Millennial spring – wake up and smell the revolution fuelled by Britain’s hung parliament blues

Without fear or favour, Richard J. Hillgrove VI tips the tables up on world leaders, brands and countries who all often think they can hide behind the smoke and mirrors via their communications professionals. Bang On takes a full throttle, punk approach to dissecting and analysing modern PR and marketing. It's not for the faint hearted....

Post-election blues are colouring the zeitgeist in Britain, and a revolution is underway that marketers should ignore at their peril.

Young voters are giving the finger to politics and the status quo. They’re doing it for themselves after their messiah Jeremy Corbyn left them in limbo with a hung parliament.

YouGov surveys show a whopping 57% of 18-19 year-old first time voters turned out to vote, with 66% of them putting their crosses by a Labour candidate. Polls show 61.5% of under 40s voted Labour overall.

That’s a lot of frustration swelling the ranks of the disaffected in a rudderless Britain, with millennials leading the stampede.

The electric charge of all the energy and passion that seemingly came out of nowhere for Corbyn is still there. The trouble is it's live and dangerous, with no earth wire in sight.

Music has trumpeted the mood of generations through the ages from the earliest protest songs to punk; a mood Corbyn aimed to marshal and amplify when he got in on the act at Glastonbury this year.

In the 70s, punk was arguably all anger and violence with little or no compassion, although punk-positive icons The Clash had a social conscience.

Today’s mood shows a very different face. Millennials are doing it their way.

The same levels of anger and resentment that set the punk revolution alight are finding expressions of inclusively, diversity and a great deal of compassion.

Don’t be fooled, though. This is no hippy trip. Expect media fireworks as the formulaic, albeit tried and tested, route to mass market entertainment ITV-style is about to be tipped on its head.

The first signs of the damn bursting are the raw and angry sounds emerging on Channel 4 from midnight on Tuesdays for the next three weeks.

The new series Sound and Vision was created, produced and presented by Billie JD Porter, who the Sunday Times calls a “wild child turned woke girl”. That pretty much sums up this new zeitgeist.

The first episode features black, gay and HIV-positive performance artist Mykki Blanco beating up the audience with a pillow on stage while touring the Bible Belt of America.

The Advertising Standards Authority seems to be catching up here. It’s just thrown down the gauntlet to outmoded marketers by announcing plans to toughen up on ads that perpetuate sexist stereotypes or mock people who don’t conform to stereotypical gender roles.

While the old-school might be challenged by this, the new kids on the block are on the ball. The question here is where they’ll run with it.

Sound and Vision champions a newfound spirit of defiance in music, as more and more performers push against the corporate machine.

Any artist on a conveyor belt of record promotion, answering the same old questions in a hotel room to queues of journalists could whistle for a party invite according to Porter.

“Independence legitimises artists now. The internet has allowed lots of new young artists to brand themselves in a way that’s more on point than anything the marketing teams at big labels come up with,” Porter told the Sunday Times.

“The self-control and authenticity shows, and the fans can tell the real from the fake and overly PR’ed.”

Elsewhere, the democratic nature of online streaming channels is unleashing creative expression that would never get past the conservative corporate machine’s old guard.

Take the new Netflix original feature film, Okja, starring Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal and hailed by the Guardian as possibly the streaming service’s first blockbuster.

This sci-fi fantasy not only asks uncomfortable questions about where our food comes from but also exposes the savagery behind corporate capitalism’s friendly smiles.

People are waking up and speaking out, and this new wave is anchored deep in a compassion that earlier punk lacked.

It’s vital that marketers understand the depths of this DIY revolution. It’s not all show and no substance. It is about breaking down barriers and allowing the best to blossom.

The Drum’s own Chip Shop Awards are a great example. The awards are about fostering and recognising creativity without limits. The challenge to entrants is to create a campaign they’ve always wanted to but haven’t yet dared.

Millennials don’t want to smash things up. They want to learn to knit and sew and mend by watching YouTube training videos.

“In the past, crafting and ‘doing it yourself’ seemed to be reserved for grandmas and middle aged women book club activities,” writes Jeff Fromm, a self-proclaimed DIY-addict.

“Now, young adults under the age of 35 dominate the $29 billion crafting industry. Millennials are bringing together technology, creativity and entrepreneurialism as they take on more DIY projects.”

The young entrepreneurial ‘rock stars’ behind Iceland’s first street wear brand, Inklaw, taught themselves how to machine sew from internet how-to videos. Now their brand is big on Instagram and worn by the likes of Justin Bieber.

According to Fromm, marketers need to embrace the notion of active participation. Millennials have been conditioned to engage with content thanks to social media, so let’s harness some of that energy and engage them.

The trend towards individual customisation is growing. Research shows that four out of ten millennials are interested in co-creating products with brands.

And it’s the experiential that has more value to this group. They crave experiences and meaning over tangible things, which is why Toms Shoes is so incredibly successful.

Toms pledge that with every purchase they help a person in need. To quote their totes: “Have fun. Help others. Repeat.”

Bang On to Richard on email richard.hillgrove@6hillgrove.com and Twitter @6hillgrove

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.