Lee Suckling 's Opinion

Chasing the Zeitgeist and sometimes capturing it. Lee Suckling chronicles the thought provoking cultural issues of modern life and tries to add moral reason to 21st century idiosyncrasies.

Lee Suckling: Fighting back at Gen Y 'tribes'

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All young adults can fit in to a certain 'tribe' according to a market research company.
Photo / 123RF
All young adults can fit in to a certain 'tribe' according to a market research company. Photo / 123RF

I'm an idealist, according to Colmar Brunton.

A new study by the market research firm, groups Generation Y into six tribes. Each of us, born sometime between the mid-1980s and the millennium, is apparently one of the following: family-focussed; a ladder climber; a money-hungry status seeker; a spender; a saver; or, an idealist.

Those with a family focus follow the footsteps of our parents: homebodies with stable jobs and kids early in adulthood. Ladder climbers are career-obsessed, constantly on their smartphones, and for some reason shop often at Nosh.

The money-hungry among us are seemingly defined by cash, and, according to Colmar Brunton, are mostly Asian males (I'm going to bypass the offensive misuse of the Yin-Yang symbol - see Colmar Brunton's infographic below). Spenders are the flaky, atypical millennials Gen X/Baby Boomers think we all are; savers are lonely geeks with large piggy banks (I'm paraphrasing, but the insinuations are there); and finally, there are idealists like me.

We think we can make a difference in the world. We want to cut down on internet socialisation in favour of real life communication. And - as represented in the infographic - we all physically resemble Rhys Darby.

I look more like the "money equals status" guy than Rhys Darby, but the rest of the idealist demographic data fits my personality. I'm a journalist because I believe in informed debate. I spend frugally, and am good at saving up for big purchases. I'm happiest when around my friends, would never let them drive drunk, and feel slight resentment and guilt on a daily basis for using so much social media.

However, because I'm Generation Y, I have some qualms about being told who I am supposed to be. Let's dissect this situation. A bunch of market researchers, whose survey results are targeted at ad men and PR people, have decided we can all be categorised into segments so products and services can be sold more efficiently to us.

I don't disagree with targeted campaigning - there are products and services out there I need to know about - but I, like most of Gen Y, don't feel the need to be boxed in. As such, I'm not really represented in the research findings. It's assumed that I either value money OR family; video games OR getting drunk. So, dear researchers, here's one for you.

Yes, I'm idealistic about life. But here's where things get complicated: such idealism (perhaps with a dollop of delusion) leads me to strive for parts of each and every Gen Y tribe.

I'm excited about the concept of creating my own family one day (though I'll leave that for my 30s). I've spent almost a decade thinking about climbing my career ladder, and while money isn't everything, it's important to me. I would rather date attractive people than unattractive people, and, to really throw you all off - I'm one-eighth Chinese.

I drink to have fun with friends, and love a bit of celebrity gossip (though I prefer Cambridges over Kardashians). I also save up for the future, spend a fair amount of time playing video games, and have little social contact with work-related people.

Colmar Brunton's youth specialist says when the organisation's research is presented to young people, individuals identify quickly with one particular tribe. I must admit, upon first impression of the six, I thought so too.

As a society, we like boxes. We are less afraid of others when we can categorise them. If we feel we know their concerns and motivations, we can empathise with them - and fear of the unknown subsides.

One of the reasons Gen Y has been so problematic for Gen X and Baby Boomers is because we're more diverse and less understood than any generation that has come before us.

Traditionally we've been thought of as both lazy AND ambitious; educated AND unskilled; obsessive-compulsive AND laissez faire. Gen Y is nothing if not contradictory - for that reason, older generations are scared of us.

If we want one thing today, and something else next year, how can products effectively be sold to us? How can we be managed in the workplace? What kind of future will we be responsible for?

This survey attempts to answer some of these questions, but here's a message to the ad gurus, brand managers, government agencies and business owners who seek to understand us: Gen Y is dynamic and responsive.

We adapt and are malleable, but we're situation dependent. We won't do things "because they've always been done that way", and will question, and re-question, every aspect of the world because we've been taught (by you, no less), that nothing is predictable or reliable.

That all seems tough to put into a demographic box. But hey, I'm Generation Y. I think anything is possible.

Check out the 'tribes' below - do you think they apply? Can a generation be spread in to categories?

- www.nzherald.co.nz

Lee Suckling

Chasing the Zeitgeist and sometimes capturing it. Lee Suckling chronicles the thought provoking cultural issues of modern life and tries to add moral reason to 21st century idiosyncrasies.

Never good at staying in one place for too long, Lee Suckling has lived and worked all over the globe in his pursuit of journalistic fame (if there is such a thing). From Auckland to Sydney to London and back again, Lee has managed to squeeze through the doors of renowned titles such as Monocle, Harper’s Bazaar, House & Garden, Belle, and Attitude, and convinced editors to give him work. Lee’s journalistic niche has changed from locale to locale. Home in New Zealand, he writes on technology and the arts, while social commentary and opinion pieces keep his analytic mind active. He also has (subjective) interest in gay issues and modern ethical dilemmas, which often weave their way into his pieces. Much of Lee’s Australian work has been for design and interiors publications, and for UK magazines he has focused on the stories of innovative Antipodeans, travel writing, and cultural comparisons. Lee’s first book, covering the 20-year life and career of Australian sculptors Gillie and Marc Schattner, was published in December 2013. He’s currently undertaking a Master of Journalism whilst pondering a future in academia.

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