The frame up

Brazil is in the midst of an unprecedented CRISIS. GDP is down, unemployment is up. The president is under impeachment, and new facts are emerging every day about greater and greater depths of corruption. On top of that there is the growing Zika epidemic, an enduring water shortage, an unprecedented environmental disaster and a general sense amongst many that they don’t know where they are going from here…

This dominant narrative of doom and gloom is commanding national and global discourse and has a lots of practical truth to it – the effects of this time of crisis will be hard-felt and likely long lasting.  However, the current crisis is also a pivotal cultural moment for Brazil – a time of change, uncertainty, and disruption. Moments such as these create challenges but also great opportunities for those with the foresight, knowledge, and intrepid spirit to act.

We see the Brazilian crisis as an enormous opportunity for businesses to demonstrate relevance, forge lasting relationships with people, and assume a permanent place in the cultural zeitgeist for the emerging generation of Brazilians. To do this, they need to look beyond the challenges and assumptions of the current impasse and embrace operating in new ways of thinking, acting, and communicating that will position them as leaders both during and after these difficult times.

This crisis certainly has local attributes but we understand that it exists within a wider global context of crises occurring worldwide, each with its own nuances. They are the signs of an era of cultural shifts, and we are witnesses and players in the forging of a new landscape for tomorrow’s societies. It will take time for its topography to settle and for new words to appropriately describe this new environment. In the interim, the prefix ‘trans’ gives words the meanings of being “in between”, “beyond” and “through” their original definitions and helps us grasp this moment of flux.

In this report, we will argue that Millennial culture in Brazil is increasingly Trans-Crisis – living in between analog and digital frameworks, looking through the crisis lens and beyond the current collapse of national institutions. In this way, millennials are embracing a global paradigm shift towards positive action and fluidity in the way that people relate to power, economics, and ethics. This new mindset is affecting how they are interacting with the crisis moment and provides us with a provocative picture of what a direction forward might look like to make the most of this momentous time…

A few considerations:

This report puts forward the argument Millennial culture is bigger than demographics. It is a mindset that is rapidly growing upstream as it’s the product of technology and global forces that can transcend age/SEL
This report is forward-looking and therefore focuses on influencers. It is not a comprehensive summary of 18-34s in Brazil today and their responses to the crisis. It is a look at the new thinking a Millennial mindset inspires–driving forward and through the crisis context.
This crisis as an event is complex and controversial. It’s not our goal to explore its causes, measure its impact, or speculate as to its outcome.  These topics are being robustly covered in the press (the new york times, economist, forbes, guardian). Instead, we want to think about the crisis on structural and conceptual levels in terms of what it represents for Brazilian culture and the way that people are thinking about their world and future.
Connectivity transcends geographic boundaries and some of its greatest powers have been seen in the digital activism that has organized coordinated protests and gatherings throughout Brazil. As South America’s economic capital and Brazil’s most populous city, São Paulo plays a central role during this crisis. Since it is a forward-thinking driving force in the country, for the purpose of this report we have chosen to focus on the cultural activity identified in this epicenter albeit acknowledging that the crisis is a nation-wide phenomenon.

There’s a general understanding
that there are three fundamental
components
to the crisis in Brazil

Crisis of Politics…
How we organize ourselves?

Crisis of Economics…
How do we produce?

Crisis of Ethics…
How do we define what is ‘right’?

We see two foundational narratives
emerging to describe it:

Crisis 1.0

Brazil as Always
The dominant narrative, felt dearly by older Brazilians, that there is no disguising that the country has succumbed to its classic weaknesses and squandered its opportunity to join the ranks of global powers.
“Enough is enough”
Brazil is not a country unfamiliar with crises – its early history is a story of an exploited and violated colony and its modern history is one of collapse and re-building, a country of obvious potential that could never quite deliver on its promise. Brazil was, as the saying goes, always ‘the country of tomorrow’. But that anticipation was supposed to be over with. The past decade, with its much publicized robust economic growth and popular social investment, had led many to feel as though the future was finally present. Generally speaking, there was pride and relief in this sense of arrival and a feeling of possibility to Brazil’s continued growth and development. So, in this light the current crisis is not just about recession and corruption. It’s about failure, disappointment and shame. Unlike in the US/Europe in 2008, there is not enough history to regret the loss of a Golden Age. Instead, there is a deep sense of “enough is enough” and a yearning to believe that things can eventually get better. But, right now, in the heat of it, things seem to be at an impasse, and the old cultural myths are raising their heads again.

