Targeting the Next Generation of Consumers: the millennials
Marketers have been audience-centric since the dawn of their existence. And whereas companies have long thought about audiences and age groups, there is now a broader divide in how the generations think and view the world.
In order to attract Generation Y, some 60 million people, (whether to land them as a customer or as an employee) it is necessary to customize your appeals and communication style to fit their techno-oriented lifestyle. But it goes beyond merely adapting your content to changing the way you communicate in general. Gen Y, sometimes referred to as the Echo Boomers because of their huge numbers (according to the US Census there are three times as many Gen Ys as there are Gen Xers), has a reputation for being peer-oriented due, in part, to its reliance on instant communication technologies and the Internet, including email, IMs, texting and social media components like YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
When recruiting Generation Y (exact pinpoints are not agreed upon but generally this term refers to individuals born between 1979-1994) you need to give some thought as to who they are and what motivates them. If Gen X is the MTV generation, you can think of Gen Y as the American Idol generation. They are a collective who have been awarded throughout school with everybody-wins trophies. You show up, you get a ribbon. (Alsop, Ron. The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation is Shaking Up the Workplace. Jossey-Bass).
This has translated into a group who believe they can all sing well enough to win a national competition. But they are also a very giving group. USA Today reports that they volunteer more than any previous generation and they are more socially conscious than any generation since World War II. They have been strictly scheduled throughout most of their lives in sports, dance, foreign language classes, etc. Gen Y is also dependent on peer-to-peer interaction and holds peer reviews in high esteem.
This can benefit your company in a very direct way if you tailor your offerings accordingly. Keep in mind:
1. They are technology-savvy. It’s not enough for you to have a website. Gen Y’s online usage extends past such basics. You need to involve them. Interaction is key. Many no longer listen to voicemail. Communication is done through text messaging and text messaging is done while driving, watching a game, even using the restroom. You want a platform that can go where this group is going – everywhere.
2. They need to feel valued. Remember the everyone gets a ribbon idea? This group has plenty to offer and knows so. Their opinions are valuable. Online communities and wikis are great for keeping their interest and helping them feel like they are vital components of your company and your brand.
3. They want to be friends. For this generation, it’s not the quality but the quantity. Number of friends, followers and fans are very important to their collective thinking. Connecting them with peers is essential to holding their interest. A unique online community allows your members to connect with one another in a secure manner surrounded by your branding. Refer-a-friend features allow them to direct interested friends your way as well.
4. They want to be a part of something big. This generation, more so than any before it, has giant dreams. They want to be the next biggest (fill in the blank) but most of it involves being affluent and lauded. Making them feel like a vital part of a lively, desirable community is imperative. They are not a number and will not tolerate feeling like one. Consider this when drafting your copy, whether it’s on your website, ads or emails. Blogs with commenting can also be an integral part of keeping them interested as they like to see their thoughts highlighted in a public forum. Welcome new members on your online community homepage. Use spotlights and public pages to highlight their information. They want to feel special. You can help.
5. They’ve gone green. While you may be weighing the costs and steps it takes to go green, the millennials are already there. They’ve grown up in a climate where global warming is on every blackboard and their teachers have educated them on concerns past generations just didn’t think about. Pointing out what you’ve done to go green or what you are planning to do, or best of all asking them for their help in going green, will have an effect on how they feel about your corporation. Also, the Echo Boomers are less paper laden than the generations before them. They will look something up online before turning to paper directories/catalogues. They find little value in these old-fashioned paper weights (not to mention the negatives on the environment.)
The economy has placed challenges on marketers but tailoring your product copy and offerings to appeal to the technology-savvy Gen Y will benefit you in the long run. This is a very different group you are targeting, so review your copy and your technology and see how you can rework them to be more appealing to this important generation.
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