Italy at present is facing a multitude of challenges, such as a slow economic recovery, political instability and high unemployment. There’s also a large generation gap between the wealthy and retired, with many young people struggling for employment. Research shows children in Italy are now predicted to be financially unstable until they reach at least 50 years old.
For brands, it’s important to understand this landscape and how it affects consumer behaviour.
As part of our ongoing Illume Guide featured blog posts, we interviewed one of our Italian Millennial Illume Guides – Mirco, to get his perspective on Italian culture, the climate at present, and how his generation feels about it.
Hi Mirco! Tell us a bit about yourself and your passions.
I’m Mirco, 31 years old, from Cingoli near Ancona in the centre of Italy.
I finished my degree in nursing in 2013, and then I worked for a while in north Italy. After this, I decided to move to Manchester (UK) where I worked as a nurse in a Manchester hospital. I met many open-mined people and I look back on this as a really enjoyable period in my life. After 2 years in Manchester, homesickness dragged me back to Italy, missing my family and Italian lifestyle.
One thing I missed especially is the weather. English weather affected me in a quite negative way. Italy is a very sunny country, and in summer, Italians always go out in the sun near the beach and play volleyball. When I returned back to Italy, I also started to pick up football again – which is one of my biggest passions.
One of the other most important things in my life is my career. With a good job, I can manage my own life, be independent and be free. Having a good job also allows you to create and support your own family. I place a similar amount of importance on friends, too, and always having people to rely on.
What do you think is unique about Italian culture?
In terms of Italian culture, Italy used to be a land of conquest, and only from 1861 we became a united nation called “Italy”. This makes us a “young” nation compared to France or the UK.
Historically, Italians have been a troubled population, but despite this we always outdo ourselves. Our solution to troubles and difficulties is creativeness, often manifested through art – painting, music and literature. Many Italian poets, painters or musicians were poor, but still they managed to survive and change their lives thanks to their creativity or strong inspirations. A more recent example of our drive to pull through even during difficult times, is in the 2006 World Cup. In 2006, Italian football was hit by several inquiries and investigations, which caused an earthquake for Italian football. Nobody thought our team could make it… but we won the world cup!
One aspect of Italian culture I am disappointed with is the corruption affecting the job market. Unfortunately not always meritocracy is a standard or guideline for job application. Sometimes, the job is given to people not so prepared and the results are not so brilliant. It leads to a waste of energy, opportunities and mainly to a waste of money. I can see this happening in my job in healthcare. In my opinion, the Italian healthcare system is good, but without this corruption we could have a significant improvement with a bigger number of employees, better level of quality assistance, better technologies and more advanced healthcare facilities.
How do you see Italian millennials compared to peers in other European countries, e.g. UK?
When I was in the UK, I was surprised to find people of a similar age to myself starting families so soon. In Italy, the average age to start family is around 30-35. Due to unstable politics and our economic situation, people have a low level of security. For example, if you have job this year, you have no idea what will happen next year – you may have to move to find a new job. It takes a longer amount of time for Italian millennials to settle down and be independent. Most millennials still live with their parents. The unemployment rate is around 30%, and the welfare for having a child is also poor. In comparison, young people in the UK move out from home earlier, and can get a job easier than us.
In terms of the high unemployment rate among young Italians, more opportunities need to be given to young people. Italy is not a country that strongly believes in young people. For example, the main consultants in hospitals are over 55 years old, and the roles in businesses with the biggest responsibility are often reserved for the older generation. Many intelligent young Italians have to leave the country to find better job prospects.
Among Italian millennials, there’s also a trend for 80’s/90’s nostalgia. Back then, Italy blossomed with good business, good music and great films. It was a cool country back then and people were more positive with a job and family.
What is important for millennial consumers in Italy and how is this different to older generations?
Although Italy’s economy has been in recession for a very long time, I’ve seen improvements in the last 4-5 years, compared to the years following the economic crisis. For example, my friends are starting to get new cars, get jobs and are renting flats.
As consumers, Italian millennials like to spend money and enjoy life. We do save less money compared to our parents, who are used to saving and not buying a lot. An example of this is myself. I go for pizza with my friend every week as a treat. My friends and I for aperitivo around once or twice a week. It’s a time to have nice moment with friends, speaking about everything and anything. My parents couldn’t do that because in the 60’s or 70’s it was a much more frugal time.
We also want more information regarding the manufacturing, the production material and the origin of our items. For example, Italian people care about fashion, and we have several famous brands like D&G and Gucci. We like to save money and invest in a good piece of fabric. When making the purchase decision, we think about quality and the design. Recently, younger Italians are keeping an eye on whether the products they buy are environmentally-friendly.
Although ‘Made in Italy’ is important, there have been a few new global brands opening branches in Italy. I welcome this, but I’m also worried about the how will this will affect small business in Italy, potentially forcing them to close down and for us to lose a piece of Italian heritage and tradition.
Millennials are also very dependent on technology in comparison to older generations. If I was to describe Italian millennials in one word, I’d say “fast”. We are fast with everything, e.g. communication, travel, shopping. Given the volatile economic situation, young people don’t like to waste time. If we want to buy something quick, we will just go Amazon. If we want to communicate, we just use Facebook/WhatsApp instead of a phone call. We want to reach people just in one click. Our parents can’t do that, they would wait a long time for people’s feedback on things. As a downfall though, this ‘fast’ way means we spend less time to pause, think and reflect.
Our Illume Guides like Mirco are culturally-savvy, leading edge consumers based in markets around the world. From talking to our guides, we can gain on-the-ground insight into how consumers are thinking, feeling, and responding to brands across the globe.
To find out more about our guides and how they might benefit your projects, contact Kate