Crisis 2.0

The Crisis Generation
The emerging narrative, increasingly felt by Millennials, that the world is in metamorphosis on a fundamental level and we need to re-think and re-organize the way we orient ourselves to power.
They are not stopping.
They are doing.
The newest working generation of Brazilians, Millennials, are coming into the workforce following 10 years of what seemed like unprecedented stability, much talked about prosperity and a dominant consensus that the Brazilian mythic ‘future’ was apparent. What’s more, they’ve never experienced an immediate Brazilian crisis – the impeachment of President Collor and the hyper-inflation of the 90s occurred when they were too young to truly understand. Now, they find themselves feeling the effects of the  recession and political careerism personally…
2/3 
of Millennials have experienced some sort of disruption from recessionary pressure either by losing a job, having had to work fewer hours or not being able to change jobs
They should be angry, despondent, and fearful. And there’s some of that to be sure.  But generally speaking they are more optimistic about the future than the older generation and less likely to change their behaviors. There is a growing desire amongst Brazilian Millennials to just get on with the lives they’ve planned to lead.

Politics 1.0

Crisis of leadership:

Our system is flawed, perhaps fatally. We’re in the midst of a constitutional crisis and all options feel hopeless.

What we need:
Strong leadership and revised institutions to guide Brazil back to stability and progress.

Politics 2.0

Crisis of Autonomy:

I no longer want systems and institutions dictating what my life should look like. I want to feel in control of my life and feel ownership over my path.

What we need:
Look around not up; develop increasingly fluid institutions and relations

Millennials are much more likely to believe that entrepreneurship/small business (+14%), technology (+23%) and social media/collaboration (+36%) are helpful compared to older Brazilians

“In the future, entrepreneurship will be the reflection of these young people, they will dictate the rules”

Ana Fontes, director of the Network of Women Entrepreneurs

Economics 1.0

Crisis of Finance:

In striving to become a global power and spread wealth domestically, we extended beyond our means. It now feels harder than ever to ‘succeed’ at any level in Brazil.

What we need:
Sustainable policies to help grow the economy and put us back on track as a competitive global economic player.

Economics 2.0

Crisis of Capital:

I care about more than just money and status in my life. I want to succeed on my own terms and live my life in a way that speaks to all the things that matter to me.

What we need:
Individualized definitions of success that foster cooperation rather than competition

 

70% of Millennials actively try to foster
and expand their network outside of their country, culture or interests; 45% are
willing to share their skills in lieu of
payment; 85% are willing to share their
experiences with others

Ethics 1.0

Crisis of Trust:

Our leaders over-stepped, cheated too much and broke too many rules, screwing everyone on an unacceptable scale, somehow bigger than ever before.

What we need:
Greater regulation and more honest folks to break the cycle of corruption

Ethics 2.0

Crisis of Values:

Living ethically is about more than just playing by the rules; it’s about doing and supporting things that I believe in. I want my values to be present and visible in everything I do – not just a private personal matter

What we need:
Greater transparency of our ethics defined by individuals rather than institutions

People with this world view: 

Crave clear institutional
leadership

Define success in singular
financial terms

See ethics as defined
by following institutional rules

People with this world view: 

Are fostering participative,
horizontal and fluid frameworks to be their guides

Understand success as a variable concept

Apply their personal ethics
to everything they do

From this vantage point, the situation seems dire and debilitating. It’s hard to see any clear way forward
From a Millennial mindset vantage point, there is opportunity for them to be the change they wish to see in society
“They [millennials] don’t accept universal truths. They want to do things that collude with their individual purposes, this is a natural part of their behaviour.”

