I’m a classic Gen X’er: a latchkey kid turned cynical parent. One comforting constant of my past (make fun of me, please) is TV. I just love it all, from PBS to USA. Thankfully, a little goes a long way for me these days.
When I click past MTV, wanting so much to ‘get it’, it occurs to me that I’ll be turning 45 next year and slowly becoming obsolete, at least culturally speaking. Heck, even looking at the top songs on iTunes, I only recognize half and choose to listen to 70’s love songs instead, a true indulgence.
So, it begs the question: Just how generational is culture?
As one example, I look to HBO’s passing of the mantle from Candace Bushnell – “Sex and the City” – to Lena Dunham – “Girls”. While both shows recount the trials and tribulations of four women living in NYC, the similarities end there. Or do they? It’s no secret that “Sex and the City” is a classic Gen X vehicle. All a bit edgy, not quick to trust but quick to judge.
With “Girls“, the characters seem like vessels for a broader cultural account of what it means to be a Millennial (spoken from the POV of a Gen X so please, take it with a grain of salt). A strong sense of narcissism is at play in “Girls”, but these characters are younger by comparison, too – twentysomethings to the largely thirtysomethings of “Sex and the City”. As a result, they are on a steeper learning curve. More entertaining for us, more challenging for them. And unlike “Sex and the City”, these girls appear to come from a more exclusive monied world and have connections (in real life as well FYI), so their egos seem stronger, less afraid of failure.
When “Sex and the City 2” came out, it flopped on many levels. The franchise had clearly lost its steam and the glitzy, gold-laden world they lived in seemed like a fairy tale that stung like an insulting slap to the face amid a recession that still lingers to this day. They were not lockstep with culture, something so important to us at CBX as we work diligently to retain brand relevance for our clients. “Girls” fills that cultural void with a hyper reality of grit and mistakes, STD’s and leechy husbands. They celebrate the desperation of their lives instead of hiding it. With “Sex and the City”, there was a sense of embarrassment to their struggles, a posturing of sorts. Is it too much of a leap to say “Girls” is the post-recessionary “Sex and the City”? Culture is a mirror; we see realities whether we want to or not.
Do I relate? Sure, a bit. Am I entertained? Most definitely.
It is important not only to know your audience’s stats but what makes them tick. We have a definition for culture here at CBX: where motivations and opportunity fuse in mass behavior. Only once we understand consumer need and what is culturally satisfying that need do we see how to fill the void. This void does not begin and end with demographics but lies along a spectrum of emotion that helps tell a much deeper and interesting brand story.