The Plural Generation

October 31, 2012: Plurals

Ever since the birth of the Baby Boomers, we have labeled each subsequent generation. Those born since the turn of the 21st generation are usually referred to as Generation Z, but the Engage: Gen Y blog from MediaPost dubbed these kids “Plurals.” The first Plurals were born in 1997, meaning the oldest will turn 16 next year.  So far, according to the blog, “The youngest [Plural] is a newborn.”

Engage: Gen Y says the generation’s name “has meaning-it reflects the lack of majority in today’s American society and the increased fragmentation sure to come.” Don’t think you have years until this affects your business. It’s happening now. Tweens and teens already have great influence and impact on consumer purchases today-despite the recession. The 2012 Harris Poll YouthPulse study says the purchasing power of 8- to 24-year-olds is north of $211 billion. And these kids aren’t just influencing purchases, they’re also buying stuff themselves. According to the YouthPulse study, more than 50 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds spend their own money on candy (61 percent) and toys (55 percent), while 28 percent buy books and 19 percent buy some of their own clothes.

Half of all teens (ages 13 to 17 in this survey) spend their money on sweets, but 42 percent are also buying their own clothes, and 33 percent are making their own entertainment purchases (think movie tickets).

Remember, this is the first generation of truly “digital natives,” never knowing a world without Amazon, Google, YouTube and Facebook or, more broadly, computers, smartphones and instant communication. In fact the YouthPulse study (which was conducted last year, so I’d bet these numbers are a bit low) reports 69 percent of teens have cell phones and 30 percent own smartphones.

These kids are already smart consumers, made possible, Harris says, by their “consistent, available access to vast amounts of information.” About “76 percent of 8- to 9-year-olds, and 91 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds are on the Internet an hour or more a day,” not counting email.

Depending on what you sell, you should think about how to appeal to today’s youth, who are more than likely to become tomorrow’s loyal customers.