Thursday, 30 April 2009

"The Millennials" are Two Distinct Psychographic Segements

Comment to Janis Gaudelli's article on AdAge.com: The Greenest Generation, The Truth Behind Millennials and the Green Movement

Hm. Is it just Tommy6565 and me? Doesn't the premise of this study, "ALL Millennials care more about the environment than adults" get partially trashed by the results? To Tommy's point this survey merely clarifies that "the lifestage/age effect is greater than the generational effect".

No doubt 13-17 year olds are even BETTER educated about the environment than their 18-29 year old predecessors, but they're 'highschool teens'. Recent brain/behaviour studies have proven that humans in this age group lack the brain chemicals/development to understand the consequences of their actions. This study only backs this up. This age group truly defines 'the ME Generation'. Most grow out of this and become contributors, but many of the less conceptual thinkers amongst them cling tightly to the gradually growing infection of narcism well into their 20's (and even 30's!).

For Janis to suggest, in her last paragraph, that "(all) Millennials grasp the environmental consequences of their actions and have the education, motivation and social awareness to participate in the green movement. Brands now have the opportunity to build on this upswell and support the transition of millennials from merely knowing the why to understanding and living the how." is a well-meaning, but naive. It is simply not borne out by the survey results.

The point is that trying to involve the majority of 13-17 year olds in 'living the how' will be a wasted effort until they reach 18+. Kids in the younger psychographic (as anyone can observe if you have young teens in your family/neighborhood) are intensely involved in 'living the NOW', not the 'how'. They're into 'what's good for me', socializing, becoming popular, obtaining status and accumulating very non-green gadgets and branded items. There's a distinct 'tipping point' age when "education and social awareness" "transition" into "motivation". I do not believe that majority of younger teens truly "grasp the... consequences of their actions" -- their brains haven't yet matured to the point that they can.

As has been done before, this study differentiates the high school teen psychographic from the college teen and twenty-something, young adult psychographic. It SHOUTS at brand marketers that, while paying 'lip service' to a green message is still important to the younger teens, any efforts at actually involving most of them in environmental activism will be futile -- unless these activities lead to increased possibilities for them to 'hook up' with each other, or win an iPhone! It challenges the antique concept of lumping a 20 year span of people together into a single macro-demographic, as we did in the past with "the Boomers" and "Gen X". This is a new age of Obama campaign-style "micro-targeting" and it demands that we separate the young teen psychographic from that of the older group, and further micro-segment those with one set of interests/tendencies from the others.

Just a thought.

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