World: Insider's View - Singapore

The new generation of Singaporeans no longer aspires to join the rat race: they are more interested in global consciousness and the internet, Tay Guan Hin writes.

Fifteen years ago, all that young Singaporeans desired were the five Cs: cash, credit cards, a condominium, membership at a country club and a flash, fast car.

Consumerism has not abated in the intervening years. Rather, there has been an increase in materialism and brand consciousness among Asian youth, as parents who work longer hours offer material goods to compensate for the lack of time they spend with their children.

However, the five Cs advertising executives need to know when targeting youths have changed. The Straits Times, the leading Singaporean newspaper, has updated the criteria for the 21st century. Now it reads: connectivity, choice, cheek, causes and consciousness.

Connectivity rules through the use of iPods, MMS phones, weblogs and online gaming. Asian youths probably know their online friends better than their schoolmates and their social network is dependent on their online connectivity. No broadband? No friends.

Medicine and engineering are no longer the preferred career choices for Asian children as parents realise careers can be made in dance, sports and even tourism. More students are choosing alternative routes based on their interests rather than convention. What they want is more flexibility and freedom to pursue their passion.

With freedom their predecessors did not enjoy, they have grown more comfortable with showing a little cheek: they are increasingly refusing to join the rat race and would rather save money and travel to exotic lands on budget airlines. Live for today, and tomorrow will come when it comes. Grandparents may have struggled to make ends meet, but generation "next", who have more time and cash, are hooked on causes of different kinds. The impact of the tsunami news coverage flooded their living rooms via the internet and 24-hour news coverage. They formed part of a global community that was able to help through an online petition.

Today, parents seek their children's opinions on almost everything, from computer purchase to their family vacation. Even ten-year-olds who have the ability to unlock reserves in "the bank of mum and dad" should not be underestimated. And because they research and network more, they tend to be more conscious about what they want. The days of condo and car are gone.

These new five Cs have opened many new possibilities for marketers to tap into and engage youth on different platforms. While the language remains the same, the method of engaging them has changed rapidly.

Picking the right strategy is key to staying ahead in developing products and services that will meet Asian new youth's future needs and desires.

- Tay Guan Hin is the regional executive creative director of JWT South-East Asia.