, authors Anthony Gierzynski with Kathryn Eddy ask, “Haven’t Luke Skywalker and Santa Claus affected your life more than most real people?” They suggest that many soci-political factors can shape the views of a specific cohort, but that to ignore the tremendous power of entertainment, and of specific narratives and characters in particular, would be an act of denial. As the title suggests, they hypothesized that Harry Potter had a profound effect on the attitudes of members of the Millennial cohort, in general, and that Harry Potter fans displayed beliefs aligned with those that prevail in Hogwarts and that are embodied in the “boy who lived,” even when other factors (like being an avid reader in general) are considered. They suggest that the impact these characters have on the psyche of youth who were born between 1982 and 2002 (the definition they select for Millennials), is far from superficial. They attribute attitudes towards diversity, social justice and even torture to the narratives that took hold of them during their formative years.

For marketers, we encourage taking characters seriously, regardless of your category. Gierzynski with Eddy’s work suggests that making the most of this kind of market intelligence requires deep analysis of the themes and memes associated with any given character or property, but it also necessitates knowledge about the characters that are truly connecting with this audience right now.

At YouthBeat, we’ve always believed in using these character inventories as critical indicators of youth culture. Starting in 2015, we’re adding a Preschool Character Tracker to our existing suite of products. To find out more, please contact Amy Henry at amyh@crresearch.com or at 312.828.9200.

Happy 2015!

Tags: kids, Teens, tweens, millennials

Is Out-of-School Shopping the New Back-to-School Shopping?

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 @ 03:24 PM

128935230Increasingly, the back-to-school list includes as many “must-nots” as “must-haves.” These restrictions range from a ban on candy to limits on chips and a veto on peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish (scrap that shrimp sandwich, mom!). Even at schools that don’t require uniforms, dress codes have become increasingly strict. Depending on age of child, schools have prohibited everything from colors that could be interpreted as gang-related to t-shirts with words of any sort on them. Some schools are urging parents to forego the juice box for a refillable water bottle. At some private schools—and even some public ones—parents can expect to see that all or some characters can’t appear on backpacks or t-shirts. And, of course, technology that might be deemed permissible at home is often forbidden on school grounds.  

This might suggest that the back-to-school shopping trip is more rule-driven than ever. It certainly suggests that it’s a little less fun trip for many kids.

But will parents also miss a bit of the magic of selecting the perfect backpack or the peer-approved outfit? Based on what we know at YouthBeat about today’s moms and dads, and on what our C+R Shopper Insights expert, Terrie Wendricks, has seen in stores and online, they might.

Unlike parents of the past, today’s parents are perfectly fine with kid “asks.” They value their kids’, tweens’ and teens’ opinions like no cohort that came before, and see their children’s requests as keys to understanding their culture, in general, and their personal passions specifically. Having grown up with popular culture more prevalent in their lives, Millennial Moms and Dads, in particular, are more likely to share their kids’ interests in properties and characters. And with an increasing convergence around the content they consume, parents are more likely to side with their kids’, tweens’ and teens’ desire to express themselves through their affinities.

Nowhere is this dynamic more evident than in the retail environment where parents and kids seem to find more to agree over than to argue about! Terrie told us, “Today’s parents seek to ensure their children have their own ‘moments,’ especially in social situations like school, but today’s kids also recognize the reasons for parental restrictions across a wide variety of categories.”

So what happens when schools shun the very items that parents are happy to provide? Parents find other reasons to buy. So this back-to-school season, and for more to come, we predict that the out-of-school shopping list will be as important as the in-school one. Of course, with many families continuing to stick to the kinds of tightened budgets that they adopted during the down economy of the past few years (despite some evidence that families are returning to their traditional retail options over “band-aids” like dollar stores), the necessities are a priority. But if your product or brand is no longer on that list, we think there’s still hope for you…

  1. Position your product or offering as essential to “after school.”
  2. Forego messages about success and readiness, the domain of those in-school products, and instead speak to parents’ belief in the importance of play.
  3. Leverage parents’ nostalgia for characters that they grew up with, and that might provide their offspring with the kind of out-of-school enjoyment that parents can recall—Ninja Turtles, anyone?
  4. Remind parents that the fall “reset” doesn’t just involve the re-establishment of serious routines—it can also be a time to plan for fun!
  5. Remember that out-of-school offerings have permission to be packaged differently—think family size and shareable versus lunchbox friendly. 

Tags: kids, mom, Teens, Back to School, dad, tweens, millennials