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Posted By Ignacio Gafo On May 7, 2008 @ 11:27 pm In International Marketing | 2 Comments
How would you term the children of Baby Boomers born from 1970 onwards? What are their defining characteristics? How would you deal with them? What is the correct marketing approach for them?
In an interesting book called GENERATION ME, Jean M. Twenge tries to address these questions. In words of the author:
“Why today´s young americans are more confident, asseertive, entitled and more miserable than ever before?”
Although focused in the american socierty and being sometimes too generalistic, the conclusions and points raised in the book can also be applied to young generations from Europe and other continents.
For all of us dealing with these generations and who want to analyse them (ourselves) with a critical but relaxed view, here you will find an interesting approach.
I enclose a review made by Grace Hammond:
GenMe – Twenge’s term for Americans born after 1970 – has been told from birth “to follow [your] dreams [and] pursue happiness above all else.” It grew up with mantras like “be yourself,” “express yourself” and “be true to who you are.” GenMe believes what it was told: you can be anything you want to be, no matter what your talents are or what state the world is in. Twenge’s main point is GenMe was raised “expecting more” but the world offered them less. She seeks to bridge generational understand by explaining where GenMe is coming from and why things really aren’t going its way.
Twenge argues that the self-esteem movement GenMe was raised within has done little more than raise an “army of little narcissists” who are doomed for disillusionment when they come face-to-face with failure. Teaching children that “who they are, not what they do, is important” gives them a “cotton-candy sense of self with no basis in reality.” These young people are extraordinarily sensitive to criticism. They’re so used to getting gold stars for no reason that when they aren’t rewarded in the workplace just for showing up and being their own, special selves, they react with bewilderment and defensiveness. Twenge argues that “true-self confidence comes from honing your talents and learning things, not from being told you’re great just because you exist.” It’s not GenMes fault, though – rather, the adults who treated them so indulgently are to blame.
Rabid individualism leads to misery in this book. Extended adolescence means people are living alone, trying to find “what’s right for me.” But it’s not a natural human condition, Twenge argues. She also notes that “almost half of GenMe has seen their parents divorce, or have never known their father at all.”
The most compelling arguments are in the section called “the new economics.” Twenge says this: “It was once possible to support a family on one middle-class or even one working-class income. No longer.” The housing bubble has greatly harmed this generation: “The benefit for the Boomers and older folks is being paid out of the pockets of young people; it’s generational warfare by mortgage.” The income of men ages 25 to 34 with full-time jobs dropped 17 percent from 1971 to 2002, due primarily to outsourcing. Fixed costs like housing, health insurance and childcare have doubled for the average family since the 1970s, Twenge says, and discretionary income has gone down. Despite stereotypes of this generation, they’re not spending their money on iPods: they’re trying to stay off the streets. This book states that the money that’s keeping GenMe afloat comes from women’s salaries. In fact, Twenge says, women have little choice but to work in the current economic climate, yet the American work force still acts like every set of parents has a mom at home. It hasn’t caught up: maternity leave is too short, daycare is prohibitively expensive, and people in this generation are increasingly choosing not to have kids because they can’t afford to.
Other chapters examine sexual mores, depression and “the equality revolution.” Twenge is a good researcher, but her writing is sometimes awkward and interrelationships aren’t clearly spelled out. Her book is really about white people – mostly college students, who provided the bulk of the data – and she fails to mention it. But the book is worth reading for its compression of current, and sometimes surprising, generational differences. Twenge closes the book with advice for marketers, parents, and supervisors who want to work effectively with this generation, and provides a few tips for GenMe’ers just trying to make it in this crazy world.
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