Posts Tagged ‘Gen Y’

For those who don’t know me, I am Ben’s business partner, and originally invested in the start of SPYCH. Ben often quips there are some who disbelieve I even exist, so hopefully my presence at September’s Corporate Researchers Conference in Dallas and this blog entry will diffuse some of those myths! 😉

I hired Ben almost 5 years ago.  At that time, I was extremely busy with projects and needed help. I found Ben to be bright, enthusiastic, articulate and engaged –  all the qualities clients and I would want in a moderator. He had the proverbial “fire in his belly”.

Just 10 months into his tenure at DGA, Ben approached my wife Debbie and me at our kitchen table with a foundational idea that focused on Gen Y and the notion of “empathic research,” which was essentially the genesis for SPYCH.

From that point forward, since Ben was completely dedicated and devoted to developing SPYCH, I needed to find a new person to backfill his spot and help support me. On Ben’s recommendation, I interviewed Elizabeth, who was just as bright, enthusiastic, articulate and engaged as Ben was when I first spoke to him – In a relatively short period of time, Elizabeth was conducting research projects on her own and doing great work for both our pharmaceutical and CPG clients.

What can you take from my experiences?

I am often asked by my Baby Boomer peers why I was able to have two success stories with my “young hires,” while their own experiences with Gen Y employees tended to be lukewarm/ mixed at best. Upon reflection, I believe there are some things in particular to look for when hiring potential Gen Y employees/colleagues, as well as a few things you can offer to them to make your firm a “Gen Y destination” (as Ben likes to say!):

Dave’s Things to Look for When Hiring/Working with Gen Y (in no particular order):

  1. Level of engagement
  2. Ability to quickly establish rapport
  3. Ability to think well “on their feet”
  4. A high degree of inquisitiveness
  5. Confidence tempered with the willingness to learn
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“You are such a hipster.” “I am not a hipster. I am just me,” my sister replied, trying to be ironic (hallmark hipster trait), Her response proved my point seeing as according to The Hipster Handbook, “a hipster never admits to being a hipster,” (Lanham, 2003).  Still, I made a vain attempt to define it for her. This task was far more difficult than I had suspected…

Attempt A: A subculture of upper and middle class over-educated youth rejecting (or pretending to) social mores and norms. Attempt B: Self-proclaimed nonconformists conforming to a new set of “counterculture” rules. My sister looked at me with eyes that said, “seriously?”  Attempt C: Hipsters are defined by a certain characteristic sartorial choice including but not limited to skinny jeans, deep V-necks, scarves, messy hair, and obviously vintage-looking (emphasis on looking) handbags. Looking at her outfit, she was caught red-handed, but still appeared to disagree.  So, I resorted to the number one authority on definitions: urban dictionary.  I read this aloud: a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter. And then, I showed her this YouTube video… I recommend it for those seeking a more comprehensive (and hilarious!) explanation of this cultural phenomena.

Hipster (Urban Dictionary): A subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.

Now, why is this relevant to a market research blog? Well, yes ok, it involves Gen-Y, but it is more than that… The emergence of the hipster trend is indicative of a greater cultural shift towards counterculture and anti-consumerist notions. We are seeing these trends on a nationwide scale, consider the Occupy rallies as exhibit A. Or the sudden couponing craze, exhibit B. Or the reintroduction of vintage into mainstream fashion, exhibit C (Penelope Cruz in a vintage dress at the Oscars in 2009, the popularity of “Fashion Hunters” a reality show about a designer second-hand store in Manhattan). My point is these seemingly innocuous bunch have (intentionally or not) set forth ideas that have permeated the mainstream. And tapping into their buying behavior is not a task for the feeble.

Check out the approach of this Australian ad by Honda. I’d be interested to know how many hipsters actually enjoyed this ad. I would argue that non-hispsters likely enjoyed this advertisement more than the hipster demographic due to the almost-mocking use of magnified stereotypes. And the fact that many hipsters don’t have TVs. That said, take a look at this hilarious mock-up  by Kurt Snibee. While it may not be a real ad campaign, it cuts to the heart of what we as researchers must do… Take the time to understand the consumer.

As the case is with my sister and her hipster friends, often the consumer doesn’t understand him or herself.

Written By:  Margo Aaron, Research Consultant

References: Lanham, R. (2003). The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor Books.