Rafael Ucha, maker and entrepreneur

Millennial Culture Today and Tomorrow

DISAFFECTED BUT UNAFFECTED

They are trans-institutional; see decreasing meaning of the current system/leadership in their lives and futures

While they tend to have
mainstream views of
government and traditional
institutions, Millennials
don’t necessarily let it impact
their general outlook

64% say government
and 70% say corruption in
government or business
will hold the economy back.
But compared to an older
generation, they are more disaffected

They are part of an emerging global shift towards embracing fluidity that has impacted their expectations for what life should be, and the Brazilian crisis – while real to them – is solidifying rather than threatening this new way of thinking

Despite having disruptions
from the crisis, their outlook
remains optimistic

84% of Millennials believe
they have the will and the skills
to be successful

68% believe their job
outlook will be better in five
years and 74% say it will
be better in ten years

For Brazilian Millennials, ‘the crisis’ as we talk about it is a contextual reality of the current moment (and it ain’t pretty). But it’s also part of a bigger paradigm shift that their generation is instrumental in driving.

Millennials in Brazil (like their counterparts globally) are in the process of redefining relationships to power and the power structures that make-up their world. Enabled by the democratizing power of the global web and the range of mobile communications, they are trans-institutional operators who have been forging forward in a ‘state of crisis’ for their entire adult lives. While the older generations thought the future was now – or before the crisis – Millennials were already knee-deep in paradigm change, falling in between the cracks of every fractured Cartesian structure. They were born into frameworks created by analog-minded generations and they will grow old in the new digitally conscious systems they spearhead.

“Moments of crisis are about transformation. Now is the time to reorganize general structures”

Guto Requena, designer and architect

Within this redefined understanding of the Trans-Crisis moment, we have identified three key trends or attributes that are essential to understanding ways to connect with Brazilian Millennials today.
Brazilian millennials want a lot of the same things that their parents have – financial stability, family, a place of their own – but they don’t believe they have to follow any set paths or commit long-term to any established institutions to get there.

Millennials value romantic relationships (79%), friends (82%) and family (96%) and over half also value a broader local community (69%) and a global community to tap into (57%)

Millennials today don´t feel the need for the same type of coherence in their life choices as older generations. From what they buy to how they work, they treat the world as a constellation of options to be navigated rather than a straightforward course to be completed.

82% think they have to balance and be practical about what they like to do and what they can get paid to do. 58% would prefer to run their own business instead of working for a specific company

They’re often building-blind. They want to always be learning, exploring, trying things. They collect skills, knowledge, and experience -- almost as if they’re diversifying their own portfolios for future moments / opportunities that they can sense are out there but haven’t encountered or created yet.

While 52% like learning new things to get ahead in their jobs or careers 43% say they like learning just for the sake of learning something new. For connected Millennials, this means seeking out useful digital information. Millennials watch an average of 59 minutes of online video a week and while 84% say they watch a lot of entertainment content, over half (53%) also seek out “a lot” of how-to videos

They spin webs, rather than lay tracks. They see the different endeavors within their lives as projects, all deserving of attention and serious consideration. They like to make connections and keep their options open. They want commitments (plural) that forge lasting relationships.

6 in 10 claim to work well in situations where there are no guidelines

“Collaboration and group
work are important concepts
for this generation.”

Baixo Ribeiro, Choque Cultural

What this looks like

Post-partisan in politics, they tend to be driven by individual issues rather than over-arching ideology

Minhas cidades: national activism and mobilization network to pressurize politicians to spearhead changes across the country

Early adopters of the share economy – increasingly looking to limit commitment but maximize interaction

Fleety – a car share service. People rent their cars out to others when they’re not using them.

Millennials in Brazil are redefining and expanding how they define ‘success’ in their lives. Instead of competing at all costs for wealth/power, they’re broadening their definitions of what has value and deciding what to prioritize on their own terms.

What they know and what they experience are more important than what they have. That’s not to say that they don’t care about money. They definitely do. But instead money is just one component of a more complex capital structure. In an ideal world, they make money as a natural by-product of doing what they do.

As a result, everything is an exchange… they’ve expanded the definition of capital to include their time, skills, attention, effort, talent, relationships etc… In every action they’re trading one of these things for something else, and they’re looking to maximize efficiency to get a good deal, no matter what they’re doing. In a Millennial world information is vital and education an important asset that is constantly sought and obtained in unstructured ways through a plurality of channels. Good-bye MBA, hello ECL–Elective Continuous Learning.

43% would rather share with others in order to access more services or activities

They are looking to engage in relationships and partnerships where they feel like they’re getting a fair exchange -- what am I learning, what am I making, how much time does it take, how interested am I?

