CASSANDRA Daily is an online compendium of the latest developments in the world of popular culture. It ordinarily arrives in one’s in-box parceled out in themes. This week’s topics included “mindful housing,” vintage teen literature, and new weather-related apps for smartphones, because apparently we’re all obsessed with atmospheric conditions.
Not surprisingly, I was unaware of any of these manias. It’s ignorant slobs like me who would be most edified by attending Cassandra Daily’s recently announced “trend schools.” Unfortunately, however, the schools’ student body is not made up of oblivious dorks, but instead comprises “thousands of executives.”
You and I know what that means – thousands of executives who are trying to sell people things. These are 2013’s Mad Men, signing up to learn how to hawk goods to a generation that sports pork pie hats and chest-length beards, and gets around perched on bamboo unicycles with built-in iPads.
Cassandra Daily’s news release says its trend schools, which take place in New York and L.A., will have a “special focus on the changing face of Gens Y and Z.” Argh – those are my kids that the experts will be generalizing about, just so the thousands of executives can target them in their marketing.
I understand that I have a bad attitude – what else is new? In fact, if I don’t watch out, I might get sent to remedial trend school. That would be the worst: not only would I have to learn about baffling fads on the cusp of taking hold, I’d probably have to do a review of crazes past. Who can remember them?
Except in the arena of food and drink, I’m trend-averse. I avoid keeping up with changes to our perfectly good English language. I can’t be the only one retching at the sight of TV ads about toilet paper telling us to “Enjoy the go” and the sound of radio pundits using the expression “the go-forward on this.” The fact that everybody else is doing or saying or thinking something is no reason for me to do so – that’s my credo. It hasn’t done me any special service in life, but it naturally follows that I’m a trend school nightmare.
In my mind’s eye, I see myself standing before the headmistress at Cassandra Daily Trend School. Her physique is as gruesomely gristly as Madonna’s. Dressed in a ludicrous outfit of homespun hemp hotpants, her blonde hair in rasta braids, with a thin sheen of moustache wax twirling the ends of her purple eyebrows, she’s seated on top of a desk made of petrified organic carrots.
“Lady, you’re obviously not our target demographic. Out!” she says.
She looks pointedly at my baggy hand-me-down capri pants, unflattering oversized T-shirt and sensible non-slip sandals and presses a switch that makes the floor beneath me slide open and sends me plummeting to Remedial Trend School (RTS).
RTS is both punishment and education centre. It feels like one of those giant stores where you can’t find the exit and everything is plasticized, was made in China and reeks of toxins. It’s not at all like the retro corner stores – “house-made popsicles a specialty!” -- that trend schools are sure to encourage their students to establish.
According to Cassandra Daily, Gen Ys consider themselves to be “Venture Consumers” who support ideas and companies they believe in. (Gen Zs are 17 and under so they probably haven’t given that concept much thought.) They’re starting to ask for “debranded” goods and “blank-slate styles,” and reject “conspicuous branding,” which will be a relief to those of us who’ve tired of averting our eyes from juvenile FCUK sweatshirts. Clearly the hipsters have had an influence here, since the fresher move is to personalize one’s accessories and “imprint” one’s individualism on the world at large. Other news outlets report that this group isn’t especially interested in owning cars, either.
Gen Ys “have responded to economic uncertainty and a challenging professional landscape by embracing a new Off-Roading mentality,” says Cassandra Daily. “(They’re) forging unconventional, alternative, off-road paths to a newly-defined adulthood.”
Is “off-roading” the new “living off the grid”? I’ll bet you anything that people who are off-roaders and reject branding loathe being branded as off-roaders. Being part of a demographic is a drag, isn’t it, Gen Ys? Now you know how people my age feel about being lumped in with shallow Baby Boomers and consumerist yuppies, however fairly.
In our day, thousands of executives knew exactly how to market consumer goods to us so we’d buy them. What are their modern equivalents going to do with a generation of individualists whose chief distinctions are that they dislike brands, want to make quirky things for themselves and don’t wish to be part of a herd?
The democratization that, for better or worse, began with the Internet and encourages a constant virtual free-for-all is going to be a serious challenge to marketers. More power to your resistance, Gen Y, and far less power to the thousands of executives flocking to trend schools to figure out how to rope you in.