It is clear that multi-generational branding is becoming increasingly important to employers and marketers. "As the exodus of baby boomers from the workforce accelerates, census data suggest, two employees will be leaving for every new hire entering, and new college grads will be a precious commodity." - Business Week
Brand Matters recently developed a blog post for the Canadian Marketing Association on the topic of multi-generational branding with a focus on Generation Y (18-29 years old). With this post, we started a dialogue that is shared through the following article:
How do you reach out to a media-saturated generation with a short attention span known as Gen Y? They fast forward through TV commercials, text their way through movie previews, and skip radio ads by downloading music. Yet, as seemingly tuned out as they may be, this is also one of the most brand-savvy, socially-connected generations to date.
With new books being published like The Secrets of Advertising to Gen Y Consumers by Aiden Livingston (2010) and Small is the New Big by Seth Godin (2006) it is clear that the way we brand ourselves is changing. The brand strategies of the past are simply not as effective when it comes to Gen Y. Previous generations flocked to well-established brand names in the belief that they produced superior products. Branding campaigns were broader and the commercial goals more obvious. In contrast, Gen Y tends to view big box retailers as firms that value its bottom line over its people. This is a generation who will actively seek out small businesses in the belief that hand-made or unique means higher quality. Subtlety, irony, and humor are now the name of the game. Campaigns try to stay local and more than ever, are fully customized to its consumers.
Mass-produced and mainstream is not what Gen Y looks for when deciding how to spend their money. In order to stay relevant to Gen Y, branding strategies have to become edgier and more risk-tolerant. This target audience interacts heavily with social media; seeking online reviews or reading blogs in the hopes of kick starting the newest trend amongst their peers. Constantly connected and always on the go, Gen Y has a short attention span.
With our blog post, we asked readers "what has your experience been marketing to Gen-Y?" The following summarizes the responses:
COMMENTS from CMA bloggers:
As a Gen Y myself, I have to agree. I feel that I consume much less advertising content than generations before (couldn't tell you the last time I watched 'live' TV; iPod instead of radio; etc.). Yet, I feel that I know so much more about the brands that I care about/am interested in than the generations before me. Social media really helps that, but also the ubiquity of the net and the fact that I carry it in my pocket with me wherever I go allows me to check out a company before I buy their product. As far as I can tell, companies are okay with that which is why they set up fan pages, etc. so I see the content they want me to.
I believe what Gen Y wants the most is "authenticity." All the edgy stuff would mean very little if that is not true. The new generation comes with a built-in authenticity detector.
I think we need to make a clear distinction here: Gen Y-ers don't have short attention spans. Gen Y-ers simply have the best media-filters. They are able to sort through the weeds with more ease than anyone else. They will be incredibly attentive if you do things right.
I think you make some great points about marketing to Gen Y. I think it is important to understand that Gen Y'ers want to set themselves apart (from each other and previous generations) and will respond to marketing that embraces this. Gen Y'ers may prefer to not frequent big box stores - but it is for different reasons than their parents. They want products that go beyond being unique. They expect to be able to customize pretty much anything they spend their money on.
Originally posted to the Canadian Marketing Association Blog, June 9, 2010 by Patricia McQuillan, President, Brand Matters Inc.
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