Author: Countries and Consumers - Date published: 20 Nov 2007
The generation born between the mid 1960s and the end of the 1970s in Latin America and the Caribbean grew up seeing that while technology improved the daily lives of the rest of the world, local attempts to improve social status were frustrated by continuous economic and political crises. The sustained growth of the main countries in the region and their consolidated democracies later changed this for the better. It was 'payback' time for the punished Generation X. Its members are now the motor of expanding consumption within many markets, from cars and cosmetics to construction materials and personal technology.
|Consumers who wish to be kids but consume like adults;|
|Local conditions impacting on Gen Xers in Latin America and the Caribbean;|
|Advertising - an effective weapon for conquering weak hearts;|
|A trio of regional Generation X consumer types.|
|Generation Xers are thriving in Latin America and the Caribbean, and now is a good moment to engage them. Economic growth has fortified this generation that consolidates itself within management positions and dedicates a good portion of its income to the leisure in and outside the home;|
|Give sweets to the inner child of these consumers, and your brand will be assumed as their own. Adults who refuse to accept adulthood, they crave everything eliminating the sensation of the passing of time;|
|Brands can no longer hoodwink these consumers via the media , they have to be upfront with them – and tell it like it is;|
|Products and services of the past, retro and old fashioned things, appeal to this generation rediscovering things of their adolescence that they value in their present lives.|
In his 1991 novel, Generation X, Coupland explored the cultural changes created by the impact of technology on middle-class Americans which spread as an unplanned manifesto of a generation to the world. Commentators were led to explain the negative cultural impact of technology, until the formidable economic impact of Generation X became known, comprised today of people aged 30-45 with high consumption potential.
An article published recently by the French ABC portal relates that the Xers were the first generation to experience parental divorce, and abandonment by parents working long days to attain the progress and security they longed for. The generation grew in solitude, seeing scenes of violence on TV and on the streets, the emergence of AIDS and the demise of traditional values. In Latin America, continuous political crises curbed their freedom further. This generation is typified by its continuous conflicts with religious values, dysfunctional families, and ironic attitudes. The Xers were negatively defined by their 'baby-boomer' predecessors: scepticism, a lack of interest in authority, religious and traditional values, and a spirit of anticommitment. In fact, Generation Xers in Latin America and the Caribbean are consumers with a deep sense of direction, although they know that "nothing is safe in this world", which is a reason to try "to live the present". Several regional studies confirm that education, for the Xers, is an "instrument of growth", whereas money is a "means to this end". Their objective is to accede to new experiences, rather than to acquire goods, hence their desire to try to eliminate the superfluous. With economic growth, the Xers have been transformed into an unfettered economic power.
Consumers who wish to be kids but consume like adults
Latin America and the Caribbean have been the setting, in recent years, for a new and growing consumer segment - “Kidults". These are men and women, aged 25 and 45, who consume like children, but pay more for their 'toys'. Generation Xers are game to new company strategies aiming to position their products to appeal to “adults who take care of their inner child".
The characteristics of “Kidults" are similar to those of Generation Xers: a search for diversions and pleasure, spontaneity, creativity, personal growth and the yearning to live the present. These motivations move their purchasing decisions. It is common for many to save on food or other essentials in order to secure for example, a PlayStation, without hesitating to pay on credit and incur debt.
This tendency among regional Generation Xers to wish themselves young has strengthened the success of brands and products that respond to this trend. The growth in sales of hi-tech toys and videogames, the success of films such as Shrek, The Lord of the Rings and the Incredibles, and the sale of titles such as Harry Potter to adults are all part of this phenomenon.
A recent study by the Entertainment Software Association has revealed that the average age of “gamers" was 29 in 2006, up from 19 in 1990. Another study reveals that the Cartoon Network is increasingly viewed by adults over 18. In Latin America, 25% of the channel's audience are from this segment, and Argentina is the country that tops regional interest in terms of “captive adults”.
A study of EJL Wireless Research consultants revealed that during 2006, Mexicans invested US$7.3 million in online purchases of video games, unloaded mainly through mobile phones, more than 50% of which were by Xers.
In Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, several media experts have noted the prevalence of small companies aiming exclusively at this market segment with pricey offers that go from thematic celebrations for adults to video games with content unsuitable for minors.
