The Occupy Wall Street movement that began last year often touted its diversity, from disillusioned 20 year olds up to retired seniors. But there was even more diversity than that, especially on October 21, when the Occupy Wall Street family sleepover took place in New York’s Zuccotti Park. Organized primarily by the subgroup Parents for Occupy Wall Street, the event and others like it show a new family unit that is becoming more common: young, hip, urban families.
Whether referred to as Generation Y, the Millennials, the Peter Pan Generation, or a slew of other markers, this generation is starting to have children, and thus pass on their own values. What are the trends, mindsets, and commercial practices they are proliferating? New businesses and marketing campaigns are starting to show some examples of how this generation combines their own wants and needs with those of their children.
The growth of the coffee shop as a neo-salon for general social gatherings in the 90′s changed the commercial landscape. But now that the teens who frequented these cafes have kids, there is a new need for ‘family-friendly’ coffee shops, like Playful Grounds in Toronto, ON Canada. Their mission is to serve this burgeoning demographic by creating the coffeehouse atmosphere the parents are used to while providing a play-area for their children. This trend is spreading, with a similar venture called Family Grounds Cafe in Chicago, which describes itself as joining three passions: coffee, community, kids.
In Williamsburg, a haven for hipster culture, the concept emerges in the form of a (members-only) children’s playspace. You won’t find castles, forests, or any more traditional kiddie-fare, though: Frolic! is “the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll play space for the urban ‘under six’ crowd and their parents.” The space is complete with a Rolling Stones-themed slide, colorful VolksWagon Type 2 Van, and features art, yoga, and music lessons as well as a coffee shop, naturally.
Consider also the increase in popular, indie music featured in children’s properties. Last year’s “Winnie the Pooh” movie had a soundtrack featuring indie-darling Zooey Deschanel (of She & Him), as well as a trailer using Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know.” Since the movie is sold on nostalgia factor and a new property for children, the use of music is clearly meant to appeal to the parents just as much as the children themselves, with marketers hoping the parents will make the decision to bring their children to the theater.
Or take Nick Jr.’s Yo Gabba Gabba!, which is hosted by a DJ, Lance Rock, and frequently features guest stars like The Shins, Shiny Toy Guns, Hot Hot Heat, The Flaming Lips, and many other prominent indie rock bands, looking to appeal specifically to the Generation Y parents whose children are watching the show.
The Millennials-as-Parents demographic is still being formed, but with their own cultural values and increasing share of the nation’s wealth, they will quickly become a dominant entity in the consumer space. The attentive marketer will have to recognize their growing impact, and figure out how to engage this group and their children.