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Youth No Longer Defined by Age; Consumers Stay 'Younger' Longer


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The traditional demographic definition of "youth" is no longer applicable in today's society, and marketers should target consumers based upon their engagement and participation in youth culture rather than by chronological age, according to the "Golden Age of Youth" study from Viacom Brand Solutions International (VBSI), writes MarketingCharts.

As people worldwide delay the onset of adult responsibilities and stay emotionally and physically younger for longer, it is becoming more acceptable for older people to participate in youthful pursuits. To support this trend, marketers should routinely consider the often-overlooked 25-34 age group a part of the youth market, VBSI said.

"Contemporary youth should now be defined as 'the absence of functional and/or emotional maturity,' reflecting the fact that accepting traditional responsibilities such as mortgages, children and developing a strong sense of self-identity/perspective is occurring later and later in life," the study said.

Indeed, 52% of all 25-34 year-olds agree they still have "a lot of growing up to do," and this sentiment is highest in Asian (78%) and Latin American (66%) markets.

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"Even in these financially challenging times, people are trying to stay younger for longer," said Kevin Razvi, EVP and managing director of VBSI. "25-to-34 year-olds are continuing to consume music, gaming and the internet and are enjoying the pursuits of their younger years while benefiting from a greater level of personal and financial freedom. We therefore need to rethink what 'youth' actually means and how we and our partners can approach this constantly evolving group of people."

Three Stages of Youth
Though those between 25 and 34 remain youthful, there are some important differences among them and their younger and older counterparts. The study identified three distinct stages of youth: "Discovery" (16-19 years old), "Experimentation" (20-24 years old) and "Golden" (25-34 years old), and found that the youth market has grown to include all three as the differentiation between traditional demographic groups has become blurred through lifestyle choice and spending power.

Key findings:

  • 25-34 year-olds do not respond to the same marketing as teens and those who assume they do are seeing a "youth mirage." Though they may look similar and access many of the same brands, only 9% of those 25-34 globally said that they would actually like to be a teenager in 2008. Agreement with this statement was lowest in developed markets: Japan (4%), Europe (5%) and the US (9%).

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  • "Golden" Youth are happier, and more confident/secure and gravitate toward premium, understated and often luxurious brands and experiences to affirm their identity. In contrast, teenagers are highly focused on material gain and employ brands to define their identity.
  • 25-34-year-olds are most likely to agree that they are happy or content with their personal life, and are 24% more likely than teens to agree that they "love life."
  • More than 80% of the global respondents say that that the 20s should be about exploring life and having fun.

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  • Teens feel under pressure to figure out who they are and where they are going and are 23% more likely than those 25-34 to agree that their life is more stressful. This is particularly true in Europe and in the US.
  • 17% of the global sample who said they'd "made some major decisions in life too early" were the most unhappy and stressed group of 25-34 year olds among all the respondents.

"Traditional adult brands need to adopt a more youthful tone to avoid being seen as irrelevant," the study said. To support this, 23% of the 25-to-34-year-old global sample feels that financial institutions are aimed at those older than they are; while youthful brands have a new market beyond the core teenage target. In the traditionally young area of technology, one-third of 25-34 year olds agree they're really interested in new technology, and 66% say that they take the time to learn how things work to get the most out of them.Other regional differences:

  • Respondents age 25-34 who are married are significantly more likely to be happy (66%) vs. singles (30%).
  • Only 36% of Europeans and 39% of Asians 25-34 feel like they're struggling with their current financial situation vs. 55% in Latin America and 51%
    in America.
  • 71% of 25-34-year-olds agree they feel comfortable with who they are. Those who feel most settled with their identity live in Mexico (84%), India (83%) and Saudi Arabia (82%). Those who are least comfortable are the Japanese (26%).
  • 35% of Europeans would find it strange if someone got married in their early 20s vs. only 20% of Americans and 18% of Japanese.
  • In general, 78% are optimistic about their future. This is highest in Latin America (85%), lowest in Asia (67%) and the US (72%).
  • 62% of Latin Americans felt they made life decisions too early vs. only 24% Japanese, 37% of Europeans and 50% of Americans.

The study also found that from a global perspective, 25 is the "ideal" age overall. Additional findings and regional differences:

  • 27 is the ideal age to buy a house (25 in the UK, 33 in Japan).
  • 22 is the ideal age to buy a car (20 in the US and UK, and 29 in China).
  • 26 is the ideal age for love (25 in Saudi Arabia and 28 in Mexico).
  • 23 is the ideal age to get a credit card (20 in the US)
  • 19 is the ideal age to travel without parents (25 in Saudi Arabia).
  • 27 is the ideal age to be a parent.
  • 20 is the ideal age to lose your virginity (no differences by region).
  • 22 is the ideal age to move out on your own.
  • 26 is the ideal age to start saving for retirement (23 in US and 25 in Europe and Latin America)

About the survey: VBSI used both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to survey more than 25,000 respondents between age 16-46 in 18 countries. These included Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, UK and the US. The survey was carried out between January and August 2008.

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