'The Simpsons' is the animated series that has gripped Mexican television viewers over the last decade. It is watched in over six million homes every week, as well as being one of the most popular on Fox cable throughout Latin America. The ads for universities, cars and technology are testament to a viewing public of young adults.
Local conditions impacting on Gen Xers in Latin America and the Caribbean
Alongside the backdrop of parental neglect and social changes shared by Gen Xers globally, Latin American and Caribbean specimens must contend with additional local phenomena. Xers, with an average income of US$6,593 in 2007, have the highest average income in the region and have seen their salaries grow significantly in recent years. Nevertheless, the key to understanding the generation is 'opportunity cost', since young adults can perhaps buy more products, and costly ones, but cannot buy everything. Some of the Xers in the region are dedicated to consuming but by doing so they forfeit other goods. For this reason, it is strategically important to know what this generation prefers and considers essential, and what it can dispense with.
The "new essential things" are personal technology, outings to restaurants, travel, culture and design. Food, their own house and reliable cars, however, are not Experience overtakes money and security in importance.
Advertising - an effective weapon for conquering weak hearts
In unstable contexts like Latin America and the Caribbean, the most direct way to reach Generation Xers is through extensive advertising and publicity drives, and not via product launches narrowly aimed at men and women aged 30-45. The key to wooing this consumer segment is a grasp of historical facts and the icons defining them that continue to tie them to the present through nostalgia and the direct interpellation to the past.
The region does not lack examples. Nostalgia in ads as a way to touch consumers is used, for instance, in the “Treintaytantos", campaign, imported by Coca Cola Spain and seen by thousands in Latin America and the Caribbean. The ad recalls with a certain "glorious spirit” the debuts of technological advances in their youth. Mixed in to this brew are concepts that the generation claims as its own, like "the immense capacity to be happy".
The direct interpellation to the consumers is a technique used by Sony in the region too, when papering its exclusive shops with posters in which an apparent student of over thirty appears with the inscription of "doctor" and the following legend: "We all have a boy in some corner of the heart. Yes, yes..., you too".
The car market has also adopted this approach to this segment, as many of their consumers are aged 25-40 and are buying a new car for the first time in their lives. Examples vary according to the countries and the brands, although in the main they aim to echo the way of life of the Xers, like the Renault ad, in which a man, without realising, goes from being unmarried to being married with a son. In Argentina, the Suzuki Fun model, produced by Chevrolet in Brazil, has made a bid to tie the car to these youngsters with the motto "Personalízate", in which consumers are invited to personalise it according to taste. The campaign has featured key icons like Frida Kahlo and John Lennon to idolise car ownership.
Regional sports clothing brands organise sports races and other events to appeal to the feeling that “time has not gone by" among generation Xers. The slogan is identical: the publicity, more than the products-is the route to conquering the generation.
A trio of regional Generation X consumer types
The search for social status through personal effort and an attachment to traditional values were baby boomer characteristics, but are not apparent among Generation Xers. Three groups among them are distinguishable through their purchasing power:
|Professional young people: among the older Xers, these alternate between the family and their profession, without neglecting either. Many value education and are married although with few children. Their significant purchasing power, often superior to their parents', allows them to travel and to acquire goods for relaxation and leisure. They take care of and equip their homes like their bodies and "are integrated" into post-modern society;|
|Playboys: the unattached who make a cult of the single life and pleasure over responsibility. They prioritise their image over their home and spend their income on trips, cars, clothes and accessories. They travel and usually socialise over weekends as they are very work-centred, typically non-professional but very well paid;|
|The others: can be divided into “indecisive" and “passive" consumers. The first sub-group consists of people who have seen their dreams of growth frustrated, and feel unable to change their reality. They therefore seek security and are identified with brands that offer a sensation of it. The passive, however, are pragmatic and family-oriented, with low self-esteem but confidence in others. This sub-group looks for adventures and new experiences vicariously.|
The present purchasing power of Generation Xers in Latin America and the Caribbean is just the tip of the iceberg.
The 1960s-1970s generation, the one that has seen technological revolutions and sea changes from dictatorship to democracy and that has begun to win jobs in government offices and management roles in middling-to-large companies. This is the one that will have strong purchasing power in the coming years.
Generating specific campaigns and products for the Xers still can seem a challenge and a risk. Tomorrow it will be an obligation. Now is the time to catch the pampered children of Latin America and the Caribbean.