Lena Dunham Re-shapes the Meaning of Mainstream

Today's post comes from Ypulse General Manager Jake Katz.

Lena Dunham Re-shapes the Meaning of Mainstream

GirlsIn 2010, The New York Times published an article called “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” This identification of the “emerging adulthood” Millennial phenomenon serves as the creative seed from which HBO’s “Girls” has grown.

“Girls” has sparked as much discussion in the marketing/media community as it has among its viewers. Thematically, the show brings to life many Millennial concepts. In particular, the growing complexities of dating (it’s no coincidence an article titled "The End of Courtship?" ran the same week as “Girls’” premiere). Additionally, the show’s exploration of navigating one’s post-college path to success mirrors much of what our research here at Ypulse shows about how Millennials are realizing their dreams in a post-recession economy.

While much of the discussion around the show has been quick to point out its misses (a lack of diversity in the cast, arguably skin deep analyses of life from Dunham), stepping back and examining it from a few levels higher brings up a more important discussion. The media industry should quickly be decoding what it means for our perceptions, visions, and assumptions of “mainstream America”, that a show set in the most notoriously niche and infamously marketing trapdoor of Williamsburg is as relatable to 20-somethings as the more obvious “The Carrie Diaries.”

The elephant in the room has now been recognized. For every big brand that has learned to assess new ideas, talent, trends, and marketing through a lens of mainstream versus leading edge, could this be the moment we realize the gap between leading edge and mainstream has nearly dissolved? Maybe.

Let’s think about this for a moment. We know this generation of youth…

 
 
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Millennial News Feed

“I won’t buy an already-made costume to dress up in for Halloween because I prefer using my creativity to come up with an uncommon or personalized costume to wearing a mass-produced costume that won't be unique to me.” –Male, 24, CA

One entrepreneur has a big idea to change charity fundraising as we know it—and she’s only 10-years-old. Vivienne Harr started a lemonade stand for charity in 2012 that has turned into Make A Stand lemonade, a family company that donates 5% of each sale. Now, the Harrs are launching StandApp, a mobile platform for donating to and starting crowdfunded social good projects. Twitter’s founders have invested in the app, which tells users they can “make a stand and change the world in 3 steps and 30 seconds.” (Fast Company)

Vice media has established themselves as creators of online content that speaks to young consumers, and now they will launch a global, 24 hour TV network for their Millennial audience. The brand’s Vice News has gotten a reputation for tackling some of the biggest international stories before much more established news organizations, and CEO Shane Smith warned traditional media outlets that as the generation ages up, they will become obsolete, and sites like Vice and BuzzFeed are “the changing of the guard.” (The IndependentThe Drum)

Posting calories counts on menus isn’t necessarily making consumers choose healthier options, but a new study has found that if told what they would have to do to burn off those calories, teens are less likely to buy higher calorie or sugary drinks. When signs were posted in stores telling buyers things like, “Did you know that working off a bottle of soda or fruit juice takes about 5 miles of walking,” 40% of 12-18-year-olds who saw them said they changed their drink choice as a result. Even after the signs were removed these teens continued to make healthier choices. (Washington Post)

Italian clothing label Brandy Melville has reportedly become “one of the fastest growing popular brands among American teens,” but the company is not interested in selling to everyone: they sell most items only in size small. Abercrombie & Fitch has famously lost ground with young consumers thanks to their similarly exclusionary practices, and some teens are expressing their dissatisfaction on Melville’s Instagram, where they are asking for sizes that “fit all.” (Tech Times)

Many Millennials don’t trust banks (or any other large institutions) but it could be that financial organizations are missing a big opportunity with the generation. Adweek’s recent study found that 18-24-year-olds are more likely than other consumers to say they would trust a financial institution more if they provided helpful, unbiased content. But only 20% of respondents felt that these institutions are currently posting interesting articles. (Adweek)

That image at the bottom of our newsletter is a gateway to insights and expert commentary on current and future Millennial trends. Clicking on it takes readers to our daily insights article, available to Silver and Gold subscribers, which illuminates a facet of Millennial culture and helps subscribers to understand the "why" behind the "what." Drawing from our ongoing collection of proprietary data, our deep-dive desk research, and our 10-year history of studying this generation, we figure out what it all means for brands and marketers. (Ypulse)

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