Shaken & Stirred - Influential Brand Profiling and Positioning

More about Muted Youth’, the ‘Early Jobber’, and the ‘Aspiring Expert’ / Emma Berg, Northstar Research Partners

The Kids are Alright  By: Emma Berg, Senior Research Executive, Northstar Research Partners

On a night out, sitting around a table surrounded by friends from all walks of life and varying ages, we look like any other group of under 30s might have done across the decades – loud, dysfunctional and distinctly bound by a general lack of commitment to anything or anyone.

But look a little bit closer and there is something a little bit different about us. You see, we are Generation Y. Or perhaps it would be more fitting to call ourselves Generation ‘why’.

And therein lies the distinguishing factor. Never before has a bunch of youngsters been so inquisitive, impatient in the answers or in search of self-affirmation. Or so the hype would lead us to believe.

There have been countless articles and publications about Generation Y or rather by the more popular term, “Millennials”.

These are young people for whom connective technology, namely the internet and smartphones, has pretty much always been around. And while they share countless commonalities, unfortunately for the brands vying for the attention of this group – born between 1980 and 2000 – they are not homogenous.


Whilst the term ‘Millennial’ has become familiar and even commonplace in recent years within Western culture, this label is applied to people across a very wide age range. For example, those aged thirty today and teenagers still in compulsory education are both classed as ‘Millennials’. In response to this, wizened marketers have rationalised the need to identify subcategories which have their own distinct characteristics.

‘Muted Youth’, the ‘Early Jobber’, and the ‘Aspiring Expert’

For the purpose of this article, the sub groups discussed here are the ‘Muted Youth’, the ‘Early Jobber’, and the ‘Aspiring Expert’. However, even more importantly, might be the categorisation of the term ‘Millennial’ in general as there appears a ‘grey area’ of what it is to be a Millennial with regards to where the similarities end and differences begin against preceding and subsequent generations.

A lens on the ‘Muted Youth’ of today identifies the younger sub-group of the Millennial generation. Cited as those who are finishing senior school or entering university, theirs is the ‘Youniverse’ – i.e. their world is made up of their individual consumption realm where his or her tastes reign. Trends suggest that these consumers will both benefit from their carefully crafted public identities, but also fiercely protect their identities as never before. Interestingly, despite globalisation, despite online, for the ‘Muted Youth’, place still matters. As such, brands need to build an appealing and experiential in store environment in order to draw these consumers into stores. In a digital world, the tangible has stand out.

Another trend within this subset is that fierce local pride extends into the previously overlooked margins, as rising numbers of the ‘Muted Youth’ sector expect brands to drive positive social and civic local transformation. Across the next 12 months, the ‘Muted Youth’ consumer will reward brands that can push, cajole and reward them into improving productive behaviours. Perhaps it’s fair to say that these kids just grew up and got themselves a conscience…

‘Early Jobbers’

Next up is the ‘Early Jobber’, former Digital Natives who are entering the competitive world of work. Being typically in employment they have a higher level of disposable income. For them, the internet is a basic human right, rather than the way their older contemporaries might see it as a phenomenon. They use the internet, of course, almost endlessly and often from mobile devices, it just doesn’t really register as ‘something’ they are doing. It’s not a nifty invention to the ‘Early Jobbers’, rather it’s just the norm like a toilet flush or electricity.

‘Early Jobbers’ play their lives out through multi-screen viewing and simultaneous conversations – this group are true multitaskers in every respect of the word. They put a premium on speed, ease, efficiency and convenience in all their transactions. To meet the expectations of this generation, brands will need to rethink their existing customer-service models. On a deeper level, these consumers are always in a hurry and so it’s critical to determine how you can get them to spend time developing a relationship with your brand. Just don’t spend too long thinking about this or your window will quite literally be minimised.

Leading the brand rankings are those Millennials of a slightly more mature age, dubbed the ‘Aspiring Experts’ who are seemingly privileged and high achieving. This group cares a lot about what others think and staying on top of the latest trends is highly important. They count on formal education to help them succeed and are very much about academic achievement. They have an affinity for new technology and are exceedingly brand-centric. They also like to be in relationships – or at least their Facebook settings suggests as much. If this generation were a high school clique, this group would be the popular kids.

‘Aspiring Experts’

‘Aspiring Experts’ are concerned with self-image and always want to be the first to discover the hottest new songs, shows and trends. They need advertisements that are interactive, cool and on the cutting edge of technology. They expect to be courted by brands and love to see their favourite celebrities endorsing products. They love free swag and giveaways.

Their loyalty may be flimsy, however, constantly upgrading from new to newer. Want to see what an Aspiring Expert looks like? You can find them at their nearest Apple store queuing for the iPhone 6. Now.

Overall, it is fair to say we live in a bespoke era. One size does not fit all. In a world where social media rules and education has become a business model, our current youth population, regardless of their subcategory, are more aware of their options than any generation before. So what does all this mean for brands?

For some, a fundamental reinvention may be in order. For instance, brands that target teenagers, college students, or young adults may have to be rethought for each successive generation. In other cases, companies may need to figure out how to introduce their brands to Millennials at the appropriate life stage. And for others still, reaching Millennials may simply require more relevant and resonant marketing messages.

Millennial attitudes in such areas as media consumption, social-media usage, advocacy and cause marketing, marketing messages, and shopping technology are leading indicators of future trends. Companies that pay attention today can gain valuable insights into tomorrow’s opportunities—and get a head start on capturing a larger share of the Millennial wallet.

Perhaps now the Baby Boomers can finally breathe a sigh of relief in knowing ‘The Kids are Alright’.


Graphic by Kris Krug

Graphic by kohlmann.sascha

The Kids are Alright  By: Emma Berg, Senior Research Executive, Northstar Research Partners