From green activism to anime, from Gawker to Tony Hawk video games, Generation Y is a complex generation with diverse interests. Immersed in the digital world from an early age, Gen Y is at the forefront of mashing up how we communicate, entertain, and innovate. Let’s start with some generalizations about Gen Y: they seek diverse communities online and offline, are idealistic and socially conscious, and they crave authenticity. Underneath those generalizations are mindsets that drive their behaviors and choices.
With the rapid rise of Facebook and Myspace, the Connector is an obvious place to start. The Connector thrives on crowds and loves to participate in the hubbub. To live up to their billing, they stay current on Hollywood, sports, and their friends. The iPhone is among their favorite products. On TV, they are watching Sports Center, the Hills, Gossip Girl, and the Office.
While the Connectors are on Facebook, the Forerunners are 2 steps ahead, checking out Twitter, Tumblr, and Ning. These are intellectually curious individuals who enthusiastically discover the latest trends, news, music, and urban scene, while also finding time for social causes and green issues. They aren’t shy. In fact, they live to actively share their opinion, gaining satisfaction from being in-the-know and making a difference. If you are reading blogs, you’re probably getting a lot of your information from these Gen Y thought leaders. They are emerging microblogger class. In fact, Forerunners comprise 40 percent of the microblogging site, Tumblr.
While the Connectors and Forerunners engage at a frenzied pace, the Escapist dis-engages from the hectic world around. They enjoy their escape from everyday life; immersing themselves in their own virtual reality. Escapists jump into their avatar skins in games such as World Of Warcraft. Escapists appreciate the pleasure of low key hangout on YouTube, playing video games, and catching up on the X-Files. They like cartoons: from anime to Simpsons to Adult Swim, you’ve got the Escapist hooked.
The Free Thinker is central to the rise of the artisan class. The Free Thinker is a highly imaginative individual that likes to express the diversity of their life in out-of-the-box ways. While the Escapist is on YouTube, the Free Thinker has their own designs in mind as they seek the fulfillment of discovering new, more off-beat communities. The Free Thinker makes their home at local coffee shops, and joins the Forerunners in social and altruistic causes. While they like Bravo, they are just as comfortable watching Austin City Limits or hanging out online at undiscovered sites such as Pitchfork.
Skeptic Nation — Sixty six percent of Gen Yers voted Obama into office — more than any other generation. Connectors rallied Obama support on social media; Forrunners wore Obama pins as a badge of reform; Escapists wanted to abandon the Bush years; Free Thinkers heeded Obama’s call for change. As we reflect on Obama’s first year in the Oval Office, has he enact his much promised change? Wall Street is still accepting million-dollar bonuses, America is still fighting two wars and health reform is slow-coming. This inefficiency is turning this hopeful generation into skeptics.
Gen Y are corporate and political skeptics. Large corporate empires present a real danger to Gen Y as they have seen the impact of too-big-to-fail banks on the economy. To appeal to Gen Y, you will need to shed the corporate brand in lieu of a more niche or personable brand. Although Hulu is a partnership between large media empires, its success can attributed to the non-corporate image. Boasting a large corporate image will only turn off this skeptic generation.
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