Melaleuca Media
Quality and distinctive business writing

Beware of Greeks bearing posters

Queensland's quality business bi-monthly Business Acumen Queensland retained Melaleuca Media at its inception to provide lead features and photography that grabbed attention and set agendas. Read on:

Want your share of $40 billion? Just ask Y

Quarterlife crisis - How to appeal to the hearts, minds and...err wallets of Generation Y.

“People try to put us down, just because we get around” screamed the Who forty years ago. Business Acumen's Susan Brown isn't trying to cause a big sensation, she just took a look at the new generation.

They agonise, check their stars, think the world is their oyster, believe in hard work and use their parents as role models. Welcome to Generation Y, the 16 to 28 year olds who break all the stereo types and offer up around forty billion dollars per year in disposable income.

The authors of the first big report into Gen Y in Australia had motive – figuring out how to sell to them. Melbourne firms Spin Communications and Sweeney Research took a year to produce the tell all Spin Sweeney report interviewing more than a thousand 16-28 year olds. They added in depth interviews with 12 focus groups, 20 opinion leaders and 20 lifestyle profiles and published late last year. A copy will set you back a tidy $14,000.

Gen Y can be grouped by age and by many characteristics, but then things get complicated. The report authors eventually divided this generation into six roughly equal tribes, with movement between the tribes common. The tribes (see box) are the Glitterazi (25%), Burbanites (18%), Life Junkies (16%), Drifters (16%), Life Mappers (14% and the Renegades (11%). Of the 3.3 million Gen Y's in Australia, more than 1.2 million are studying, more than 1.2 million are employed full time and over seven hundred thousand are employed part time.

This lot are “the marketer's dream” according to the report. “They are pure consumers. The generation before them bought something because they really wanted it. These young adults see buying as simply part of life”. They are “brand focussed like no generation before them.” But don't take them for granted. If you get the approach wrong it can be punishing. It is called “withholding loyalty”.

This age group has $235 of disposable income to spend per week and an aching need to spend it. Brands are oh so important and those identified with sporting sponsorships scored highly in the favourite brands category. Other results show Generation Y demand more meaningful relationships with brands and markets. They don't want the equivalent of one night stands with their consumerism – they want long term relationships, snappy, funny, clever advertising, good warranties and follow through and minus the sales pitch thanks very much.

Advertise with them, in their language and talk to them, not down to them is the take home message for anyone wanting to poke their paws into Gen Y's pockets. This lot deliberately underspend in some areas to spend up on necessities like food and rent and desirables like phones (88% have a mobile), clothes and entertainment. Corporate speak, focus on shareholder dividends and superficial promises of quality or corporate/community relationships are a b-i-g turn off. The report says “it is those companies in various categories that connect best with their lifestyle and attitudes that invariably come to the top of the pile.”

And the brands with the magic touch? Nike, Sony, Billabong, Coca-Cola, adidas, Holden, RipCurl, Cadbury, Quiksilver, McDonalds are extracting the most of Gen Y's disposables. Apart from humour, the key to advertising seems to be resonating with this age group's priorities or “key defining traits”. Sex doesn't sell, it was way south on the list. Family relationships, friends, partners, career, health and fitness, socialising, financial security, living for today, avoiding stress, appearance and grooming, and entertainment were all above sex as priorities. “This generation expects to be advertised to, yet very few campaigns resonate” points out the report.

If you want to retail to this generation (check the numbers, 3.3 million young adults by $235 per week by 52 weeks per year), give them “unique and specialised experiences that are just as much about the outing as what is purchased.” Forget about self service, they like to be helped. And if you want to tell them about it so you can retail to them– they mostly get their information from – wait for it – newspapers. The net comes second with TV third on the list. Magazines score highly but they have to be the right ones like Oyster, Wallpaper, Vice, Rolling Stone or local or international versions of Marie Claire or Vogue. The newspaper result may be a little startling for the technology generation, but when it is matched with later results - where Gen Y get their info on weekend entertainment from – it starts to make sense. Be warned, if a Gen Y finds out about your product, they want to be able to do the research on it – online or by phone – immediately. This is the instant gratification generation.

And forget using celebrities for sales appeal. Nearly all are a turn off with this generation who are cynical about the rise and fall of sports, movie and music stars. They are used as “style guides but not role models.” Generation Y are looking for people with more grounded, down to earth and ultimately altruistic qualities. Asked to cite role models and time and time again they look to their parents. Attempting to appeal to this generation through the image of rebellion will fail according to the report – Gen Y respect their parents and the job they have done.

