Roshni Hegerman
Nov 22, 2016

Alone together and the search for identity: Youth in Australia

Roshni Hegerman shares Australian specifics from McCann's recent 'Truth about youth' research.

Roshni Hegerman
Roshni Hegerman

In Australia, millennials account for 18 percent of the population, translating to a combined disposable income of $530 million per year. This makes the generation a highly sought after cohort. Labeled as the generation that would defy advertising, many feared this group’s rejection of marketing. While they haven’t rejected it just yet; they have changed how they connect with and approach it.

How, you’re asking…Technology.

The advances in technology over the past five years have had a tremendous effect on the way young adults define themselves, define who they belong to and define their place in the world.

The implication of this massive cultural force has created an overwhelming amount of choice in young people’s lives. This choice creates a complexity previously unknown to young generations in the past, and has increased social/political issues driving uncertainty.

Within this context, Australian millennials are extending their adolescence and taking their time to figure out who they want to be and what they want to do. With the average acceptable age for living at home being 31, the urgent need to become an adult has been delayed. Instead they now consider the notion of “adulthood” to be a fluid state, something they choose to dip in and out of on a daily basis, depending on the context.

This notion of fluidity is a common theme with Australian Millennials in terms how they explore their self-identity and connect with others.

The majority of Australian young people are taking their time to figure out what they’re truly passionate about—planting various seedlings across multiple passion-points, waiting to see which blossom. They are fluid about their journey and approach to defining who they are. Their main source of inspiration comes from the online world, and they tend to admire influencers in pop culture and social media.

Alone together is the new normal

While our research reveals that Australian youth are “accessibility natives,” meaning they have grown up in a world in which they have access to information at anytime, we find that they feel deeply socially disconnected from one another.

The worst thing about our generation is that we are anti-social, because we’re not talking; at lunch time people are on their phoneswe’re connected, but not.
—15 year-old Australian respondent

Young Australians are seeking to re-connect with people in real-time for “real”.

Yet, it’s not easy. The need to be cool is still very important for most Aussie youth, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to feel like their online persona is considered cool by others: they are more likely than any other country to feel pressure about how they portray themselves online. Further, 27 percent of young adults report that they have posted a negative comment about someone online and 60 percent say they have judged someone by the photos they have posted. In Australia, trying to “truly” connect is scary!

In this context, it’s no wonder why platforms like Snapchat are so popular; they offer a safe place where young people can express their creativity in a raw and authentic way.

Related: ‘Adulting’: A fluid process for young people

What does all this mean for brands? Reaching the Australian millennial means being authentic to your brand mission. It means creating platforms that they can access on their terms. And, most importantly, it means understanding their ongoing struggles to create solutions that help promote a more inclusive, positive world in which they can thrive.

Roshni Hegerman is strategic planning director at McCann Sydney.  

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