“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”
– Mark Twain
It seems it’s always going to be difficult being young. Though at other times it feels as if youth is the best time of one’s life. Inherent to this paradox are the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ experienced. Of course, it isn’t easy being young. The pressures are manifold, and multiplying. But it’s interesting there are those who benefit from the young being young. Business firms in fact today feed off this golden age. The media too revels in cashing in on the youth. Irony is, as much as there are the few young who’ve made it, and seemingly appear to be having a blast while most aren’t happy at all. The majority ‘suffer’ in silence. This in turn makes them easy prey to anyone claiming to have a magic cure. Call them business corporations, call them what you want, but snake oil salesmen peddling magic cures are multiplying exponentially. What they essentially tap into are the greatest of fears the young live with. Listed here are four of the big insecurities the youth face.
Insecurity One: ‘How do I look?’
Cosmetic sales have been raking in the moolah. Consider the statistic. The beauty and cosmetics industry is expected to increase globally by 8.5 per cent in 2014 according to recent research from Euro Monitor International. Market forecasts indicate that the global beauty and cosmetics industry is on a high-growth path, with the market for premium cosmetics expected to be worth around $85.54 billion by 2014 compared to $78.82 billion in 2009.
The young fuel this growth. Their insecurity about their looks is what is at the heart of ‘beauty’ consumption. It’s what drives the sale of cosmetics, diet aids and even clothes. But look at the dark side. The American research group Anorexia Nervosa & Related Eating Disorders, Inc. says that one out of every four college-aged women uses unhealthy methods of weight control—including fasting, skipping meals, excessive exercise, laxative abuse, and self-induced vomiting. But sadly such habits aren’t stopping anytime now. The young will continue to worry about their looks. This means they’ll continue on the quest of trying to look better.
Insecurity Two: ‘Will I find love?’
Despite the impressive numbers on social media, genuine companionship is rare. Ironically, that’s precisely why social media thrives. More people than ever are seeking affection and they believe social media can help them connect to the ‘right’ person.
A Euro RSCG Worldwide survey showed that a third (34 percent) of those surveyed believe it’s possible to have a romantic relationship on the Internet, especially men (41 percent vs. 28 percent for women). Younger respondents were more likely to think so, though 21 percent of those over 65 did as well. Half of the respondents overall knew someone who started a relationship online, and even among those 65 and up, 26 percent said they did. A 31 percent knew someone whose relationship ended because of his or her actions online. Again, a survey conducted by eNation found that nearly one-third of Americans have experienced a breakup in the past ten years. It also found that the younger the person, the more likely they are to have experienced more than one breakup in the last decade.
Genuine companionship won’t come easy for the young. The fact is, they will seek instant and virtual companionships as a response to their loneliness. As a result what they will end up experiencing is ‘dependency’ that will only deepen their inability to stave off the need for instant gratification.
Insecurity Three: ‘Will I make enough?’
The size of the wallet is quite a worry for the young. It’s interesting that ‘money-worries’ top ‘love-worries’. Leading global research firm Synovate’s survey shows that most 18-24 year olds worry more about money than they do love & romance, with 39% quoting cash as a top concern. Where money is concerned, more than half of the 12,000 young people surveyed expressed their concern to some extent about their economic situation, with 24% worrying about it a lot. 87% revealed that money was an important if not very important factor for them, outweighing love & romance.
Money for the young means access to more and better products and services. Again, it isn’t mere consumption, its status consumption. Seeking that status comes easy, thanks the another insecurity that’s featured next.
Insecurity Four: ‘Am I Important?’
Low self-esteem is rampant. In a study the Lefkoe Institute did with incarcerated teens and adults a few years ago, it was discovered that the subjects of the study had the same negative self-esteem beliefs as CEOs the Lefkoes had worked with in their private practice. Imagine that. Troubled teens and CEOs suffer the same ailment. Low Self-esteem. Extend that to cover the youth. Issues of self-esteem plague the young. Needing to be important ranks high on the list of their insecurities.
The response to this is ‘status consumption’. A buying drive aimed more at exhibiting a certain image than garnering functional value. Thus the sneaker’s more about being ‘cool’ than feet comfort. The cappuccino is less about coffee, more about a lifestyle. Lifestyle consumption can be equated with status consumption when it comes to the youth.
As the media becomes even more ubiquitous, the youth will be exposed to a globalized way of life that will raise their aspirations. The resulting ‘scramble’ for quick solutions will only further their insecurities. It will take a gargantuan effort to get over what will otherwise drown the youth of this age.
Prof. Ray Titus currently serves as Area Chairperson & Professor of Strategy & Marketing at Alliance University, School of Business, Bangalore. Prof. Titus has had a stint of over a decade in the Industry before his entry into Academia. Prof. Titus publishes his professional blog ‘Buyer Behaviour’ (http://buyerbehaviour.blogspot.com) which has been listed among the ‘Top 100 academic Blogs every professional investor must read’ by Currency Trading, US., and ‘15 Must Read Indian Blogs about Investing & Business’ by INForum, India.