The agonisers

Introspective, procrastinating, agonising, this generation want it all and think they can have it, but often aren't quite sure how to get there. The report authors identified a “quarter life crisis” with many wondering what they really wanted out of life and deeply questioning personal fulfillment. “They can also be prone to procrastination on major personal direction issues as they know there is no rewind button in life and they fear feeling 'hollow' down the track” says the report. Young adults want the stability of other generations, but they are desperately seeking personal fulfillment as well.

There is a fear of being left behind and making the wrong choices according to the report or “an undercurrent of anxiety when you dig into their psyche.” The grass is greener fear leads to behaviour which viewed from the outside seems “quite erratic and untethered”. Partly they are lucky enough to be “overwhelmed by choice” when at various life crossroads and worry when they have to make important life decisions that they are making the right ones. “What if that's not right for me?”, or “I have no script to follow and I hate it” were two of the identifying responses.

Perhaps that is why so many seek guidance from the stars with many participants checking daily often via their mobile phones or online. Or why suicide statistics for young men are high and many young women were living near the edge of a nervous breakdown. Or admitted to both decorous and dangerous behaviour. While 73% of participants had read a book and 27% had volunteered time to charity in the month before the survey, 56% had got drunk, 17% had unprotected sex and 36% had been in a car with someone driving well over the speed limit.

World events and uncertainty are a topic of conversation “This time three years ago my friends and I would never have stood around at a huge party and discussed world affairs, now we are talking about terrorism, religion and politics” said one. Though how much sense their conversations make at these parties is a matter of speculation with phenomenal rates of illegal drug use and alcoholism geared towards weekend highs and eccy (Ecstacy) Tuesday lows. In any case the uncertainty helps drive them towards more stable relationships with family and friends with 87% having good relationships with parents and many consulting parents with on purchasing choices.

There is a lot to fit into a day when you are a member of Generation Y who specialise in “time compression” to fit in work, study, sport, housework, socialising, family, relationships and 'me' time. Everyone is busy with little spare time to sit around and relax. This social lifestyle, while full to the gunnels is fairly spontaneous and flexible. “For many of our young adults the short term is tonight, the medium term the weekend, the long term next week”.

The report emphasises this is a completely different generation and the old ways of evaluating or judging what young people want just don't apply. In the 1970's or 1980's the answer to this statement “I live for today rather than planning for the future” would have certainly skewed to the affirmative. Not so this generation where only 37% in total gave it a tick. Life Mappers gave it an icy nine percent response and even the devil may care Drifters, irresponsible and full of ennui, only managed 55 percent.

The good news though, is a emerging theme of optimism. Gen Y is looking forward to the future, they think it is theirs and they can do anything they want with it. They want it all and they believe they can have it all while they are still young enough to enjoy it.

Five day working weeks, relationships, mortgages, progressing in predictable milestones are not part of the picture for young adults. The world can be what you make it. Many want to travel but not when they are “retired, sore and arthritic”. After travel they want a successful career and they look forward to a future neatly encapsulated by one participant “You want to have everything by the time you are 40”.

But the more some things change, the more they stay the same. Perhaps this generation aren't radically different. As one participant's fairly frank epithet shows “The way I see my life unfolding...well let's put it this way, when I'm old and grey I want to look back on my life and honestly say I've had more good times than bad and be happy and financially comfortable in my old age. When I die I'd like to honestly be remembered as a great guy who lived life to the fullest, not some old boring senile git.” Yeah. Whatever.

The Tribes

Glitterazzi (25%): stress-free and all about me; more males and younger age; cruising and living for today; focused on the immediate; most interested in themselves (above all else); material success is important; optimistic about the future; largely conscience free.

Burbanites (18%): traditional values and aspirations; equal male/female, skew to older; material success less important than relationships, religion and family; grounded; could also be called 2.5ers because of their focus on the archetypal Australian family.

Life Junkies (16%): pack as much into their lives as possible; female skew and evenly spread across the age range; zeal for life and chase time; relationships and their personal appeals are their priorities; pursuing well-being through a balance between emotional, physical, financial and material securities, and sometimes a bit of religion; workplace stress and not enough time for me.

Drifters (16%): detached, introverted and lacking in drive; equal male/female, live at home, low disposable income; relationship issues, parents and prospective partners; long-term goals unlikely; unlikely to attach high importance to most things; have a social conscience.

Life Mappers (14%): stability is of huge importance; male skew and older in age (very focused on career and financial prosperity); intangibles sacrificed for tangible gains; typically work full time and could be called Walleteers; mostly in touch with older generations.

