If you’re a 20-something today… chances are, you’re a Lost Boy (or Girl). Today’s young adults are increasingly delaying maturity by putting off the traditional adult rites of passage (think: completing school, leaving home, achieving financial independence, settling into a life-long career or starting a family) much later in life than previous generations.

Members of this group live in a transitional period in which moving between jobs, relationships, and living arrangements occurs quite frequently. Their tendency to put off “adulthood” has caused this group to be discussed as the “Peter Pan Generation” and labeled such things as “kidults,” “adultescents,” “twixters,” or “boomerangers.”

With more and more young adults lingering in an “in-between” state, marketers and advertisers need to take note. Gone are the days when being 26 means a consumer is looking to buy homeowner’s insurance or an engagement ring. As more young people go to college, more are acquiring debt and delaying starting a family.

As young consumers they have a somewhat dispensable income and because many are free of the responsibilities of supporting a family, they need only worry about supporting themselves financially. These young adults tend to have a somewhat transient lifestyle and their lives (and their needs) change frequently. They may work part-time jobs, volunteer, or intern and they tend to have a good amount of free time and flexibility.

One example of a brand that appeals to this group is Airbnb, a peer-to-peer travel site that holds both financial and social appeal to young travelers, offering unique and affordable places to stay ranging from an artist’s loft in Manhattan to a sailboat in Southern California. Another example is PNC, whose Virtual Wallet service is aimed at helping young people manage their money (debt is not uncommon among this group) and save up for big and small purchases alike, from a pair of designer heels to surfing lessons in Costa Rica.

Studies have shown that consumers settle into brand preferences in their 20’s, so understanding and reaching this generation of “Lost” youths can present a lifelong payoff for savvy brands.

 

– Kelly Leonard (kelly.leonard@temple.edu)