Members of Generation Y (roughly speaking, those born in the 80s and 90s) have been categorised by various commentators in lots of different ways. But for our purposes, they are significant in a particular way – theirs is the first generation to have been schooled, often quite literally, in sustainable development and to have grown up in a world of climate change consciousness.
Many of them are now at a stage where (assuming they are in employment), the proportion of their income that counts as disposable is at its highest. Advertisers love them. And the entire generation, in the western world at least, whether their outlooks are rosy or less so, have most of their purchasing decisions ahead of them.
So, is the future guaranteed? Job done? Can we now look forward to an era in which all consumers are educated consumers and committed to only ever making purchases – whether large or small – from ethical suppliers?
Well, no, the job isn’t quite done. Even if they talk as if concern for the environment were part of their DNA, Generation Yers don’t necessarily act on it. And anyway, it is always dangerous to generalise about – maybe even to define – a generation.
But there is still a very important point here. One we should never forget. Different audiences receive the same message in different ways. And we do now have a ‘different’ audience. A whole generation that doesn’t need to be educated in the same way as before and probably won’t respond well to a ‘did you know?’ approach. Because their response is likely to be: “Yes, I did.”
So new forms of communication – both in terms of messaging and media – will have to be developed. New trigger points will have to be identified. But one thing is for sure. They may be converted, but given everything else that characterises Generation Y, they won’t take kindly to being preached at.
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