For generations, teen life has revolved around popularity or lack thereof, prowess in the classroom and/or on the sports field, and the latest fashions. Today, however, typical teenage ego-centrism co-exists alongside economic concerns such as whether good jobs will be available post-college or whether Mom and Dad are doing OK money-wise.
This is among the findings of JWT's latest AnxietyIndex quantitative study, which explored the recession and its impact on the millennial generation, specifically teens and twentysomethings. For the random online survey, we polled 1,065 Americans aged 18-plus and 96 teenagers (aged 13-19) residing in the homes of the adult participants.
We found that millennial teens are anxious. They're hearing about the economic crisis from their parents, at school and on TV, and facing the reality of it in their lives—whether that means forgoing a new game system, gymnastics lessons or the traditional family getaway.
The down economy is forcing teens to grow up—at least a little bit. They're developing a new sensibility when it comes to money and brands, and making new value assessments. Impulse ("I see, I want, I get") is giving way to value consciousness—and in some categories, teens have a very clear perception of which brands provide better value.
This shift is part of a movement away from conspicuous consumption, as glorified over the years by shows like My Sweet Sixteen and Gossip Girl. What's becoming cool is conscious and creative consumerism—cheap is chic, bargain-hunting begets bragging rights, and doing more with less carries at least as much badge value as the latest It bag or logo-laden attire.
Twentysomething millennials are adopting these attitudes, too. Many say if money becomes tight, they'd be willing to trade down when it comes to alcohol consumption, gym membership, cable/satellite subscription and dining out—or abandon these altogether.
When budgets are tight—or when people fear they will get tight—even some commodity brands can become a luxury. So brands will need to make a solid argument for why good enough is not enough. As in past recessions, brands must communicate a value proposition loud and clear to justify their cost and to shift the conversation from "Is this the cheapest I can find?" to "What do I really get for my money with this product or service?"