Contrary to the overused Madison Avenue trope that contemporary teens are lazy, entitled “Millennials,” a new global study from three GroupM media agencies finds the current youth population are the savviest and most socially aware teenage generation to date.
“Pragmatic, prudent, individual and aspirational,” the report from Mindshare, MediaCom and Wavemaker says of today’s teens, adding that they are actually a “new breed of super-savvy consumers” that brand marketers need to understand and talk to in new and different ways.
The report — which is the culmination of in-depth studies of more than 8,000 teenage (13-17) consumers from 18 countries — not surprisingly breaks these teenage cohorts down into seven new personality archetypes (see chart below) that differ fundamentally from previous generations.
Perhaps most surprising of all, the study finds that despite the conventional wisdom that today’s teens are easily swayed by social media, celebrities and pop culture, the dominant influences in their lives remain family (84%), friends (82%), and schools/teachers (43%).
The GroupM agencies point out that the studies were conducted late last year and early this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic was a significant factor, so it may not yet be clear what the impact of social distancing, quarantines, remote learning and the loss of important “rites of passage” may be on this generation, but the study at least provides an important benchmark for tracking them.
“People often use the term ‘Millennials’ for young people, which is just lazy,” states Victoria Cook, partner-business planning at Mindshare Worldwide. “The youngest Millennials are already 24 and the oldest are just turning 40 — the idea that they represent the ‘youth’ of today is just wrong. Teenagers show very different behaviours from the old Millennial stereotype. We can’t assume the youth of yesterday is the youth of tomorrow and brands need to make sure they understand this generation now, so they don’t alienate their consumers of the future.”
“Understanding the cultural nuances behind teen’s universal behaviors is key to helping our clients communicate impactfully with teenagers in different places across the world, adds Catherine Day, global insights director at MediaCom.