A few weeks ago I got a call from a journalist working with the culture section of a daily paper. He said: “I just read your book and think there are many interesting insights on Gen Y in it… but I am running against a deadline and was wondering if you can help me with something like a top 10 list ‘for Dummies’ of what really characterizes this generation and differentiates it against the previous?”. Well, Joeri and I hadn’t really made that list at the time but I decided to give it a go. Yet, it did end up as a condensed ‘top 15’ in order to cover most of the major themes described throughout the book. So, for anyone else with ‘short deadlines’, here we go:
- They are 15-30 yrs old and the first generation growing up with Internet as a natural ingredient in their social, media and economic life. Or as one of our respondents said; “it’s not like I am thinking www… it’s not a gadget… or an activity I plan for or think of separately from anything else that I do, it’s not anything special really… it’s just… well…part of my life”.
- Their attitudes, values and lifestyles are in many ways different from those of the previous Babyboomers and Generation X and due to their cheer size and direct and indirect influence they will have an even greater impact on how companies and brands must behave as marketers and employers to satisfy their emotional and practical needs.
- They grew up in a family structure where they have always been at the center of attention, where they have got used to constant acknowledgement and instant feedback and support, at the same time they have been trained and encouraged to believe in themselves and their own capacity in every situation in life.
- They value their parents (and family) as friends, guides and even role models, rather than the traditional authorities, and they have a great influence on family consumption and other decisions
- They are better educated, more connected, more positive to the future and they have greater self-esteem, ambition and ability to make their voices heard (commercially and in general) than any generation before them.
- They are aware of (and sometimes even treasure) their local culture, roots and traditions but think, socialize, travel, study and pursue their careers like limitless global citizens.
- They are the first generation being approached from birth as a ‘target group’ for commercial messages, which has fostered them into critical and experienced experts on marketing; demanding transparency, authenticity, honesty from – and participation and control of – the brands they choose to consume.
- They are ambitious optimists striving for both material and emotional success in life and they are willing to work hard to achieve it but at the same time they are conscious of and unwilling to sacrifice their work-life balance or spending time with friends and family, a sustainable environment or a humane society at large.
- Their consumption and brand loyalty is highly dependent on acceptance and endorsement by their closest friends and their expanded social network of peers.
- They treat brands and media content as their most important social currency and their daily conversations with friends contain twice as many references to brands as for previous generations; on average 146 ‘branded’ conversations every week.
- Compared to previous generations they have far less needs to rebel against parents, authorities or society at large; they typically don’t fight the system, they ‘game’ it and try to make the best out of it.
- They are ‘stimulation junkies’, looking for innovation, new unique emotional experiences and instant gratification in order to keep their interest in a brand.
- They see music artists and -events as more important sources of inspiration than movie stars and other celebrities.
- It is still important for a Gen Y brand to be perceived as ‘cool’, only the meaning of the concept has changed with this generation compared to previous and has much less to do with being edgy, irreverent, trendy and attitudinal image and much more to do with authenticity, credibility, creativity, uniqueness, tolerance, diversity, warmth and respect.
- Generation Y is both more collectively similar and more individual than previous generations; globalised media and social technology has created a convergence of imagery, values, attitudes and lifestyles and at the same time enabled an explosion of styles, interests and personal expressions. This is changing the rules of segmentation for brands.
Let us know if you think of any other Gen Y basics!