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Young Brits Forged in the Heat of Recession

by Edith Bardin , 12.09.2013

Consumers in many mature markets around the world have been profoundly changed by the economic experiences of the past few years, not least in the UK.  At GfK Consumer Trends, we were particularly interested to see how ‘Young Brits’, those aged 18-24 who came of age during the financial crisis, have adapted to the new reality and how economic conditions affect their behaviours and attitudes – not just financial – now and next.

Young Brits have had mixed economic experiences in the past – for instance an increasing number of respondents have experienced some form of career advancement since 2009, but at the same many have also had difficulties paying bills during the same period. Money enough to live right is therefore an increasing worry for these consumers, who have learned to use money-saving strategies such as couponing to manage their squeezed budgets. Deal-seeking and thrift have simply become a way of life for them.

But the past five years have shaped UK consumers in more than just their financial behaviours.

One of the most eye-catching findings of GfK Roper Reports® Worldwide is the growth in popularity of experiences over possessions, which is partly a reflection of economic necessity, but also shows a decline in materialism. Young Brits show increased interest in experiences that are new and different, as well as travel and cooking for fun, emphasising the importance of adventure as well as hands-on experiences.

Our findings also show that Young Brits are increasingly pragmatic, with the growth of values such as Self-reliance and Knowledge reflecting a realization of what’s needed to get ahead in life. Feeling at ease with social media and mobile technology, this group uses technology as an enabler for knowledge, independence and doing things their own way.

But the financial scandals, conflict and demonstrations over the last five years have also shaped a generation who seems to be increasingly socially aware. The growth of values such as Equality and Social Tolerance indicate that these are young adults who increasingly care about the world around them. They show solidarity and they are increasingly vocal about issues around them, whether it is close to home or further away.

What does this mean for marketers today?

Brands and companies who want to successfully connect with Young Brits today will need to show that they fully understand the difficulty of their financial situation and approach them with potential solutions and offers. It is not simply about offering the best price but also the best value.  Promotional deals such as couponing will also fare well with this group of consumers.

Brands and companies also need to show that they are engaged with the world around them, that they use transparent businesses practices such as paying a fair amount of taxes and that they contribute to making the world a better place.  Having a strong, honest and transparent CSR programme is more important than ever before.

And finally, brands and companies should seek to stimulate this group of self-reliant individuals who have a thirst for knowledge and are curious about what else the world has to offer.