Post-2000 Generation Research
Post-2000 Generation Research
Inward seekers watching the aerial garden
Ylab has been deeply involved in researching consumer groups across different generations, starting from its founder, Li Yuhong's study of the post-80s in 2012. Till today, Ylab has accumulated over ten years of research. By gaining profound insights into each generation, and combining disciplines such as anthropology and psychology, Ylab has developed its own methodology for studying consumer groups. In 2022, we partnered with the professional qualitative research agency, Reflection, to conduct numerous interviews and analyses, resulting in some interesting conclusions we would like to share.
In the eyes of many, the post-2000 generation they exhibit enters the grand stage of society with a mission to reform the workplace. People think that they have distinct personalities and display a fearless spirit of youthfulness. However, in our observations, they exhibit a "rational" and "mature" demeanor that contradicts the common impression. They approach crucial milestones in life with meticulous planning, fearing the slightest misstep.
In this study, we primarily employed three research models.
The first model is based on JoanErikson's stage theory of psychosocial development, focusing on the period of adolescence and young adulthood (ages 16-24) when individuals are in the process of forming their own identities. This is why the intergenerational study starts from this stage, as it is a critical phase for identity
The second model is the "OnionModel," which is used to explore the "deep-seated life drivers" of the post-2000 generation. Starting from surface-level behaviors, it investigates their underlying needs and motivations, delves into their values, and examines the identity definitions that shape their values.
Ultimately, it aims to understand the life purpose pursued by the post-2000 generation.
The third model is the "GrowthEcological Model," which we have developed by integrating psychological theoretical frameworks with sociological models and immersive field research methods from anthropology. It primarily investigates the influences of macro, meso, and micro environments on personal growth.
- Microsocial: Refers to the immediate and intimate environment directly relevant to individuals, such as parents, classmates, and close friends;
- Mesosocial: Indirectly influences individuals and includes factors such as the city or community they reside in, their parents' occupations, social class, and the influence of social media and mainstream media;
- Macrosocial: Refers to the unseen but subtly influential environment on individuals, such as ideologies, culture, economy, and worldviews.
Our sharing focuses on the research findings based on the "Growth Ecological Model," providing a comprehensive analysis of how the post-2000 generation has become:
Inward seekers with the ability to think dialectically who ascend on a descending escalator, but are watching the aerial garden.
Standing on a descending escalator,
if you don't move forward, you will go backward.
From the macro background of the post-2000 generation's growth, they have witnessed the rapid development of national strength and have been profoundly influenced by changes in ideology and values, accompanied by capital operations.
However, as the global landscape undergoes changes and economic growth slows down, coupled with the increased uncertainty brought by the pandemic, many post-2000 individuals, who are still in their university years, have realized the existence of a ceiling in their upward trajectory. They perceive their world as a descending escalator, where those who stand still will fall behind. As a result, most of them feel the need to accelerate their pace and strive to move upward.
The previous generation has created a solid material foundation for the post-2000 generation. They view material possessions as the cornerstone of security, and they do not want the efforts of their parents to slip away from their own hands. The rational pre-planning is aimed at securing a place for themselves in a highly competitive environment.
Prosperity is like an aerial garden that has nothing to do with me.
The post-2000 generation feels a sense of insecurity, which stems not only from changes in the broader environment but also from the significant influence of social media. While the internet has opened up new opportunities and expanded horizons for the post-2000 generation, social media, particularly the influencers and their portrayal of an exquisitely perfect life, creates a stark contrast that leads to feelings of discrepancy and anxiety among the post-2000 generation.
Meanwhile, the post-2000 generation is aware that the world is not just about the good and prosperous side. The internet is also flooded with negative information, such as violent incidents like the one that happened in Tangshan, online bullying leading to suicides, the dilemma of high housing prices, the pressure of layoffs in the internet industry, and more. The societal negativity intensifies the sense of insecurity among the post-2000 generation.
For them, seeing and thinking too much can easily lead to the mindset of:
"Glancing over the good things and letting the bad things take root and grow in their hearts."
The idealized and exquisite images created by the internet appear even more dazzling but more distant in the midst of this gloomy sense of insecurity.
The post-2000 generation, in the face of such a glamorous and dazzling aerial garden, can only play the role of "spectator."
It may seem elusive but in reality,
the post-2000 generation is striving to be "inward seekers"
They do not want to just be"spectators" in their own lives. Self-development and personal experiences take top priority in their lives. Despite the external sense of insecurity, the post-2000 generation chooses to rely on rationality to accumulate strength and pursue what they love.
Each step of their current rational planning is aimed at steadily accumulating strength for the future. When they have enough confidence, they can bid farewell to the norms of "involution" and "meritocracy" and break free from these rules.
In the process of "playing around the rules," the post-2000 generation is not in a numb state of"cemented hearts". Faced with the chaotic nature of their growth journey, they choose not to become angry or desensitized. Instead, they use a gentle and humorous approach to alleviate negative emotions. That is why we see various forms of internet literature emerging, such as "crazy literature," "nonsense literature," "puppy literature,"
"rat literature," and so on.
Because cuteness itself has a healing effect. Using a mocking "linguistic mask" to find an outlet for emotions. They want to be themselves and return to innocence.
In the backdrop of intense involution, the post-2000 generation has grown accustomed to chasing the footsteps of their peers. However, deep down, they believe that everyone has their own prime and hope to be influenced as little as possible by others.
In their exploration of identity, they strive to become inward seekers with the ability to think critically:
- They recognize the importance of material foundations but understand that "material possessions" are not everything;
- They are not blindly obedient to authority and seek greater spiritual fulfillment and self-validation;
- "Self-exploration" is a lifelong question for the post-2000 generation. They hope to find answers to their questions through genuine experiences.
