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Youth Marketing: Don’t be so 2008.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Clint Runge give a presentation on youth marketing –specifically to Generation Y (people born after 1981). Clint is the Creative Director at Archrival, a youth marketing agency in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Clint’s presentation was full of thorough research and helpful information – and sparked my own thoughts about how we can effectively market to Generation Y.  Here’s my take on it.



Recognize the major differences between Generation X and Generation Y.

In order to understand how to reach out to Generation Y with your product or services, we first need to understand how Generation Y differs from their predecessors, Generation X.

  • Generation X’ers grew up asking the question, “How can I be different?”. A typical Generation Y’er asks the question, “How can WE be different?”
  • Generation X’ers have an attitude of exclusion.  Generation Y’ers have an attitude of inclusion.
  • For Generation X’ers information was provided by encyclopedias and the mainstream media. For Generation Y’ers, information is people-generated through Wikipedia, Twitter, and more.

So what do these differences mean when reaching out to Generation Y?

Generation Y establishes brand trust through their friends (not corporations or advertisements).

No matter how memorable, clever, or funny your latest ad campaign was, it’s unlikely to create a deep sense of brand trust between Generation Y and your company.   Instead, Generation Y develops trust through their peers and friends.

So how can your company build trust with Generation Y? Create targeted internet communities (vertical social networks) that are related to your project. More and more Generation Y’ers are seeking smaller online communities built around common interests.  For example, Sneakerplay.com is an online community devoted to people’s love of sneakers.  Through the site, shoe manufacturers can learn more about what type of sneakers people love, as well as advertise their own products.

The first screen Generation Y looks to is their mobile device.

Unlike Generation X or even Baby Boomers, television and computer screens are not the “first screen” that reaches Generation Y.  For this generation, it’s their mobile devices.

How does this affect your business? It’s important that marketing campaigns geared towards Generation Y are mobile device friendly – because it may be the only way your campaign is viewed.

Brand loyalty is rare among Generation Y.

It’s difficult to swallow – but true. No matter how much you try, it’s unlikely that Generation Y’ers will remain loyal to your product or brand. Generation Y’ers are constantly looking for the next big thing and will willingly switch brands to get it.

So how can you keep business coming back to you? Focus on continually upgrading your products – and less on reinventing your marketing plan every three months.

For example, the iPhone was first released in June 2007, its updated 3G version was released in July 2008, and most recently, the 3GS came out in June 2009. While the iPhone’s marketing strategy has not changed dramatically over that time, its capabilities have grown and changed often –  keeping the iPhone at the top of the market as the “next big thing.”

Generation Y is drawn to causes where they can collectively make a difference.

Not only do Generation Y’ers ask, “How can WE be different?” they also ask “How can we MAKE a difference?”   Generation Y’ers have a strong belief in causes – but they have a limited willingness to get involved. They often choose causes that are simple to support and don’t require research.

Overall, Generation Y is drawn to causes where a collective group of people can make a difference, rather than one person changing the world.

Types of businesses that appeal to Generation Y’ers include Chipotle’s environmentally-centered philosophy, as well as MyStarbucksIdea.com where people can post new ideas for the company, with the most popular ideas being implemented.

What’s next?
The main takeaway for me is that marketing requires a different approach with different generations. Overall, you need to evaluate how your company is reaching its targeted generations, and adjust your strategy to most effectively reach those groups.

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