Gen Y’s way of thinking, doing and imagining has been so transformed by the web that their innovative spirit and thirst for new and fresh products and brands is nearly insatiable. This craving for fresh, new gadgetry helps them connect, navigate and explore the digital world in which they grew up. In fact, Gen Y is the first generation of digital natives and came of age with the Facebooks, Twitters, iPhones and Googles of the world.
As Sparxoo explored in its Generational Trend Report and Psychographic Trend Report, Gen Yers are as diverse as they are savvy. They thrive on crowds and love to participate in the hubbub, enthusiastically discover the latest trends, news, music, and urban scene while dis-engaging from the hectic, digital world that surrounds them. These might not necessarily be segments of Gen Y; one Gen Yer could embody all of these traits. They might want to be connected to their friends but disengage by venturing into a virtual world of fantasy.
If Gen Yers are so multi-faceted, how can brands engage them? It is the billion dollar question marketers are just learning how to answer and while there is some wisdom in engaging specific generational segments, there are some overarching themes throughout the first digital generation. The Googles, Apples and Old Spices of the world have tapped into the Gen Y psyche and their successes can give us insight into how to engage Gen Yers in the digital space:
Speed, Speed Speed – For a generation that categorizes dial-up as an ancient technology from the Stone Age, fast devices and gadgets are paramount. Google has taken this need for speed and ran as fast as they could with it. Between its speedy Chrome browser to its time-shaving Google Instant, the search engine is racing for the finish line. How does speed apply to brands?
As of this writing, last night I was in H&M and wanted to check out some new fashions on GQ.com. If that isn’t pretentious enough, I whipped out my iPhone 4 and tried the website (already have the app and it fails to deliver). After 5 seconds of waiting for the website to load, I said screw it and went with my gut. My gut 1: GQ 0. Had GQ optimizied its site for mobile devices, I would have engaged with the brand, found the information I needed and might have purchased the GQ paid app that mimics the magazine.
Just Be Fun – Marketers have a tendency to over-think and stress about ad campaigns targeted towards Gen Y. What do they think is funny? How can I be funny? If you’re asking yourself these questions, chances are you should a) take a break, go to the bar and have some fun and loosen up or b) take a look at Sparxoo’s article on humor in brand advertising. If you want to break through the clutter — and humor is a great way to do it — Gen Yers are bombarded with information every day, from the weather forecast to the Stuff You Should Know podcast on the way to work, to the 326 RSS subscriptions in their Google Reader.
Brands like Old Spice can break through the clutter, with its fun, irreverent and absolutely random YouTube videos. The men’s personal hygiene brand used its “Old Spice Man” commercials as a springboard for its viral campaign — flooding its YouTube channel with videos that quickly received millions of hits (as of this writing, the Old Spice YouTube channel has over 146 million upload views). Marketers put the Old Spice Man in funny situations, with ridiculous scenarios that was not likely made up by marketers fretting over whether their commercial would be funny to Gen Y. They just had fun and the ad campaign reflected that spirit.
I Want Ubiquity – In ancient times, when brands launched a campaign, they might have done some print, TV and dabbled in radio. Technology and Gen Yers have evolved. The Call of Duty franchise has a Facebook and Twitter page, iPhone App and website — in addition to traditional advertising mediums. That being said, fans of Call of Duty can experience the brand througout their digital world: on their Xbox, iPhone, social networks and the web. Call of Duty exemplifies how Gen Ys expectations have formed: they want cross-platform brand experience. In essence, the brand is wherever they want to be.
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