Recent data from US author and social commentator Douglas Rushkoff indicates that Gen Y
represent something of a goldmine for marketers and advertisers. With a combined buying power
of over $100 billion, this group are by far the most cashed up generation of youngsters ever. In
addition, this generation of young people born between the early 1980s and late 1990s are
delaying commitments such as starting a family and getting a mortgage. As such, they are a
commercial force to be reckoned with. Those who can understand them and communicate with
them most effectively stand to win and win BIG!
Be warned, however, that this well-informed and highly educated group are not easy to woo. They
are savvy to the tools and tricks of advertisers and require more than a stroking of their brandconscious
egos. Getting a message to Gen Y through the thick haze of media and noise that
surrounds them requires skill and understanding. Furthermore, it requires a commitment to offering
more than simply good value or competitive pricing.
In order to craft a message that connect with Gen Y, it must be:
Having grown up with more rich media and quality entertainment than any generation previous,
Gen Y expect advertising messages to be an art form in themselves. Simply outlining features and
benefits is not enough – you need to shock, impress and entertain this group if your message is to
make a mark.
Generation Y have a finely tuned ‘BS
Meter’. Overly audacious claims and
sweeping statements that lack
substance will only lead to scepticism.
Steer clear of using the 99.9% figure in
any marketing with this group… it is
perceived as just too convenient to be
true. The secret is to be real and
transparent with Gen Y.
Kit Yarrow, who co-authored Gen BuY
suggests that “[Gen Y] like it when
companies treat them like the smart,
informed consumers that they are, and
they are wary at the first sign that they
are being manipulated.” Sometimes
pointing out the obvious and engaging in
7 keys to crafting a marketing message
that bridges the generation gap
self-deprecating humour is the most effective way to disarm this group of consumers. Remember –
Gen Y know that you are marketing to them so don’t try and hide it.
The most effective marketing messages for Gen Y are the ones that don’t appear to be marketing
anything at all. The litmus test of whether your advertisement will work for this younger group is to
first show the ad to their parents. If the older generation are left asking what the point or the
product is, you may be on a winner.
4. Viral and Organic
The Internet has changed everything when it comes to getting a message, product or idea past the
ever-critical tipping point with Gen Y. In his book Unleashing the Idea Virus, marketing guru Seth
Godin challenges advertisers not to market AT people but rather to focus effort and attention on
turning ideas into ‘epidemics’ by helping customers do the marketing for you via viral word of
mouth (or click of mouse).
The key way to get a message to Gen Y is actually to market through them and not to them.
Create a video, an idea or a scandal that gets your market talking, sharing or debating and you will
get the attention of younger people.
It also helps if a brand can become embedded in the market in a way similar to what Sprite very
deliberately and cleverly did in the hip hop market in the USA. By making a group of consumers
feel like they own and are defined by a product, you are well on the way to creating the sort of
brand loyalty that every marketer dreams of.
If you look closely at Generation Y and what they are choosing to fill their lives with, you will see
that they aren’t as flippant and naive as their reputation suggests. Brand consultancy Belong
surveyed a selection of Gen Y consumers in order to discover a list of 20 most popular brands,
products and people. The results clearly indicate that a key purchasing motivator for Gen Y is the
social consciousness of the brand.
Indicative of this positive trend are figures released recently which showed that 69% of Gen Ys
considered a company’s social and environmental commitment when deciding where to shop. For
this demographic group, it has become cool to care.
Gen Y spend the bulk of their time doing one thing online… building community. For this group, a
sense of connectedness, togetherness and ‘tribe’ is absolutely key. If marketers can effectively use
symbols, images and language of community and relationship in their marketing messages, Gen Y
will typically pay more attention. Coke, McDonalds and Mitsubishi have done this exceptionally
well in recent years.
Younger generations are typically described as being ‘post modern’ in their mindset. Defined as
worldview characterised by a belief that all truth is relative, post modernism is typified by the notion
that experience is king. As such, the mantra of a postmodern generation is ‘don’t tell me it’s right,
show me it works’.
The best way to get a message through to a postmodern consumer is to use stories.
Facts, evidence, pie charts and experts can make them wary and adversarial, but the sharing of a
real person’s experience will work almost every time. Using genuine, unedited and somewhat raw
testimonials from people who seem ‘just like them’ will be a powerful form of influence with this
Marketing has come a long way from the days of Henry Ford and his newspaper advertisements
for the Model T. Gone are the days where features or benefits alone persuaded the consumer.
Marketers today need to be far more sophisticated and strategic if they are to get a message
through to a generation who have so many options and are surrounded by so much noise.