Friday, April 03, 2009

The Rise Of Cultural Movements

The Rise Of Cultural Movements

Source: Mediapost (

Author: Chip Walker

In 2007, I fielded a global quantitative study of Gen-Yers in 13
countries and was surprised to find the No. 1 attitude unifying the
generation was: "I would fight for a cause I believe in." A large
majority of global Gen-Yers agreed with it from among dozens of other
attitudes. My colleagues and I were all puzzled by this finding and
weren't quite sure what to do with it. As I've created campaigns for
Gen-Yers during the past couple of years, the meaning of this finding
has become crystal clear.

Simply put, Gen-Yers have an activist bent. But their activism is
different from the idealism and rebellion of their Boomer parents in the
1960s and '70s. For today's Gen-Yers, activism is not about rebelling
against institutions -- there's simply not that much left to rebel

Belief in institutions like government and big business crumbled long
ago. Rather, in a world of almost infinite lifestyle choices, Gen-Y
activism is about young people knowing their own inner priorities and
making a vow to live by them -- even in the face of adversity.

A big part of Gen-Y activism is what I call "self-activism." They treat
themselves and their dreams almost like causes. It's less based on
idealism and more a matter of necessity: If they don't activate the
revolutionary inside, they simply won't get anywhere in today's
hyper-challenging marketplace.

According to the Wall Street Journal, half of all new college graduates
now believe that self-employment is more secure than a full-time job.
According to a Gallup pool, over two-thirds of high school students say
they intend to start their own companies. Clearly, an independent spirit
pervades this generation, and it's fueled by a strong sense of their
personal values and beliefs. Among GenYers' most important personal
values are authenticity, altruism and community.

Yet, it is this generation's consumer activism that makes them a unique
challenge for marketers. Gen Y-ers don't just want to buy brands, they
want buy in to what a brand believes in. They flock to brands like Red
and Livestrong that spark movements.

Some are social movements -- the sweatshop-free and socially responsible
clothing movements are making clothing brands like Timberland, American
Apparel and Patagonia must-have items for GenY. Others are cultural
movements -- rather than selling processing speed, Apple invites GenYers
to join a creativity movement. Obama became the choice of Gen-Y voters
because he asked them to join a movement for change, not simply to vote
for him.

Would your brand fight for a cause it believes in? Would your employees?
Most Gen-Yers would. Today more than ever, GenYers are seeking to summon
their own passion, courage and determination. Thus, if you want to
connect with them, it's time to stop doing traditional marketing and
start believing in something bigger than making money.

It's not easy for a brand to spark a cultural movement. But it's worth
doing because it allows us to go beyond having a point of difference and
actually have a difference-making purpose in the world. I, for one,
believe Gen-Y's unique activist spirit will be its lasting generational
hallmark, one that will change the future practice of marketing for the

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