Young People, Old Problems

Something appears to be missing in marketing to 20-somethings. And that something is empathy.

For many years, they were the demographic everyone wanted to be – having few responsibilities and money to spend. They also were a very lucrative target market for many companies, easy prey for every new shiny object.

Now, they’re almost pariahs. They’re the boomerang generation that keeps coming back home. They’re the lackluster generation that can’t find jobs in their fields. They’re the spoiled generation that expects too much. They’re the foolish generation that paid mightily – and will continue to pay mightily – for educations they can’t use. They’re the hapless generation that doesn’t have the grit to get ahead.

Some – maybe even most – of that may not even be true, but stereotypes are quick to build and hard to demolish.

What is true is that they, like the rest of us, are a generation that needs solutions to problems. And they do have them.

For instance, a recent Pew Research Center found that employment rates among young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are at an all-time low, at 54 percent, and those who are employed full-time have experienced a bigger drop in weekly earnings than any other age group.

And research from the Yale School of Management asserts that students who graduate into a recession are likely to continue to face the negative effects from that recession, including higher unemployment rates and lower incomes, in some cases even 15 years after graduation.

Still, there are rosier views, such as that of financial advisor Zac Bissonnette, who says that 20-somethings can be better off, as long as they make smart financial decisions – spending wisely and avoiding debt.

Whatever’s on the horizon, however, the current landscape has changed. And, as marketers, we have to change, as well. That is, we must look at 20-somethings as they are, in comparison to no one, with understanding for the plight of those for whom pain points exist.

Only then can we begin to create a dialog that incorporates the entire demographic and a relationship they’ll value.




Bonnie has two loves: some guy named Dennis and writing. Bonnie is focused on client communications initiatives, including strategic messaging, brand development and communications planning for our clients. She has more than 30 years of experience developing creative content that resonates with readers.