Even as we pull out of the economic downturn, many people are still
curtailing spending because a new meaning of "value" is taking hold.
This shift is particularly prominent among what we call the "Post-88s" -
females, age 22 and under - who have grown up with social media. Their
story of self-identity and its impact on value is so distinct from the
older half of the Gen Y population that they can no longer be considered
as one market.
Count the Post-88s at the head of the pack when it comes to seeking to
discover and express more of their true identity. For them to approve a
product, it must reflect and expand these young women's sense of
authenticity. Everything else is simply lost in translation.
Internet, a Collection of Tools to Expand Self
While marketers regard the Internet as a sales tool, young women see it
as a collection of tools to help them expand their sense of self. Social
networks have provided them a way to find like-minded others, peers, who
validate their identity and its idiosyncratic displays, even though it
may be different than the norm.
Young women are no longer forced to subvert their inner truths to
accommodate man-made mass media fantasies and expectations. The online
experience has given young females permission to talk among themselves.
Their access to validation, alternative viewpoints and support has
expanded from local to global. They have at last been freed from
consensually agreed upon, mass produced versions of reality.
All the musts, oughts and shoulds these females have been pressured by
have been torn asunder by social media. All the superficial, sliced and
diced definitions of gender, sexiness, fashion, style and design have
become irrelevant. In the face of such notions, they are shouting,"That's not right for ME."
There is also an irony operating; the silver-lining to online is that
without the intrusion of the body that inevitably gets in the way in
face-to-face interactions, these young females are freer to explore
their identity, beliefs and attachments. They establish a sense of self
far beyond looks, economic standing, race or what brand of handbag they
Marketers Must Discover New Truths
To be successful tomorrow, marketers today must stop manufacturing and
start discovering the needs and desires of the Post-88 female.
What is femaleness? What does it mean to want to be a girl? What does
it mean to be comfortable being a young adult female? What is sexy to a
girl? What does it mean to be true to oneself? Certainly the answers
will not be found devoting one's life to the pursuit of the perfect
body, perfect hair, the perfect man and the perfect house - at least how
marketers define "perfect" today. The post-1988 female knows these
traditional pursuits do not necessarily lead to happiness.
The new complexity requires understanding how the Post-88 female rides
the cusp between silly and serious; sexy and smart; pretty and powerful.
For example, make-up usage is now not usually put on to produce
perfection, and cosmetics are best not signified and aspirationally
portrayed by the mass acclaimed celebrity. Brittany or Cameron are not
the base coin of the young female. Make-up to them is more fun and
playful, as opposed to satisfying any pre-conceived ideal.
A similar dynamic is at work in what these post-88s want from their
smart phones: function AND fun. And as far as business dress, the question is, what to wear when a suit doesn't suit you?
Other product domains should also take heed. Even for the younger
female, toys need not only to be cute, but also penetrating. For the
older, young adult, who, for the first time might be furnishing an
apartment, almost all of the furniture in their price range seems over-processed, instead of allowing for discovering one's "look". It's not "new" and "more" that these girls are looking for as much as it is
expressing themselves in the design of their environment, both self and
sofa with a patina that gets better with age.
The Post-88 female wants to feel good about her choices, existential or
mundane. If marketers want to increase the return on investment for
their product development and advertising dollars, they will have to
understand the identities of what this young adult calls "me."
To create products that are not yet on the shelves that girls will
approve of calls for a deeper understanding of this population than
designers and marketers now exhibit. Every product aimed at the
post-1988 female will have to demonstrate to these girls that "I get you". Only then will the girls commit.
The "Post-1988s" who came of age at the dawn of social media want what
makes her more of her and makes her female. She wants "me-as-me," as an
individual and as a way to belong. She'll buy into that with her increasing purchasing power.