The now generation: view brands as badges and rate Apple, Virgin, Google, Nike, Coca-Cola and Starbucks

Pupils from the City of London Freemen School revealed how the net generation of consumers are accessing, using and sharing the information that influences their daily choices and purchasing decisions in an all-singing and dancing mini-drama at the Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Summit 2010 in London yesterday.

The group of young boys and girls provided candid feedback to the audience of leading global CEOs.

“Decision making is not our forte,” they said. “We are more instinctual. We go with the flow. We do what feels right.”

The teenagers told delegates that in order to understand the average young person, they needed to find out about their lifestyles, how they operate, their aspirations, hopes and dreams. “What we want to be and how we want to be seen as people.”

But they warned young people can be different people depending on who is watching. They can be students, friends, family members or lovers and could be all of these things and more.

Critically, young people also have a virtual life, they said; on the internet, Facebook, Bebo and My Space; and then there are phones.

“We are always on our phones, it’s how we know what other people think,” they said.

In the future, young people want internet access wherever they go. They also have concerns about work, or rather the lack of it, deadlines, relationships, friendships and how they look.

“It’s all about choices,” they said. “What to wear, who to impress, who to attract and who not to attract.”

The group told delegates there were ‘bigger’ issues they were concerned about including the environment, global warming, the developing world and child labour.

They also demonstrated how they behave and communicate online and their interest in celebrity and celebrities.

The youngsters revealed the average young person spends 31 hours on line per week. They also questioned what the average young person or consumer looks like – they could be teenagers, students at University or college, young professionals or young parents, they suggested.

As young adults, they like to think they see things differently, they said. They showed the audience how they are constantly updating their online profiles.

As to shopping, it’s all about “remaking myself, imagining myself in a new and different way”, according to the group.

Individuality, however, remains key. “It’s the way you wear it that counts, that’s what makes it different,” they said.

Some brands are like badges for young consumers and shopping is aspirational as well as inspirational for this group. Products reflect who they are or want to be.

Hot brands for today’s youth are Apple, Virgin, Google, Nike, Coca-Cola and Starbucks. Products are what define them and what they buy makes a statement about who they want to be.

Shopping for young people is about fun, friends and having a laugh.

They don’t want to think about the future either because “it all looks too hard. What with the recession. Fewer and fewer jobs. Student loans to repay and less money to spend.”

What matters for this age group is the ‘here and now’ and they want to be like the people they like and aspire to be.

Online helps mould those aspirations, they said.

“When you see the tastes and ideas of other people on line, on Facebook; when you see the hits on this site or that site, the number of star ratings, you want to join the club. It influences the people you want to be like, the music you buy, the clothes you wear, the stores you use, the food and drinks you consume.”

The internet is a window on the world for today’s young consumers, and it’s in constant state of change.

Young people want to care about the future but don’t feel empowered to do so, the group told delegates.

“As young adults we want to do the right thing; it’s inbred in us… you ask most young people and they have an optimistic outlook, and as much as I know we should be thinking about the greater good, most times we just choose what’s cheap and what’s available.”

Despite being portrayed as the net generation, in a Q&A session pupils from the City of London Freemen School admitted:

“I have never bought anything on line, ever.”

“My parents buy more on line than I do.”


“I only buy things on line if I can get hold of it [from a friend] and try before I buy.”