When asked how would they “pay” or receive payment in exchange for items or services, 45% of 25-34 would consider ‘skill share’, 37% recommendations for job, 25% reviews on social media. They are much more likely to see their time and attention as a commodity.

“Crises are characterized by paralysis. Other people may have stopped but we are not standing still, we are moving, evolving”
Fernanda Baffa, Director of the Whatever School at Perestroika

In the crisis context, they’re looking for partners/collaborators that share this value of flexibility and keeping a fair balance in their exchanges. Now is about building and collecting new skills and experiences — tapping into options that they’ve created for themselves over-time.

“My generation wants to work for a purpose and seek out their own values in companies they work for”

Barbara Mattivy, Founder of vegan shoe brand Insecta

Brazilian millennials are increasingly striving to bring personal consistency to th way they live their lives. Gone are the days of different selves for different contexts – me at work, me with friends, me with family, etc. They put a lot of thought and effort into developing a persona that reflects their tastes / passions / beliefs, and they feel it’s important to live that worldview wherever they go and whatever they’re doing.

This shift is creating a general blurring of lines between the personal and the public – people are removing neutral buffer zones in their interactions and sharing themselves with others – beliefs, politics, purchasing behaviors and all.

Compared to their older counterparts, Brazilian Millennials’ views on data, privacy and sharing are much more fluid. Connected Millennials (smartphone/mobile phone owners) are much more likely to be open about their information. 57% are very interested in the ability to carry personal information on their mobile phone, such as medical or financial information.

Brazilian Millennials are willing to open up to brands, any time, any place. 56% think it’s great that they can check out products or brands that interest them whenever and wherever they see them.

In the context of the current crisis, this ingrained belief in transparency and personal authenticity has major implications with how they are relating to the ethical wall the Brazilian system seems to have hit. Brazilian Millennials are moving beyond the binary ethical structure of the previous generation that defines ethics within the context of institutions (eg. following rules, being ‘honest’). The race-to- the bottom led by public figures who see ‘honest’ and ‘corrupt’ as relative terms, has left them seeking greater standards for what defines ethical living. In the trans-crisis mindset, Millenials in Brazil increasingly believe that ethics should define context rather than context defining ethics. They want to imbue all of their actions – what they make, what they consume, what they support – with their own beliefs and morality, and they get excited by interesting combinations.

77% say they like brands that give back to local communities and it makes them pay attention to other messages or activities they do Connected Millennials like being trendsetters (73%), owning the right brands and showing off their purchases (71%)

Millennials are more willing to blaze paths and are not afraid to use their significant purchasing power (and social capital) to give them a voice. Convincing them of which brands and institutions represent them and sustaining their interest long-term requires an active strategy that keeps their progressive DNA firmly at the core.

75% of Millennials say they would pay more for the “right” brands

“The most successful brands are those that engage young people into intense participation”

Sidnei Oliveira , expert on generational conflicts

The Trans/Crisis Strategy

Keep moving

Embrace the fluidity of the current moment. It’s not going anywhere

Business: Now is the time to invest in brand to be the one standing tallest as the immediate crisis fades and emergent paradigms become dominant – even if you don’t know what it’s going to look like yet.

Brand Action: Be a productive part of the mess. Embrace random positivity; people aren’t looking for heroes, they’re looking for positive players who keep driving things forward within the chaos around them.

Talent: Develop more human and flexible working structures that reflect new millennial ways of interacting; current Brazilian HR mindset can feel suffocating to Trans-Crisis habits.

Build to grow not to win

Work within new definitions of capital and success to create useful metrics and relationships

Business: Set new types of goals that account for constant change. Plan against attributes and brand behavior rather than fixed benchmarks

Brand Action: Build fair exchange relationships with consumers that allow them to trade in different forms of capital – value their time, attention, social skills as equally as their spending power

Talent: Reward employees for cross-pollination/collaboration with employees in other departments

Integrate ethics

Don’t be neutral;
have a POV and live it always

Business: Embrace causes and live them through your company culture

Brand Action: Be a proxy activist, using power of brand and communications to support agendas/causes/organizations that align with your values

Talent: Encourage talent to bring their personal social causes to the workplace and incorporate social purpose into their job