What’s the best way to market to Generation Y?

What the f%*# do you mean? Marketing is bullshit. I’m a cause. 

That’s right—swearing, yelling, being a hyped-up version of an idea.

In an interview with a 25-year-old ,millennial., “My peers and I live a life on steroids. We ask for hyper-everything because it’s all we know.”

But, understanding the root causes behind this attitude will give you insight into the ideas and values that really drive the thoughts and decisions of our newest consumer generation.

“The Most Narcissistic Generation”

Generation Y, also termed the Millennial Generation, Generation Me, Generation Next, Net Generation, and Echo Boomers, is a cohort of people born between the mid-1970’s and late 1980’s.

Some analysts over-simplify us as a generation of ADDers. Psychologists say we are obsessed with change and unwilling to conform.

More than anything else, we are called the largest group of narcissists in history: “Generation Me”.

As Jean Twinge, psychologist and author of Generation Me, says, “young people display entitlement, a facet of narcissism.” (p.70)

Yes, we do believe in our own abilities and want to be respected for our strengths. Notably, our average time at a job is 1.5 years. Most of us want to be entrepreneurs. We like to make our own lives work for us. We resist authority and we are the first generation to teach those older than us.* 

A quick look at Mark Zuckerberg (25 years old), Pete Cashmore (founder of Mashable, 26 years old), and Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress, 27 years old) demonstrates that we are creating a new world for ourselves, instead of following the ideas of the Baby Boom generation.

But do you have to market to a generation of narcissists?

Social Media and High Levels of Achievement

It’s a lot of pressure to be the center of your own universe. Although the newest consumer generation wants to craft its own lives, Gen Yers are not ‘non-conformists’.

In 2000, Neil Howe and William Strauss wrote, “a much higher share of today’s kids are taking advanced placement tests and enrolling in colleges.” (Millennials Rising, p. 18)

Generation Y is well educated and ambitious.

It is also characterized by the rise of social networks—hardly a narcissistic phenomenon.  We are hyper-busy, hyper-connected, hyper-ambitious, hyper-selfish, and hyper-social.

However, the Millennials are neither ADD nor narcissistic. We are over-stimulated and must compete within new media on a global scale.

Marketers are using Gen Y’s connectedness and drive to market with passion and exuberance. More than ever, individuals are looking for and engaging with the unusual or unexpected. Volkswagen’s “Fun Theory” explores the impact that unusual, energetic, and engaging marketing can have: http://youtu.be/2lXh2n0aPyw .

The Conditions for Our Conviction

We see, on average, 3000 ads per day. We have stopped looking, stopped caring. (http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/parents/marketing/advertising_everywhere.cfm )

We don’t want to believe in anything. We are ultimately existential because we’re constantly bombarded with unrealistic promises and claims. We see science and religion as constructs, politics and education as outdated.

Because our technology moves so fast, we are overtaking Generation X. We don’t believe in the institution anymore, because we have developed alternate structures.

With great clarity, we understand that everything is transient. Our individuality is all that we know, so we must trust in our own ability.

An overabundance of information and opportunity constantly confront us. As a result, we live in a sink-or-swim world.

We need bold conviction in our ideas. Without it, we’ll drown in overstimulation.

And, we like to see this same bold conviction in our brands. That’s why Levi’s Odyssey commercial advertises the comfort of its jeans by exploring what it takes to pursue a quest with intensity:

Millennial Values

The needs of the present have changed.

Generation Y wants free time and purpose. To distinguish ourselves from this multitasking, advertising-rich world, we want breathing room and integrity.

We like to avoid the confusion of too much opportunity and information. We are entering a world that has countless spheres of opportunity and engagement. Yet, we’re realists about the dangers of such hyper-connectivity.

To counteract these challenges, we value teamwork, work-life balance, and having a cause that connects us to a ‘bigger picture’.

Teamwork is natural in the age of social media. It’s also a practical solution to filtering and organizing our masses of information.

As David Stillman, author of When Generations Collide, notes, “This generation has the group-think mentality. When you are raised to collaborate at home, then you are taught how to do that in middle school and practice it in college, you show up at work saying ‘Where’s my team?’ Gen Y is just comfortable working with peers.”

With the blossoming of social media and special ‘task teams’ in workplaces, it’s clear that we would rather interact in a group.

A group mentality is apparent in consumption and marketing shifts as well. Now, it’s more common than ever for companies to collaborate with their customers. Pepsi’s “Refresh Project” are just a few examples of how the most-well known brands are integrating their customer groups into their business plans and marketing models.

Generation Y also values balance. It is essential in a world that moves so fast.

Last year, I saw an ad for a digital tablet that boasted “turn your downtime into uptime”!

Very easily, we could spend 24 hours a day being intensely productive. But, this generation of entrepreneurs is trying to avoid the danger of constant busy-ness by taking control our own work time and playtime.

Unfortunately, Gen Y can be too audacious. We pick and choose our social groups like interest groups. We discard ‘friends’ and opinions we would rather not follow.

Still, we are not one-dimensional.

To counter our self-centeredness, we see an interconnected world. We value the environment, our society, and open-mindedness as part of profit. Conscientiousness and awareness are measures of success.

Antonio Aguilera, founder of Crowd4all crowdsourcing site, discusses these values: “Social enterprise is the ability to look at one value chain and not only look at the financial value, but also the social and environmental value. It is an optimization of value. It considers profit, people, and planet. It is a win-win-win solution, and that is critical and important.”

Essentially, we are looking for a cause to tether ourselves to. We literally have the world on a screen. Technology has given us a lot of power and a lot of responsibility. We are young, we are passionate, and we want to direct our enthusiasm towards worthy goals.

When marketing to the newest consumer group, allow us to connect with you. We want a voice, a cause, and a group to belong to.

The world is now more in motion than ever. And the future is in conscientious hands.

* Source http://www.thestar.com/unassigned/article/223382–generation-y-selfless-or-self-absorbed

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