“Millennials” is such a broad term that insights about the group it refers to are rarely helpful.
It can mean people born from anywhere between 1980s to the early 2000s, depending on what definition you happen to be using.
Academic, economist, and author Noreena Hertz addressed this problem last year, by releasing a report on the habits and trends of 2,000 American and British people born between 1995 and 2002.
Hertz dubbed them “Generation K,” after the resilient protagonist of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, who embodies many of their qualities. Confusingly, teens are also known as Generation Z.
Hertz gave an useful run-down of Generation K at Advertising Week Europe last week, which Business Insider attended.
Generation K has a spending power of €150 billion per year in Europe, The Middle East, and Africa alone, according to Adam Mack, chief strategy officer, EMEA at PR firm Weber Shandwick. So, insight into the distinguishable qualities of Generation K could be very lucrative for the brands and businesses trying to sell to them.
Three distinct forces that shaped Generation K
- Technology. Generation K is “permanently on, super-connected, super-social. It’s really the first smartphone generation,” according to Hertz.
- The global economic downturn. Older millennials were born into economic security, while this generation came of age during the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2008. They have been “shaped by an environment of job insecurity, rife inequality, and a sense of fear about their economic futures,” Hertz said.
- Terrorism. Another force which has profoundly shaped today’s teens and young adults is “the growing sense of existential threat.” Hertz said that though the majority of them will not have directly experienced “terrorist attacks, beheadings, and bombing” they are “experiencing it virtually 24/7 on their smartphones.”
Five distinct traits of Generation K
- Anxiety. Generation K are “profoundly anxious” — both about global issues like terrorism and climate change, but also about their own personal futures. According to Hertz’s research, 72% worry about terrorism and 64% fret about climate change, while 79% are concerned about getting a job and 72% agonize about getting into debt.
- Distrust of traditional institutions. When you ask adults if they have faith in big corporations to “do the right thing,” 60% say that they do. However, when you ask the same question to Generation K, only 6% say that they trust big corporations.
- Generosity. Hertz said that though teenagers take a lot of selfies, they are not selfish: “This generation volunteers more, campaigns more, and gives more money to charity as a percentage of their income than any other generation. 92% believe it’s important to help others in need. They really care about inequality.”
- Loneliness. Despite being constantly connected to friends via social media, Generation K are deeply lonely. 80% said they prefer hanging out with friends face-to-face, rather than online. “Physical interaction comes at a premium in this digital world,” Hertz said.
- Creativity. The teenage generation loves to make, invent, and design things, as a way to be heard. Generation K “seek creating and co-creating as a way to have agency in this kind of confusing world,” Hertz said.