Renegades (11%): live life on the edge; more males and younger; cliff walkers and suburban heroes who live for the moment; reject responsible behaviour in favour of more adventurous/reckless pastimes (drinking, drugs); high incidence of those not born in Australia and least likely to focus on Australia.
Source: Sweeney Research and Spin Communications 2003

Beware of Greeks bearing postersBack to top

Red faces abound as insurance payouts on load of old posters total around $1 million.

There have been some red faces around insurance circles following revelations that a pair of Brisbane-based Greek businessmen received insurance payouts of around $1 million for various misfortunes to a load of old posters. Estimates of the actual value of the posters varied, but the Federal Court’s Justice Susan Kiefel eventually settled on $63,570.

Australia’s leading poster expert, a Mr Cocks thought this to be very generous, after giving evidence that most of the collection was old, “unfashionable” and about 80 percent unsaleable.

The case, of course, was about something completely different. Associated Marine Insurers technically won its claim against the Mediterranean Shipping Company for damages for seawater spoilage to the poster collection. But as their damages were $63,570 to offset against a payout of $883,390, it fits most definitions of a pyhhric victory. Naturally, they have appealed to the Full Court and were awaiting judgement but not commenting at the time of writing.

For businesses, the case is a salutory lesson that price is no evidence of value. Christopher Carl was once a big name in posters of movie stars, musicians and motorcycles around Australia. But that was back in the 70s when such things were vastly more popular than they are today. Christopher Carl, and its proprietor fell on hard times. The collection went on the market; Cocks wouldn’t have it at any price and the rest of the industry seems to have followed his cue.

In early 1999, a Mr Petrogiannakis bought the Christopher Carl land, building and business for $400,000. The business bit was ostensibly acquired by Aphrodite Petrogiannakis as trustee for the Posters Business Trust for $150,000. Mr Petrogiannakis told the court he had sold “quite a few” of the posters. Posters and records were also lost in two fires at the premises; the first in June 1999 attracted an insurance payout of $170,000 and the second, in September 1999, attracted an insurance payout of $122,000.

Then along came Mr John Theodorakopoulous, who had been at least an acquaintance of Petrogiannakis for a decade or so. He arranged to buy the poster collection for $956,545 according to one invoice on condition he could sell it at a profit. Kiefel J noted that no catalogues, inventories or other evidence of value were presented in evidence, and that “Mr Petrogiannakis had no idea of the value of the stock when he purchased the business and Mr Theodorakopoulous had none when he was negotiating with Mr Petrogiannakis”.

Mr Theodorakopoulous gave evidence that after verbal inquiries of a Greek poster shop and of “gypsies who sold through stalls at flea markets” he believed he could sell the posters for AUD $25 each in Greece. From Theodorakopoulous, Petrogiannakis got a guarantee that he could sue in Greece for any unpaid amounts under an invoice issued in December 1999.

The posters were duly bundled up and dispatched to Greece where nothing untoward was noted on the first opening for customs inspection, but a cargo spoiled by seawater was found when the container was opened in the presence of Theodorakopoulous, who rejected the cargo. Theodorakopoulous took photographs, but the insurer wasn’t immediately available so the cargo was inspected in a warehouse the next day.

The insurer’s marine surveyor Mr Pavlidis initially agreed with the diagnosis of seawater damage from a damaged container but then developed a few doubts. The court noted that it had been unable to resolve these in the absence of evidence from various other agents and truck drivers who had been inspecting, handling and otherwise dealing with the cargo in Greece..
Associated Marine paid Petrogiannakis in July 2000, and then sought recompense under international maritime law against Mediterranean shipping in the name of its two clients.

It was submitted that the Hague convention governing the carriage of goods by sea specifies that value is assessed as value to the consignee of goods at destination and “where there has been a sale between two people in business, at a date close to the valuation date and there has been no material change, the price obtained in such a sale is the best evidence of value”.

Said Kiefel J however, “I respectfully agree that it may be stated as a general rule and that such an approach accords with common sense. That does not, however, require it to be applied where the contract price in question has no apparent basis in market prices or valuations. The transaction between Mr Petrogiannakis and Mr Theodorakopoulous, and the method by which they ascertained a price, could not be regarded as very business-like, or as usual in business, except perhaps a business of the most speculative kind. No confidence can be placed in the contract price as reflecting market value without evidence to support it.”

She found in favour of Theodorakopoulous as proxy for Associated Marine, but Mediterranean Shipping can hardly have been dismayed. It transpired during the trial that they had made two offers of settlement, both for well above the eventual award.

The judgement on appeal is being awaited with considerable interest.