National / International News
First up, an expected bankruptcy filing today is telling us something about the way Americans drive these days, and the wisdom of investing in U.S. infrastructure. The Indiana Toll Road company, which owns the rights to a 157 mile mile stretch of highway in Indiana, has been struggling with about $6 billion of debt. It's just one of several private companies that made what turned out to be bad bets on toll roads. Plus, after the iPhone accounts of some celebrities got hacked recently, Apple's been talking about privacy. It's now released a freshened operating system that makes it tougher for the unauthorized to get into Apple phones and tablets. Not to be outdone, Google's says its doing something similar for Android. Why the move is making law enforcement authorities unhappy. And the long recession deprived many younger people of a way to launch themselves into career-type jobs and what some might call financial adulthood. Which means, they also aren't launching into some big purchases that have traditionally been part of the American Dream: first car, first home, first retirement account. The big challenge here is for the younger workers themselves, but it's also a hassle for marketers.
If you have a password on your smartphone, the new Apple and Android operating systems will encrypt your data so nobody can read it—Not Apple, not Google and not law enforcement.
Adi Kamdar, a policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said this move shows companies are realizing their users care about privacy.
“It is significant because privacy is becoming more of a competitive tool,” he says.
Kamdar says the encryption only applies to the data you keep on your phone. It doesn’t apply to data gathered by apps or that’s stored in the cloud.
Despite these work arounds, law enforcement officials are upset. Ron Hosko, a former assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, says in light of the Snowden revelations, he understands the need to protect privacy. But, he says, Google and Apple have gone too far.
“Two big tech providers are essentially creating sanctuary for people who are going to do harm,” says Hosko.
Hosko said lawmakers need to step-up and make laws that balance privacy and safety.
The recession deprived many young people of a launching pad into career jobs and financial adulthood. And that means they also aren’t launching into some of the major investments that have traditionally been part of the American Dream; such as purchasing a first car or a first home, or starting a first retirement account.
“Because the economy has hurt them so badly, they’ve had a delayed adulthood,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding in New York, which conducts market research on the workplace and consumer expectations of this age cohort. “They don’t reach a salary of $42,000 until the age of thirty at this point; there’s $1.2 trillion in student loan debt; fifty percent of them are unemployed, underemployed or have given up on their job search completely; 21 million are living with their parents.
“They’re in debt,” says Schawbel, who has just published a book on Millennials' job prospects, titled "Promote Yourself: The New Rules of Career Success." “They’re getting married later, getting cars later. In order to make ends meet now, they have to have as few expenses as possible.”
If these consumers delay big-ticket purchases for years to come, or never make them in numbers comparable to the Boomers and Gen Xers before them, it could have a profound effect on the economy in the future.
Still, brands still have to at least try to interest young consumers in purchases such as new cars, starter homes and condos, or major household appliances. Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University and author of the book "Gen BuY: How Tweens, Teens, and Twenty-Somethings Are Revolutionizing Retail" has some advice for marketers.
“What people have is a showcase of who they are,” Yarrow says. Millennials express their identity through their clothes, their appearance, the objects they have around them.
She says new homes are a tough sell—especially in the high-priced hip cities where young people like to live. But furniture shouldn’t be.
“Ikea is perfect for this generation,” she says, “because it has an extremely low price point, it’s really customizable, it’s what you put in it, what you paint on it, how you make it yours.”
Yarrow thinks cars that will be more attractive to young people if the marketing focus is on environmental values and green fuels. “Because it’s not just transportation,” says Yarrow, “it’s also a way of saying who you are to other people.”
Dan Schawbel says the experience of learning about a brand—whether from the brand itself, or from friends and through social media, is crucial for this generation.
“They want interactive experiences,” says Schawbel. "So before you show them the product, before you connect with them, put stuff online that shows this is what you’re getting, here’s the experience, here’s why it could be valuable.”
But he also offers this caveat: “Even if you have a great experience, make the product look really good, you can tweet from the dashboard, all of that—it comes down to how much can Millennials even afford.”
At the moment, that’s not very much.