Talkin’ ’bout my generation: Marketing to Gen Y

By Chris Lee

Generation (Gen) Y is making itself known. Digitally savvy, this age group spanning mid-teens to 30 year-olds has grown up with technology and is comfortable with sharing more than their Generation X elders on social media. According to a new report by Internet consultant group Incite, there are 15 million Gen Yers in the UK and 1.4 billion globally and collectively they are “set to become the next major consumer powerhouse”.

Incite says that half of Facebook users and 43 per cent of Twitter users are from Gen Y. According to the company’s Gen Y research of 1,380 consumers, social media is a powerful tool for the age group when making purchasing decisions. More than half (56 per cent) reported that they “can’t live without Facebook” and 43 per cent said that social media is “critical” in brand selection. Gen Yers were found to be three times more likely to follow a brand on Twitter (18 per cent) compared to Generation X at just six per cent.

The influence of family and friends

With an interactive, instantaneous community at their fingertips often via smartphone, Gen Y is adept at sharing information about brands and experiences; the Incite study found 39 per cent would share a negative experience online. Conversely, Incite argues, this hyperconnectedness also makes Gen Y very accessible to brands and in large numbers. Almost half (48 per cent) of respondents advised they have “liked” a brand on Facebook or visited the brand’s Facebook page, indicating word of mouth for brand visibility has the potential to grow very quickly.

Family and friends are major influencers on purchase behaviour in this group, Incite found. Two-thirds (61 per cent) revealed recommendations from peers are very important when deciding to buy a product or service, while a quarter (23 per cent) would also trust the opinion of others on purchase decisions, compared to just 15 per cent who would primarily trust their own decisions.

Tips for brands targeting Generation Y consumers

According to Mark Yeomans, director at Incite, brands need to “go beyond function” and interact with Gen Y, offering more than products, and enabling communities and experiences to be shared.

“Gen Y is an intriguing bunch – happy to follow the wisdom of the crowds, but at the same time seeking out new experiences,” he said. “Second guessing behaviour for this group is a risky strategy and with the future consumer spending power of Gen Y, brand managers and researchers need to get closer to them quickly.”

Yeomans recommends four key principles for brand marketers based on Incite’s findings:

1. Influence

Acknowledge the size of the Gen Y audience and understand how they have influence over each other. Consider Gen Y is a selective tribe looking for new experiences as well as the shared experiences of their peers.

2. Brand identity

Products will not be enough to engage Gen Y. Experiences, brand extensions and associations will have strong bearing on positive word of mouth and community influence.

3. Use social media

It is a given for Gen Y. The art will be in creating two-way interaction and not using social channels to broadcast traditional marketing messages.

4. Get it right for your brand

Gen Y has a unique correlation with individual brands. There are no general rules to be applied in engaging Gen Y and there are no shortcuts to understanding this audience in relation to your brand.

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