Gen Y is the largest generation since the Baby Boomers. Generation Y are aged from 5 to 31, and they are considered “digital natives.” These are young people who establish themselves socially with digital activity. The definition of this generation is pivotal in understanding the changes they will bring.
A digital native is someone born into the digital age. Unlike digital immigrants who were introduced to modern technology, these children and young adults live and breathe it. They are not obsessed with the internet. They understand it. They use it as the medium by which they can gain notoriety, approval and information. Their tools are internet capable TVs, laptops, netbooks, tablets, hand-held gaming units and smartphones.
An understanding of how Gen Y views marketing and products can come from viewing their attitude towards employment and employers. They are there on time, ready to work for something they believe in. They need to “buy in” to their job. They are not afraid to question management. They will not follow the lead because they are told to, and will not be treated poorly just for a paycheck. Work needs to be flexible, offering flex-time, telecommutes and a fun environment. Employing companies need to care about the world.
Generation Y is socially conscious. This is definitely something employers need to consider, and something marketers should consider, too. They understand politics. They are aware of global issues. They consider themselves very important in the election process, and over the next few years their influence will be seen. This is a generation who is reading the news, but not from a newspaper. Their information is delivered by blogs, and in the formats only digital natives can appreciate.
Marketing has some lofty hurdles to jump to get Generation Y’s attention. These are celebrities. They are buying what their friends buy, but not their three close personal friends, their 750 friends who live around the world. They do not want to be celebrities in terms of being famous, they want to be unique.
The way to market a Gen Y adult is by showing you are a socially responsible company who is in the know. They do not want to call customer service; they want to chat with them. They do not want a television advertisement with a jingle; they want a flash-based advertisement leading to your profile page on a social network. You want your employees to have no internet access at work, and to make those cold calls? A Gen Y is only going to tell you once how many more sales she could have for you with access to Facebook instead of a phone line. Then she’s going to go right around your IT department’s back and access it anyway.
The socially conscious, digital tool belt wearing, gadget-using nature of a digital native’s world must be understood by those trying to market to them. Sticking with marketing techniques of yesteryear will not only be a waste of money, but also work as anti-marketing in the eyes of Gen Y. Online representation and ingenuity are qualities necessary to win over this new generation.