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October 31, 2012

Don’t Miss The Boat – We are not a “cheap” generation

During the month of October, we’re exploring content focused on youth, specifically millennials and the Class of 2016. We asked one of our interns, aka a millennial, to provide perspective on how he felt about the Atlantic labeling him a member of the “Cheapest Generation.” Read Sherwin’s rebuttal to this classification below.

Value Generation


If there’s one thing you should know about the millennial generation, it’s that we often feel misunderstood. Add to the fact that others think our generation is different in terms of how we behave, think about and interact with different people, brands and things in general. Truth be told, we are very similar to every other generation.

The main difference is the abundance of emerging technological and cultural inventions and innovations with which we grew up. This environment shaped our lifestyle, behavior and perspective of the world we now live in.

In an age where so much information is accessible and abundant, it should be no surprise that the millennial generation will know more about a brand or product before actually physically interacting with it. This fact totally influences our purchasing decisions. Our generation decides not solely based on what’s cheap but on what’s most cost efficient. To say that price is the major determinant is like missing the bull’s eye on how our generation behaves as consumers and generally as people.

We are a value-oriented generation. The reason why we rent Zipcars over buying our own automobiles is due to a variety of factors – including how much our decision would cost (price, convenience, safety, etc) and the functional value and emotional attachment we feel.

Rather than hastily generalizing our generation when developing youth marketing strategies, brands need to understand not just where but why and how we spend. It’s a much more complex process than they think. For example, renting Zipcars over buying a real car, purchasing songs on iTunes and getting books on Amazon over traditional stores, and searching on Google over the dictionary is not only cheaper, but it is much more convenient, efficient, environmentally-friendly and the list goes on. I would argue that it is value (which is influenced by a lot of internal and external factors) that drives us beyond mere price.

We are actually a very expensive generation. Ask any millennial what their favorite brands or products are, and you would hear the most popular, exclusive and expensive brands out there. Although we may not be the actual buyer, we also take the role of being key influencers to those who possess the buying power – parents, working class, etc. Truth be told, sometimes, we even spend more than what we earn.

Take it from a certified mother of two. AMP Agency’s VP for Media Services, Elaine Tocci mentioned that her kids nowadays are not only more aware of luxury brands, but also have the desire to always remain in the loop for the latest trends, and guess who has to make the purchase? Not the millennial, but (you got it!) mother dearest. Truly, the millennial generation is an influential group of peeps.

Moreover, looking at things

from a more proactive standpoint, our generation’s behavior (which was shaped by previous generations’ decisions) is actually a catalyst to innovation. It is our value determination process that continues to challenge marketers and brands to be more creative and out-of-the-box with their strategies. Our generation will not settle for products that are unable to fulfill our expectations and provide value, and this is a means of quality control that will weed out the good brands from those that are not. Marketers just have to be persistent about understanding behavior.

Indeed, the aforementioned cycle of ‘understanding’ every new generation’s behavior will continue to change just as each generation will continue to innovate and shape the environment for

that of the future. Before you know it, a new generation will takeover, and hence give rise to new behaviors and buying patterns, a potential overhaul of strategies and a shift and demand in understanding consumer behavior based on the new available mediums and environment.

So don’t miss the boat, because you never know… the next generation might just leave everyone else behind.



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  • ss

    Thank you for posting AMP! :) Here’s a full length version of the blog post since some parts were cut due to word count limit:

  • Matt

    You made a very important distinction – that of price and value. Indeed, this shows that the current generation is a “tough nut to crack” and a hard customer to please. Not only is this brought about by the value philosophy but more so by the fierce competition of brands, products and ideas. Ideas and products may come cheap but definitely only those perceived to have value can thrive, survive and exist – that’s what this generation has come to prove.

  • Shevaun Betzler

    In our generation, we are nothing without trends, as they identify and define our own personal brands. We are not cheap. We are expensive. Keeping up with the trends comes with a cost, but it is a necessary cost if we hope to survive in social media and in a competitive job market.

  • Kelsey

    I agree with what this post says. It really isn’t about the price, but what value I get out of each product I buy. It is hard to predict our generation’s behavior, therefore the marketers are up for a challenge!

  • AndyCataluna

    While your observations are correct in that there is a clear, strong relationship between trends and personal brands, I respectfully disagree with the idea that trends are the driving factor in that equation. We are a generation of leaders, not of followers.

    This is not to say, of course, that trendsetting and trend-following are not major factors in peoples’ buying patterns – quite the contrary. On a more macro-psychological level, though, people identify with specific trends not simply out of a shortsighted desire to “keep up with the Joneses,” but in a greater sense because people respond to a primal, human drive to articulate something about their identities, and they want to add that brand to their “personal repertoire”.

    We take the factors that the author mentions, “cost (price, convenience, safety, etc.) and the functional value and emotional attachment,” as well as other values such as aesthetic appeal, long-term value retention, and the nature of the particular market etc. into account (either consciously or sub-consciously,) when we make a purchase on the scale that the Atlantic article discusses (buying a car,) and add them to our palette which we continually use to paint the world a picture of ourselves – a process otherwise known as branding.

  • ats

    Also coming from the millennial generation, I do agree that value is one of the biggest factors when it comes to decision making. It’s not just the price, but the entirety of what products could give us in terms efficiency, functionality, and the like. The current overflow and accessibility of information really does play a big part in that too.

  • TF Lin

    Such a stimulating and thought-provoking entry.

    I do agree with the first part of your entry that technological innovations played a huge factor in shaping our generation’s buying decisions. It reflects what you said that it may not necessarily be different to the older generation but perhaps it evolved to a more capricious, inconsistent, more demanding behavior. We are obviously harder to please.

    Lastly, your point about us being an expensive generation might be a quite subjective if you involve factors such as the overall environment of the individual and in our generation that influence and expose us to different interests.

  • MissLampa

    I think the Atlantic article’s claim that the Millennials are “cheap” when it comes to their attitude towards cars does have some basis. After all, figures don’t lie. But what this blog post rightfully did was take the analysis a step further by pointing out that that this “cheap” attitude is influenced more by the values that define the millennial generation and not just their love for the cheapest that the market has to offer. So what brands need to do now (and a lot of them are already doing this or well on their way, I think) is to get a better grasp of the values which Millennials identify with best and then come up with strategies which would align their products with these values.

Related Blog Post:
Millennials: Generation Collaboration

Related Blog Post:
A Millennial’s Rebuttal to Being Classified as "The Cheapest Generation”

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