NEW YORK, United States — Catching a rare bit of television last week in between updates on the Icelandic volcano and the first ever televised British Election debate, I stumbled upon an episode of Electric Dreams on the BBC, which takes an average British family from 2010 right back to the 1970’s, stripping away every bit of modern technology in their home. Then, slowly, episode by episode, decade by decade, the family gets all of its technology back, like they are experiencing it for the first time. The key difference now, of course, is that they have the hindsight of knowing what's to come in the years ahead.
In the 1970’s the family gets central heating, and the 1980’s sees the arrival of the first home computer, but it wasn’t until the 1990’s rolled around that one sees the huge impact of consumer technology on their daily lives. From fax machines, brick-sized mobile phones and pagers, the family rapidly integrates the gadgets into their lives, and then disposes of them just as quickly as soon as the next great thing comes along.
Growing up during this technological and communication revolution has been the so-called Generation Y, born between 1977-1994. They are notoriously difficult to reach using traditional media channels, having rapidly adopted new media and digital technologies. They rely on the Internet for absolutely everything. Indeed, no matter what new technologies were given to the Electric Dreams family, the younger generation was ultimately dissatisfied. It was too slow,too disconnected and a far cry from the always-on, always-connected, endless options of the Internet in 2010.
But how much does the luxury industry know about Generation Y? The Financial Times recently reported that Mercedes-Benz, one of the most prestigious luxury brands, has sought to actively understand and engage Gen Y consumers.
“Co-opting Gen Y will help us understand them,” said Stephen Cannon, vice-president of marketing at Mercedes-Benz USA to the Financial Times. “They are the group we need to embrace and learn more about. We took elite students from elite institutions and immersed them in our business issues. Give us your impression of the Mercedes-Benz brand. How is our brand resonating with your group? What do we need to do with the brand?”
For those of you a little more behind the curve and looking to catch-up on everything Gen Y, Luxury Lab is planning The Generation Next Forum, to be held on 14 May in New York City, dissecting “the characteristics, influence, and brand affinities of tomorrow’s affluent consumers.”
Scott Galloway, Founder of Luxury Lab, says the forum will provide ”insight into the most important economic force since the boomers. We know brands will need to build a competence in digital, however there's more than that. Gen Y's values, shopping patterns and media consumption are dramatically different."
Indeed, says Galloway, "the luxury brands that dramatically increase stakeholder value over the next 10 years will be the brands that resonate with Gen Y. There will be a transition in spending power from boomers to Gen Y over the next 2 decades that will be the most dramatic economic transfer in history."