by Denyse O’Leary
In "For Millennials, Brands May Be as Important as Religion, Ethnicity" (Fast Company, Oct. 14, 2010), David ZaxThu argues that the “millennials,” (or Generation Y) the generation born between 1980 and 1995, identification with brands is "just about as important as religion and ethnicity" and that they, in effect, market the brands by sharing their enthusiasm online:
Volunteering to try new products and review some of them online is a "core value," according to Edelman, and the majority of those surveyed had recommended products to friends and family via a social network. The research involved interviewing 3,100 respondents in eight countries.
On the importance of brands, Edelman reports:
The study, focusing on people born between 1980 and 1995, finds that globally, at least eight in 10 Millennials have taken action on behalf of a brand they trust – including sharing brand experiences with others, joining online communities and posting reviews online. Encompassing interviews with 3,100 respondents in eight countries, Edelman’s 8095 global research indicates that 82 percent of 8095ers have joined a brand-sponsored online community, and nearly half have joined more than three. Forty-seven percent share positive brand experiences online, with respondents from China (61%) and Brazil (57%) most likely to do so.
Poor experiences also spark this kind of action, with nearly 40 percent reporting they have criticized a brand on a blog or social network. Further, each action reverberates through extensive networks of sources and peers – online, offline and mobile. More than half of the global respondents say they consult at least four sources of information before making a purchase decision. “Our Edelman 8095 research reflects a diverse generation whose defining life events thus far include being the first group to grow up with computers as part of their everyday lives, 9/11, the Facebook phenomenon and the Great Recession,” said Christina Smedley, global chair, Consumer Marketing practice, Edelman. “With 1.7 billion global citizens who spend more than $200 billion a year and use online and mobile technologies to amplify their voices, the 8095ers are actively defining today’s global and emerging brands.”
Thu is a bit skeptical of all this, as am I. He observes,
We can easily concede that people's online lives-their Facebook pages, especially–are closely integrated with brands of various sorts (which makes Bing's union with Facebook all the more clever, and potentially lucrative). But to what extent is a millennial's online life the deepest expression of who that person is?
Has Edelman really discovered a sea change in the way young people identify themselves? Or has it merely exposed the fact that their online lives, by and large, are barely skin-deep?
I'd say the latter for sure. Many young people facing a bust-up or a failed key exam do not want to talk about it on the World Wide Web. It's easier, safer, and more popular to talk about Cheesi-O's or the latest sport shoe.
On the importance of brands to some people, see also:
Darwinian “triggers to persuasion and captivation” read more like the seven deadly sins.
Picture yourself deciding you actually like the way you look
Also just up at The Mindful Hack, my blog on neuroscience and spirituality issues:
African religion: Begin by trying to understand
Media and religion: If people cannot safely say what they think, what effect can media have?
No peace between science and religion, prof warns
Christopher Hitchens: Attempting the good death without God
Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.