Meet the Youngest Consumers, Plurals

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Written by Digital Surgeons,
• 6 min read

Introducing the Pluralist Generation

We know all about Millennials. But as the youngest of that generation turns 18 and graduates from high school this year, have you wondered who’s next? Experts in generational studies have named the next generation the “Plurals” and major media companies across the country, including Warner Brothers, Disney and Sony, have accepted and amplified this research. This generation of about 72 million, circa 1997, represents those aged 0-17.

As marketers, it is essential to understand each generation and take a close look at the life experiences that determine media consumption trends, brand engagement levels, and decision-making behaviors. Here are three key insights and implications that will help us, as marketers, evolve our communication strategies to align with the values of these rising consumers.

  1. Diversity and Equal Opportunity are Taken for Granted

    Diversity matters more than ever. Diversity of ideas, ethnicities, and perspectives.

    • African American presidents and same sex marriage are ways of life that Plurals will take for granted, thanks to their predecessors who changed the way families, companies, and social circles are composed. More than 250,000 Plurals are being raised by same-sex parents.
    • As America’s last generation with a Caucasian majority (of 55% compared to 72% among Baby Boomers), it makes sense that Plurals would also be the generation most positive about America becoming increasingly more diverse.
    • Single parenting is more common and accepted than ever, with an average of only two in three Plurals living in a two-parent household, a decline from what Millennials (three in four) and Generation X (four in five) experienced at a similar age.
    • Due to there currently being more women on every college campus than there are men, Plurals will actually experience an imbalance of gender success over the next 25 years, with 65% of all the college educated people in America being female. Title IX changed the world and Plurals have been greatly affected by blended gender roles.

    Marketers and advertisers are already placing increasing emphasis on diversity of family representation and cultural backgrounds in all marketing strategies. This generation will reflect a more cultured and socially aware target audience. More than half of Plurals agree that they would like their social circles to be more diverse, indicating aspirations to be accepting, inclusive, and global. They value social progress and take pride in who they are as people.

    Implication 1: Brands that put social progress and community first will attract increased business and interest.

  2. Platforms are Expected to Enable Control

    Customizable experiences give users creative control for optimal engagement.

    • While Millennials have an expectation of customization, Plurals want to create. Desiring the opportunity to customize, this generation is capable and wants control.  
    • The erosion of dominant media and emergence of fragmented and niche-based videos have made Plurals highly dependent on visuals, constant communicators, and a video-first generation. As true digital, mobile, and social natives, the Plurals will challenge us to be impactful in a brief moment.
    • Even Millennials did not grow up with a consumer-centric Internet, while Plurals have never known a world without a screen at their fingertips. The entertainment and content creation business is challenged to find ways to let these Pluralist consumers manipulate content, engaging their own creativity.

    As brand communications become increasingly transparent, encouraging user-generated content like never before, the Plurals take this reality to the next level. They are not surprised when media engages them in ways most relevant to their lives—they expect this. Ad spend on personalized and very targeted digital marketing will likely increase and the means of enabling user-generated content will need to improve.

    Implication 2: Marketers will need to create platforms that enable Plurals to feel in complete control of an experience and do so quickly, while taking and acting on feedback.

  3. Plurals are “Out of Many, One”

    Users and consumers are going to be increasingly rational and results-oriented.

    • Gen X, which is the primary parenting generation of Plurals, places a greater emphasis on individual performance and success than their Baby Boomer predecessors. They are less aspirational, more realistic, and results-oriented coaches. They are the most competitive generation of parents, believing in teaching their kids how to succeed in the long run. This parenting style has created, the least likely generation to believe in “The American Dream.”
    • Having lived through the second-longest economic decline in US history early in their lives (2007 to 2012), Plurals will have altered competitive and individualized attitudes towards work, home ownership, and life choices, such as college. While 57% of Millennials aged 12-15 said that getting a college education was cool in 2005, only 41% of Plurals aged 12-15 said the same in 2012.
    • Plurals don’t want to blend in. While Millennials focus on groups, teams, and collaboration, Plurals are more self-driven. They are competitive, want to stand out and value independence. Romantically associated with our country’s history, the name “Plurals” came from the phrase on the Seal of the United States, E Pluribus Unum, meaning “out of many, one.”

    We’ll need to beware of the toughest generation to impress. The Plurals are going to see right through gimmicks and won’t be willing to spend any time they aren’t positive is worth their energy. More economically conscious than Millennials, they seek value based solutions and fast payoff models.

    Implication 3: Advertisers will have to create experiences that quickly convey purpose and provide utility for competitive, individualistic minds, looking to set themselves apart from the pack.

Plurals will define future best practices, create preferred platforms and determine which brands succeed. Marketers must acknowledge this power from the get-go and dive into understanding the reasons for changes in brand and media engagement. At Digital Surgeons, we are forward obsessed—not just keeping up with the latest trends, but staying ahead of them. For this reason we are already predicting and working to help shape what engagement will look like for the Plurals, ready as ever to push brands forward in preparation for this new generation.

Statistics from this post all came from Magid Generational Strategies™, a research consultancy exploring generational change in America. They have conducted over 50 quantitative surveys totaling over 150,000 interviews, as well as hundreds of ethnographic and qualitative research sessions, to identify and characterize the Plurals, the first generation of the 21st century.
President of Magid Generational Strategies™
Pluralist Generation Whitepaper