Marketing to the Challenging Gen Y

May 17, 2012 by  Filed under: Marketing 

Targeting and attracting the Gen Y demographic is a priority for many advertisers. Developing a relationship at an early age can mean a lifetime of revenues. Before we delve into what makes them tick, take a look at some interesting stats:

* They are more highly educated than baby boomers (age 40 to 59). Fifty-six percent have attended college versus only 45 percent of baby boomers.

* They make more money than baby boomers did when they were young.

* They buy homes more frequently than baby boomers. While baby boomers tend to "put down roots" with a home purchase, most Gen Yers see a home purchase as a way to increase wealth.

As such, this can be a very attractive audience for marketers. However, they can also be a rather complicated and elusive audience to convert.

To better understand them, you must first look at their experiences. This group has seen their parents work beyond what they might consider retirement age, simply because the financial situation dictates it. They have also faced a difficult economy. This tends to make them more frugal and risk adverse, with less credit card debt than previous generations. They are interested in saving, but don’t always have the knowledge or the means.

Gen Y’s tend to be critical and distrustful of much advertising. When it comes to choosing a product or service, they prefer brands that are based on a core identity with core values. And they don’t like the hard sell. But being persuasive to this audience can be a challenge, depending on your product or service. A trendy computer company will find it easy to have their products shared and discussed on social media sites. But a checking account simply doesn’t have the same sizzle. So what do you do?

It’s not enough to simply have a Facebook page, or run online ads. Since Gen Y’s are more likely to choose a product with "street cred", your job starts when you’re creating your products and promotions. You have to put yourself in their shoes and determine what they would find compelling. Ideally, it will have enough sizzle that they’ll consider sharing it with a friend. If you can do that, any social marketing efforts will have a much greater chance of having impact.

When it comes to the creative message, it is important to find ways to get your product in front of them without being "in their face." Research suggests they respond best to humorous and emotional advertising that uses "real people in real-life vignettes rather than features and specifications. They will get the factual information about products on their own.

Then of course, there is the delivery. Consider ideas like street teams, tying in with environmental causes, and the use of mobile advertising. Or ask your advertising agency to think out of the box.

Gen Y, also known as the millenials, is the largest American generation at 92 million strong. And they offer a potential goldmine for marketers. As long as marketers take the time to get to know them.

Julie Burmeister is the President of The Burmeister Group, an Atlanta advertising agency known for generating outstanding marketing results for small and mid-size companies. The agency has full service capabilities including research, strategy, creative, media buying and more.

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