As a consumer, I can tell you this: my attention is short, my demands are high and my purchases are diverse. We live in a day and age where social media apps, coffee and even sneakers can be customized to fit our lifestyle. Your marketing needs to do the same.
As a representative of Generation Y, or Millennials, roughly those born in the 1980s and 1990s, the largest population group in American history, I’m here to help you understand why you must customize your marketing toward this group if your organization is to live to see 2020.
“From a branding perspective, we know that Gen Y-ers are now making brand decisions that will stick with them for a long time,” says Jason Ryan Dorsey, author of Y-Size Your Business. “These are decisions in everything from technology products and automobiles to consumer packaged goods and apparel.”
Gen Y is the group that kept their wallets open when others slammed them shut. Market research publisher Packaged Facts says Millennials are less likely than any other age segment to have cut spending during the recession. With a combined income of nearly $1 trillion in 2010 — which many expect will grow 18 percent to total $1.2 trillion in 2015 — researchers say those ages 18 to 31 will play a key role in the economic recovery.
Generation Y also has tremendous influence on others; creating a “trickle-up” effect when their Baby Boomer parents emulate their purchasing decisions. These two generations combined account for more than half of all Americans, and while Generation Y purchases $150 billion in goods a year, they influence another $50 billion of Baby Boomers’ family purchases.
So taking that into account, how do you reach this sought after population?
First, understand that Gen Y is an “experience” culture. They do not want to be told what to like or what to do. They want to experience the world for themselves and pass their own judgment. They love to be in the trenches of life, and they want to be there with their friends. Here is where you have to meet them if you want to be taken seriously and respected by this generation enough for them to buy from you.
The key when talking with Gen Y is authenticity. They don’t waste time on people or companies who are not being real with them. Being authentic is cool and being authentic means being truthful. This generation has been through a lot in their young lives, and they know real when they see it. Remember, it takes all of three seconds for them to pass judgment.
“The leap for marketers is to recognize the different lens Gen Y applies to reading their mail and adjust the marketing message to make those Gen Y differences a measurable advantage,” Dorsey says. For instance, Millennials prefer pictures and directions to an online video rather than a long block of text or fancy words, he says. This group also wants to see people like themselves represented in the marketing material and preferably in candid shots.
“We’ve come of age in a time of user-generated content, so the more authentic the images appear, the more credibility we place in the company that sends them,” says Dorsey, who is himself a Millennial.
Take a page from this East Coast University when it comes to marketing to Gen Y individuals and see your bottom-line soar. The school personalized its mail and uses messaging and images that are relevant to the segment; one recent flyer featured a photo of a beloved cafeteria worker that would resonate with recipients. They have also started printing quick response (QR) codes on their pieces, which allow the audience to quickly jump to a website by snapping a photo of the bar code with a smart phone. In addition, the college uses recycled and FSC-certified materials for its mailers, a tactic likely well received by the eco-conscious generation.
For you to capitalize and reach this audience, you will need to produce truly engaging messages, add value to a Gen Yer’s life and provide digital platforms to connect and interact. The rewards will be immense; deeper customer loyalty, a broader reach, and ultimately an army of the most powerful brand advocates online. So design well, follow-up often and write the best copy you possibly can. I look forward to visiting your shop in 2020.
Kimberly Kelsey, Marketing Manager, Red Book Solutions