In the next 15 years, half of the global population will be 21 years old or younger. While people are living longer, the birthrate in many countries is growing at an alarming rate. Today, the average age in China and India is the mid-twenties. Even in America, the Millennial Generation (born in the years 1980 to about 2000 are also referred to as Generation Y), is already rivaling the Baby Boomer population in size, at 78 million, and with immigration, some sociologists say the Millennial Generation may grow to 100 million strong in the U.S. and we are a reflection of the globe. The earth’s population is indeed growing younger.
For marketers, regardless of the industry, the Millennials are bringing both great potential and challenges to the table, as they are the first generation to be shaped by interactive media. They’re plugged in constantly (known for sleeping with their laptops and cell phones), and companies have targeted this young cohort through every conceivable medium from a young age, so consequently they are adept at screening out most traditional marketing. Gen Y’ers are also characterized for their short attention span and constant multi-tasking. So how do we appeal to this audience?
Gen Y Characteristics
To appeal to Millennials, we first have to better understand what distinguish this group. Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history. One in four grew up in a single parent household, and has known just two presidents; for them, “public figures” often are athletes or celebrities. They came of age experiencing Columbine, September 11, the launching of AMBER alert, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the War on Terror. They’re plagued with concerns for their personal safety as images of violence worldwide appear on their screens minutes after it occurs. This explains their toughness and cynicism.
Some other unique characteristics include:
- This generation was “wanted” and feels individually and collectively special as a result. They feel connected to their parents and are optimistic and engaged.
- Many members of this generation were highly protected and sheltered by parents and authority figures, and they were rarely left unsupervised. They are comfortable with significant parental involvement, and they expect parents to resolve their conflicts and to protect and nurture them.
- Millennials are motivated, goal-oriented, assertive, confident, and want to make a difference. They are civic-minded and value service learning and volunteerism. They also believe college will help them get a great start in life and expect to advance rapidly in the workplace.
- Gen Y’ers are team-oriented. They want to be part of the group, like to congregate and are in constant contact with peers via cell phones, text messaging, and social media. They prefer egalitarian leadership over hierarchies.
- This generation is high achieving. Even in elementary school, they were expected to earn good grades, work hard and pursue extracurricular activities. They are focused on achievement rather than personal development.
What Makes them Tick?
Do you consider yourself a Mac or a PC? Android or iPhone? Ask any Millennia a question like that, and you will most likely get a very quick answer.
Gen Y’ers are very brand loyal and while they are both initially suspicious and harbor extremely high expectations, when you have won them over, many Gen Y’ers identify themselves by the brands they like. In fact, brand preference is the #1 personal identifier they are willing to share online.
So how do we win them over? In order to build trust with the Gen Y market you must meet four primary criteria:
- Quality. Products should have quality in both workmanship and in features.
- Realness. Authenticity is extremely important to Generation Y… so much so that “too perfect” make them suspicious.
- Social purpose. One in three say that they look for brands that have a positive impact on the world.
- Integrity. Your business must be moral and stand for something greater than just profits.
The first rule in attracting Gen Y’ers is simple: approach them on their own terms. This means your message has to be part of their communicative activities and integrated life. Millennials deeply resent messages that interrupt their lives and intrude on their time. Instead, the message must become a part of their daily experiences.
The second rule is equally simple: play to their strengths…the Internet is the media most familiar to Gen Y. Members of this generation are very apt at using the Web to find what they need. As a communal group of consumers, Generation Y probably depends more on recommendations from their peers than any previous generation. But keep in mind, along with gathering opinions from their peers, this group does not hesitate to offer their opinions – and are often vocal about a product or service they like (or dislike).
So, focus on telling genuine (brand) stories and communicate real and interesting (product) benefits – in an authentic voice, and inject humor as often as possible. Do these things well, and Millennials will help spread the message for you.