Near the peak of their powers, 30-somethings have an anxious wait

22/04/2020 - 15:48

There have been many surprises in this pandemic and one of them is learning who amongst us has the right level of resilience, appetite for risk and can keep a cool head under pressure.

Concern levels in Australia. Source: Marketforce

There have been many surprises in this pandemic and one of them is learning who among family, friends, colleagues, leaders and, in some cases, entire nations, has the right level of resilience, appetite for risk, and can keep a cool head under pressure.

Today I had another such surprise listening to a presentation by Marketforce chief executive Adam Marshall on brand and marketing during a pandemic.

Apparently 30-to-39-year-old people are doing it toughest in this crisis. That is not something I expected to hear. Far from bulletproof, as I would have expected, it seems their stress levels are up and, believe it not, 50 per cent are actually angry about the situation, according to research conducted by the group Marketforce is a part of and supplied to the federal government. 

It was the most dynamic and contemporaneous part of Mr Marshall’s presentation, because the rest was leaning on history and the well-known fact that those who use a crisis to increase their market share and brand awareness emerge stronger. More on that later.

When it comes to COVID-19, compared to other Aussies, especially those aged 60 and older, the 30-somethings are real worrywarts, and their concerns are not diminishing as fast as those of the rest of us. 

Initially that seemed odd to me. This age bracket is not in the cohort most likely to suffer the worst of the virus, they have young kids and, in many cases, even their parents will be too young to be in the risky 70-plus demographic. Then again, most are Millennials, and they are considered a little less resilient than older generations. Interestingly, most 20-somethings are also Millennials and they seemed quite chilled, relatively speaking.

Mr Marshall offered some qualifications as to why they might feel threatened by COVID-19.

Firstly, this cohort entered the workforce or had their early career disrupted by the GFC and feel ripped off that events that set them back a decade ago were being revisited.

“They were told it was a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Mr Marshall said regarding the GFC and, presumably in Western Australia, the mining downturn that followed it.

“That has knocked their confidence.”

“Fear around job security and financial wellbeing and their family is acute.”

This age group is a key moment in their lives. I will expand on what Mr Marshall has said here. Many have mortgages without significant equity in their homes, they are emerging as leaders in their careers but not yet in charge, many may have only recently started their business and all that entails, this age group typically has young children and all the dreams of the futures this entails.

In comparison, the 60-plus group is relaxed. Why shouldn’t they be, the government has stopped the whole economy to protect their health.

Now, again, I was ad libbing there.

Mr Marshall would never be so crass as to suggest the Baby Boomers, yet again, are benefitting at everyone’s cost (after all, he isn’t tweeting on the ABC’s Q&A program).

But for those who watched that show on Monday night without, thankfully, a live audience to spoil an otherwise dignified debate, there is definitely a growing edge in views about intergenerational debt.

Mr Marshall did touch on this.

“Watch out for tension between generations,” he said.  

It is ridiculous but worth noting, as the marketing expert was alluding to, that the population is worried and, for those wanting to sell goods and services, allaying fears and removing anxiety is important.

Without wanting to be too partisan here, Mr Marshall said newspapers were a good place to put messages around addressing community fears, because they were authentic and trusted.

I won’t do justice to Mr Marshall’s presentation. You can find a downloadable copy of his presentation on the Marketforce website, which outlines his points adequately.

What is worth mentioning is that he reminded us that global cereal giant Kellogg's has famously increased its advertising expenditure during downturns and is considered as the poster child for the strategy of increasing share voice when the market is constrained; because evidence shows that the result is increased market share when the recovery comes.

Obviously, that is a message our business wants you to hear, but go and check it out for yourself.







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