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With demographics like these - why can't we make any money?

By David Robert Lewis

zip*pie n . informal (pl.zippies) (zippie*dom n.) A young city or suburban resident, between 15and 25 years of age, with a zip in the stride. Belongs to Generation Z.Can be male or female, studying or working. Oozes attitude, ambition andaspiration. Cool, confident and creative. Seeks challenges, loves risksand shuns fear. Succeeds Generation X and Generation Y, but carries thesocial, political, economic, cultural or ideological baggage of neither.Personal and professional life marked by vim, vigour and vitality (origin:Indian)

THE PROBLEM with the Zippie Demographic, is that it doesn't represent a single generation - a "generation with zip" as Outlook India would have it, consisting of "young people between the age of 15 and 25" located in India; but is rather an "market-ism" - a marketable entity that transcends contemporary notions of a destiny without borders and destinations, in an ever-changing interconnected global village.

Although marketing in today's voodoo economy has tended to stick to focus groups, in order to determine the values of a unique class of individual, as opposed to an entire generation, for example - the Harley Davidson enthusiast, or the "Prius buyer", Zippies as can be demonstrated by our appearance on the web and in the media on no less than 4000 occasions over the past decade, are also most notably a sub-culture,a modern tribe that transcends both age and class.

While this may look good on paper, in order to produce statistics showing that "there are more young people than ever before" and they are "multiplying in terms of the computer" and ergo, "buying more technology than ever before", the media must deploy its own demographics to its advertisors, which only half explains the phenomenon.

To express the problem better, take a look at articles published recently in Time magazine, which analyse the "teenage mind" in the hope that understanding how teens think and act, will translate into profits. A recent cover gloated over the "Secrets of the Teen Brain"and claimed "research is revolutionising our view of the adolescent mind and explaining its mystifying ways." [Time June 7/04]

The only thing demonstrated by the OutlookIndia and New York Times news stories, is that young people between the ages of 15 and 25, seem to identify with the Zippies and the ideology behind Zippydom - whether it is teens in India, who want to experience some of the rush that a boom in techno-spending brings, or just young adults in the US, who worry about their future in an uncertain and changing world while at the same time wishing to identify with a tribe which preaches a form of global community and social continuity.

Reaching out for Zip.

The main reason why Zippies like myself can't make any money, is because the issues of teen-exploitation associated with the earlier "Pronoia Tour" outweighed concerns about our eventual out-sourcing. However, there are still some who would rather exploit us and be done with the issue of outsourcing, no matter the cost, even though the two issues are intertwined and impact upon our future as adults and global citizens.

If one uses the new "Zippy" demographic touted by technologists, we are damned for betraying ourselves and even our own generation. If we don't, we are classified as ineffectual technowimps,even nerds. In a sense the curse of marketing an entire generation as some kind of neat consumer group like Generation X, is that it always risks breaking with the mould, destroying social continuity and tearing the very fabric that binds society as a whole. I am positive that I am not the only person, expressing these thoughts, nor the only human being disturbed by the idea of an inter-generational phenomenon that suddenly translates into profits ie. adolescents from India screeching down the information highway, with greater processing power, easier credit,and less common sense than even I had as a child.

Beating your extended global family out of the way, in order to break-open the mythical El Dorado of the information age, is only half the symptom of a sickness which is at the heart of the western consumer society and which translates into the bitter fruit of Al Gore's techno-capitalism and the New World Order of the Bush dynasty.

Whilst the "Here come the Zippies" story was breaking on the West Coast of America during 1994, Bill Griffith, the creator of a cartoon character named "Zippy" expressed his concern that people like myself were simply "cashing-in" on an iconography that involved something more than just our own underground ramblings. "I've always longed to be a Mascot" says Zippy the Pinhead in "Yippie, its Zippie", "Good!Fantabulous! Now I'll get this out on th' Internet and we can start licensing- I see "Zippie" screensavers, "Zippie" flavoured teas! Zippie" clam dippies!!You'll be huge!!."

Unfortunately, licensing Zippie (strangelywith an "ie" as opposed to a "y") is not as easy as it seems. For one,the Zippies are not cartoon characters, nor are we cartoonists. You might as well market a political party and even then you would have trouble, since we are also anarchists and ravers without any leadership as such,to rake in the royalties and distribute the results to a card-carrying majority.

Supposing every Indian between the agesof 15 and 25 were to receive a dividend, from a trust set-up from re-investing market returns on a business called Zippie Inc. Would this outweigh the inevitable impact of outsourcing down the line, as India loses jobs toAfrica? How many future generations do we have to sacrifice before people realise, that the only reason we have a global war today, is because America failed to understand this economic truth, as too the impact of its policies of "neo-liberalisation" not only upon its own economy, but the economy of other countries dependent upon the presence of a stable North American market.

In 1994, America's "Zippies" were somewhere between the ages of 15 and 25. They are now a lot older and somewhere between 25 and 35. Is this the world they expected? Do our children inherit a planet in perpetual fear of an "outbreak of zippiness"? Who are the original zippies? What are their interests? Is anybody out there even listening? As an obscure marketing campaign around the "Zippy-Nippy" a 500w electric scooter in my own country, South Africa, seemed to suggest - "It is not too late -there are still "over 30" Zippies left.

copyright 2004, all rights reservedby the author. updated 24-06-2004