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The shadows know

Jeremy Simon

You may have heard Americans who will come of age in the new millennium labeled as “millenials” or simply “Generation M.” As with any consumer group, marketers are constantly looking for ways to analyze young peoples’ spending patterns in order to better tap those Gen M dollars.

While many members of Gen M can be found on college campuses, almost as many young Americans go right to work after high school. In a recent article on iMedia Connection, author Carol Setter stated that among “high school students graduating in 2005, 41.8 percent did not enter college,” which “represents nearly 1.7 million 18 and 19 year olds who are prime candidates for brand marketing.”

These young adults have been termed “shadow millennials.” (What’s so “shadowy” about them, I don’t know.) Not surprisingly, marketers are interested in their spending power, too.

Previously, I considered a 2007 study that found university students rank having good credit on equal footing with having money for pizza. Co-eds were asked to consider the importance of certain financial objectives, with maintaining good credit and “meeting incidental living expenses” (including books and pizza) tied for the top spot.

“Shadow millenials” have their own spending style, it seems. The iMedia Connection spelled out the group’s buying characteristics:

• About half of them research online before purchasing, but there is a small sub-group who does not research prior to purchasing.
• They are less annoyed by advertising than their peers.
• They value the opinions of others less than college students do in selecting products.
• They wait to purchase rather than buying on credit.
• They play video games in greater numbers.
• Fewer have jobs that are managerial or professional; more of them are tradesmen or work in service and repair industries.

While it isn’t surprising they don’t spend much of their paychecks on textbooks, it is interesting that young Americans in the workforce are supposedly less likely to make purchases using credit.

Why is that? Is it because the marketing of student credit cards make university students more likely to “charge it” than their working-world peers? Or is it just because students resign themselves to running up debt during college while shadow millennials would rather pay for purchases in cash?

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