How can the post-2000 generation study empower brands?
Behind the "rational" shield of the post-2000 generation lies a sense of insecurity that accompanies their growth process, as well as the pure goodness they strive to protect. Based on the growth journey and collective characteristics of the post-2000 generation,
how can brands effectively communicate with them?
During their growth process, the post-2000 generation is enveloped by a sense of insecurity. They feel that the current online environment is not conducive to discussions about many thoughts and ideas, which are better shared offline with friends. Engaging in social discussions on public platforms can lead to indiscriminate attacks. However, brand-related topics are considered a safe option. Brands can provide a secure avenue for the post-2000 generation to express themselves, allowing them to release the emotions that should be expressed at their age and giving them a strong sense of participation.
Furthermore, the post-2000 generation seeks rationality. Initially, they may be attracted by flashy marketing campaigns, but what earns their long-term trust is companies and brands with strong product capabilities, meaningful content, and consistency between their internal and external image. Rather than focusing on what a brand says, they value what a brand does.
The Contradictory Unity of Cautious Consumption and Occasional Indulgence
Due to having a more affluent material foundation compared to previous generations while growing up, the post-2000s approach to consumption and money matters with a greater level of rationality.
Many post-2000s view material possessions as an important foundation but not the sole measure of success. Therefore, in terms of consumption, our post-2000 interviewees showed their rational calculation and careful planning. They tend to engage in planned consumption, and emphasize savings, but maintain a cautious attitude toward financial management.
Post-2000s place a greater emphasis on the long-term value and practicality of products. This rational consumer mindset is also reflected in their decision-making process when purchasing products. They typically conduct thorough research and comparisons to ensure they make the wisest choice.
However, the post-2000s are not solely driven by absolute rationality in their consumption. Occasionally, they can also become highly enthusiastic about products they love, leading to moments of indulgence.
Rather than simply interpreting the post-2000s'purchase for "interest points" as impulsive consumption, a more fitting description is that they have redefined what is considered useful. "What others may perceive as useless becomes useful in their own world." In the value system of the post-2000s, traditional definitions of utility may not necessarily align with their understanding of "useful" products. They have taken the initiative to redefine what truly constitutes a useful product, which could be a blind box, a watch, or even a set of building blocks.
Each "trigger point for spending" among the post-2000s is unique, and this highly individualized and diverse consumption behavior, to a certain extent, provides brands with a broader scope for development. However, with the scattered and ever-changing interests of the post-2000s, how can brands determine which trends are temporary and which hold long-term value? This question requires entering the perspective of the post-2000s themselves to obtain a better answer.
Clear-cut Preferences, "RedList" and "Black List"
Regardless of changing trends, what consistently appeals to the post-2000s are authentic products and genuine value propositions. The core focus for the post-2000s is on "What you do" instead of "What you say." They value brands that offer products that truly solve problems or provide practical value, and they expect brands to embody their value propositions through actions.
Based on Tim Baker's "FourStrategies of Influence" model and feedback from our research with the post-2000s, we have compiled a brand "Red List" and "Black List" from their perspective. The vertical dimension represents the content direction of brand communication, with a rational angle focused on explaining functional benefits, while an emotional angle leans towards conveying emotional benefits. The horizontal dimension represents the brand communication approach, either attracting the audience through shared beliefs or forcefully delivering messages to consumers.
Admired for RemarkableStrength, Sincerity and Interestingness
It is expected that the brands favored by the post-2000s should be cutting-edge, and rebellious against the mainstream. However, in our interviews, we discovered that the brands beloved by the post-2000s may appear somewhat "old-fashioned" at first glance.
The post-2000s generation favors brands that have substance and distinctiveness. After being initially attracted by the intriguing surface, they place more emphasis on experience and emotional resonance rather than solely focusing on functionality and benefits.
The post-2000s generation's preferences for brands are not only rational and cautious but also accepting authenticity and fun. This mindset extends to their consumer behavior as well.
Rejecting Vulgar Brainwashing and Excessive Gimmicks
The post-2000s generation has grown up in an era of information explosion, making them more sensitive and discerning towards brand communications. They dislike being forcefully bombarded with advertising messages and prefer to gather information from various sources and make independent choices on whether to accept them or not.
Similarly, in line with the post-2000s' pursuit of authenticity and rationality, they value brand integrity. If a brand uses manipulative tactics or appears overly preachy in its communication, it can easily lose favor with this generation of consumers.
Therefore, brands need to engage in more genuine and meaningful ways of promoting and marketing their products or services to establish deeper connections with this generation.
- Positive Value Attraction
The most important aspect in post-2000s' minds is the authenticity and values of a brand. They place a strong emphasis on whether a brand aligns with their own values and beliefs. If a brand simply promotes its products or services without demonstrating a sense of responsibility and care for society, the environment, and its users, it will struggle to gain the trust and favor of post-2000s consumers.
- Innovative Communication Methods
Meanwhile, post-2000s consumers value personalization and diversity. They seek unique experiences and feelings, rather than being swayed by generic advertisements. Therefore, brands need to prioritize innovation and provide post-2000s consumers with fresh experiences that go beyond traditional marketing approaches.
- Shared Lifelong Growth
Post-00s dislike superficial products and brands and are not blindly drawn to big names. Brands can sustainably engage post-2000s consumers by paying attention to their involvement in topics such as sustainability and health. By actively embodying brand values through actions, brands can attract the participation of post-2000s and build long-term value together with them.