Tuesday 10 May, 2016
PR 2016

While brands and marketers continue their obsession with the ever-growing Millennial generation, they are neglecting a €150bn opportunity to engage an EMEA audience that is unlike any the world has ever seen.

You might argue that this is true for any new generation but the unique convergence of technology proliferation and geopolitical instability has led to a unique mindset that requires a unique kind of engagement.

That’s the finding of economist and author Noreena Hertz, Weber Shandwick’s new strategic partner, who has coined the term Generation K to describe the world’s teenagers, named after their spiritual leader, Hunger Games hero Katniss Everdeen.

Members of Gen K are quite unlike other Millennials, many of whom are already well into their 30s and whose teenage years are a distant, fumbling, hormone-fuelled memory – and yet brands, businesses and governments treat them the same.

Treating such a vast group as one amorphous block is a huge missed business opportunity when you consider that (at last count) there were 40 million Millennials in the U.S. alone: that’s double the population of Romania.

Those of us who want to engage Gen K must be more precise in our understanding and targeting. We need a more informed and refined view of this younger generation, as it is already starting to have a big impact on workforces and high streets.

On stage at Adweek Europe with Noreena Hertz and Buzzfeed’s general manager for Europe Kate Burns, we only scratched the surface of what makes Gen K tick (watch our full panel discussion below). Themes included their anxiety (17% of American high school students have contemplated suicide), their mistrust of corporations (only 6% trust vs 60% of adults), their need to do good (92%) and their passion for co-creation.

We also explored how older users define themselves by information and younger users by identity, how content without an ending engages them, and how they’d much rather spend time with Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie than Harry Styles. There remains much more to discover.

What I have already learned, though, from working with Noreena Hertz and speaking at length to those who have a particular interest in engaging Generation K, is that there are four questions brands need to ask before they seek to engage:

  • Are you for real? What’s the raw core of your business, will it appeal to a generation that demands transparency and authenticity and can you live it through all you do?
  • Are you finished? Are you comfortable co-creating BETA campaigns, products, even brands, with those seeking uniqueness and involvement?
  • Are you purposeful? Do you have a visionary purpose that drives your actions and can you use it to help Gen K find the meaning and purpose they themselves crave?
  • Can you help? Are you able to guide and reassure a generation in a state of constant worry and concern about the world, society and their own prospects?
  • Can you join? Are you able to confidently join Gen K conversations without being intrusive or contrived? Can you unlock the power of their P2P connections?

Thanks to Noreena’s research, we have a much clearer picture of the world view of 14-21 year olds. It’s time to take the opportunity to engage this extraordinary, unprecedented audience.

If you’d like to better understand Gen K attitudes to your brand or category and explore how you can unlock their potential for your business, please contact

Full details of this year’s AdWeek Europe are here