Don't Market to Generation Y

Sometimes known as the Millennials, Connecteds and Unreachables, Generation Y is compromised of individuals in their 20s and younger, or born in 1982 or later. They are an important generation to understand because they are comprised of 71 million Americans who spend over 200 billion dollars annually. They're taking over the Baby Boomers as the largest percentage of the working world. Gen Yers are hard to reach as a whole, yet one of the largest markets to make purchases. The best way to market to Generation Y is to not market to them, instead, establish a connection.

As a Gen Yer, I can tell you that we are a very unique group to understand, and an even more complicated group to know how to market to. Gen Yers are a product of Baby Boomers, and we were raised in a different way than any other generation. Baby Boomers raised us to be optimistic, live our lives first and work second, and that we can do and be anything we want to. Talk about optimism! Now that Gen Y is older, it is becoming increasingly difficult to market to this generation because of how they were raised.

So, how do you market to them?

  1. Establish a Connection. Businesses will never get anywhere with Generation Y unless they communicate to them directly and specifically. Talking at them will do no good. A connection has to be made. Start a conversation, reach out to Gen Y and ask them what they want.
  2. Cater to Gen Y. When you want Gen Y to buy into products and services, these elements have to fit certain qualifications. There must be a minimal cost (Gen Y have a "free spending" attitude, but not much money to spend), good quality (they won't pay for something that won't last), fast service (time is very valuable for Gen Y; don't waste any) and provide an experience (give them something worth remembering and talking about).
  3. Be Authentic. Gen Y has experienced 9/11, wars and in addition to nearly every marketing scheme in the book. They will know what is real and what is not when presented with your marketing. Be genuine.
  4. Get Endorsed by Their Friends. Gen Y listens to businesses to a degree, but the majority of them listen to the media and celebrities for what is popular. Also highly regarded are their social networks, their friends and other internet friends. Getting the seal of approval from who they listen to will help reach Generation Y.
  5. Be Connected. Social media is a key communication tool and almost a way of life for Gen Y. If you have a good product they'll tweet about it. If you have a bad product then you can expect to see rants on Facebook statuses. Stay connected to Gen Yers by making a Facebook Fan Page and a Twitter account to reach out to this generation.
  6. Engage Gen Y. Street teams are becoming increasingly popular for ways to interact with Gen Y. Get out into the world, approach them, and make the connection by communicating.

Companies Who've Successfully Marketed to Gen Y

Let's take a look at what companies have successfully marketed to Gen Yers in the past decade. Apple, Trader Joes, Mountain Dew, and Red Bull are just a few companies that come to my mind.

Apple clearly understands how to market to Gen Y. With the development of the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and Mac, they reached out to Generation Y. Apple offers trendy gadgets with a "new" version of the products every few months or so, keeping up with the trends and Gen Yers "having to have" it. Also, iTunes gave Gen Yers music almost instantly for a low price to put on their iPods.

Red Bull is another business that understands Gen Y. You can see Red Bull representatives driving through towns, especially college campuses, promoting the energy drink with a uniquely decorated car featuring a giant bull and can on the top. Red Bull uses street teams to get Gen Yers excited about their product and hands out free cans and gets involved. Seeing the Red Bull car triggers excitement for a free can. Red Bull evokes the excitement by being labeled as a trendy and exciting product among Gen Y.

As a Gen Yer, I will be brutally honest. I DVR my favorite TV shows just so I can fast forward through my favorite commercials. I listen to my iPod in the car, and if by chance I am listening to the radio, I change the station once I hear a commercial. The way to market to me? Get my attention. Do something that I will remember. Communicate to me by giving me what I want instead of what you think I want.