Why ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay’ can help marketers understand Generation K

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I caught up on the final instalment of The Hunger Games movies – Mockingjay Part 2 – this week, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. However, this film has much more to offer the marketing world than you may have first thought.

Southpaw's Tom Primrose.

Katniss, the lead character of the Hunger Games films, is 16 years of age when we meet her. She would be part of the now-named ‘Generation K’, which was in fact named after her. Gen K refers to those born between 1995 and 2002. These 13 – 20 year olds have grown up in a world where technology is obsessed over; they fear terrorism and traditional institutions such as the government and marriage are distrusted.

Throughout the series, Katniss is almost in a constant state of anxiety and understandably so. This anxiety is a common trait for Gen K, who have witnessed 9/11, 7/7 and the rise of ISIS at a frighteningly young age. Add to this the recession and corruption in world bodies such as FIFA and it’s easy to see why this generation think adults are unreliable.

The distinctive thing about Katniss is how she connects with people. She inspires children and has the belief of those twice her age. It is this connection that Gen K crave so greatly. These digital natives are hyper connected and use social media to engage with friends across the world, just as Katniss does with her followers through the series. On top of this, Gen K are also politically aware and engaged; especially in comparison to previous generations.

What is most promising about Gen K is that they have a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. From the outset The Hunger Games heroine provides for her family, keeps her depressed mother stable and raises her sister Prim. These are situations, bow and arrow aside that many teenagers may identify with themselves.

But it’s not just terrorism and recessions that keep Gen K awake at night, they’re also concerned about climate change, supporting equal rights for transgender people and are horrified by the gender pay gap. This last point is something that actress Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Katniss), has spoken out against herself earlier this year. Further fighting the cause for this generation.

This is a brave, connected and perceptive generation. It’s important that unlike the Hunger Games villain President Snow we don’t underestimate these girls and boys, but instead we help them define our future.

For brands to win with this generation, they will need to act on the three main findings:

  1. Brands must reassure these anxious teens. Brands that de-stress and help Gen K to build confidence will become trusted and important to them.
  2. Brands must not ‘dumb down’ communications with teens. The Gen K audience needs to be treated with intellectual respect. This respect will be reciprocated to the brand, helping to create a two-way relationship.
  3. Brands must act ethically - Gen K consumers have a moral compass and will be much more inclined to invest in an organisation that makes a positive difference in the world. It’s also a sure fire way to build brand love and loyalty.

The brands that act on these lessons today have a chance of still being part of Gen K’s lives when The Hunger Games films are inevitably remade in 30 years’ time.

Tom Primrose is a planner at Southpaw.

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