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The inbetweeners are taking it hard

couple leaning on shoulders

Young enough to be adaptable and free of long-standing commitments, 18-34 year olds are assumed to be doing OK. Are they?

In a nutshell

  1. Our data is telling us that 18 - 34 year olds are showing very different characteristics from the general population.
  2. They are feeling more uncertain about the future, and are more likely to expect changes over the next few months that may make them feel uncomfortable.
  3. The data tells us they are becoming more future-focused - so brands need to speak to this, and choose tone and words very carefully.

Most age-related coverage of COVID-19 concerns either the elderly or issues around children returning to school. And, from a lifestyle perspective, we’ve seen plenty of discussion about home owner’s mortgage problems and young families struggling to juggle business zoom meetings with child care.

But those in between are assumed to be doing ok. They’re young enough to be adaptable, flexible because they are free of long standing commitments such as mortgages and are very familiar with online socialising. For some brands that means they are an audience that will over index on demand for products and services whereas for others they might not be in your sights for now,  but they’ll remember how you behaved toward them during this time.

Our data is telling us that this group (18 – 34 years) are showing some very different characteristics from the general population.

From a mood perspective, they are more likely to be feeling downhearted and that’s possibly because they are feeling more uncertain about the future than other age groups. They are more likely to expect more changes over the next few months and we know that change makes people feel uncomfortable. For example, they are more likely to be expecting their income to be negatively impacted over the next 6-12 months. With change in the air, it’s maybe not surprising that they are showing a slightly greater propensity to churn for contracted products and services as we move out of the higher alert levels.

This group are neither protected by parental oversight nor have they established a future life pattern. That period of flux used to be exciting whereas now the joy of ambiguity has turned into depressing disorientation. In decades to come they’ll realise this was just a blip but for now it doesn’t feel that way. Instead it’s like being lost and disoriented in a forest that previously seemed to offer multiple paths – organisations can show that paths still exist, that the forest knows where they are.

The clue to what brands and organisations can do to engage this group is in the data that tells us they have become more future focused. Those who naturally lean toward a future focused approach to life are holding on to that view plus a higher percentage of those in the group who lean toward a more live life for today approach are telling us they are now looking ahead.

Five key insights:

  1. Talk to this group differently from other demographics.
  2. Know that they are disheartened a lot of the time when your message lands, so choose your tone and your words carefully.
  3. They are uncertain and are expecting more uncertainty as they don’t have established life patterns – be clear, be confident, paint the picture.
  4. Beware churn risk – engage and be relevant to how they’re experiencing this pandemic.
  5. Create positive future scenarios that are relevant to them and their future aspirations.

It's never been more important to make information-based decisions. Because although the country is in lockdown, organisations still have to make choices that will guide their actions and determine the success of what they do.

So, in this series, we’re sharing what TRA knows about New Zealanders to help inform better decision making, so that our companies can better serve people. 

Read the other articles in this series:

Kiwis or New Zealanders?
When progress is on pause, how should organisations behave?
A nation of independently minded rule-benders
When visions of a new life add uncertainty
What do Kiwis want brands to get behind?
Sex Matters.
Focus on people, not the flag
Five insights on revenge shopping in New Zealand

Colleen Ryan
Partner at TRA
Colleen has a curious and strategic mindset fueled by 40 years of experience in business across Europe, North America and APAC countries. With a fascination and deep understanding of what it is to be human, specifically applying principles from cultural sociology, social psychology, behavioural science, and cultural analysis, she brings breakthrough insights to brand strategy, creative development and customer centricity.

Understand the forces of culture and shape radical ideas

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