NEW YORK, United States — With speakers including teenage blogging sensation, Tavi Gevinson and Teen Vogue publisher Laura McEwen, last Friday’s “Generation Next Forum,” organized by New York-based thinktank LuxuryLab, examined the unique characteristics and growing influence of a young generation of consumers that’s set to impact the luxury goods industry like no other generation since the Baby Boomers: Generation Y.
Wired and Influential
Opening the event, New York University professor and LuxuryLab founder Scott Galloway, underscored the importance of Generation Y with some simple, but astounding numbers. Born between 1977 and 1994, Gen Y currently spends $150 billion a year on consumer goods. That’s five times more than their parents did at their age. They also influence another $50 billion in purchases made by others. Indeed, according to a recent report by Harris Interactive, one in every three consumer dollars spent in the United States today is influenced by someone under the age of 18.
Laura McEwen of Teen Vogue reiterated this point in a presentation entitled “Gen Y and the Dynamics of Influence,” noting that teenage women increasingly influence fashion and beauty trends and drive purchasing decisions amongst older consumers.
Gen Y’s profound influence in the marketplace is directly linked to their familiarity with digital media, said Jane Buckingham, an expert on youth trends and founder of trend marketing and consulting company Trendera. Indeed, 96% percent of Generation Y is active on at least one social networking site.
A New Definition of Luxury
But for this wired and influential generation, luxury means something different than it did to their parents. They are uninterested in conspicuous consumption and showing off status, and more interested in social engagement and experience, said Sterling Lanier, a branding expert and president of research consultancy Chatter.
“Teachers, parents and TV shows are always telling us to be ourselves,” said Tavi Gevinson, the precocious teenager behind the now widely-known fashion blog The Style Rookie. “But what we want more than anything is to belong, to feel like we’re in a clique.” For Tavi, luxury products should be like a secret society that connects you to like-minded individuals and not a mainstream, homogenised stamp of status. Brand markings should be secret emblems that only certain people recognize, she said.
When a company offers them a unique point of view, an authentic experience and meaningful connections to a community, today’s teenagers are happy to evangelise the brand. But if not, this influential, internet-empowered generation will go out and find somebody else who does — and if that doesn’t exist yet, they’ll create it themselves.
Agata Seidel is a writer and consultant based in New York. The Business of Fashion was an official media partner of the Generation Next conference.