We of Generation Y are ridiculous. We have multiple ways to use a phone, a TV, a computer, a tablet, a video game console, an mp3 player, and have hundreds of websites and blogs to follow. We communicate by phone, text, email, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, WordPress, Spotify, Words With Friends, and even sign language when we’re too into our groove to take our ear buds out to talk to the cashier at Duane Reade.
No wonder we have a reputation of being entitled. We have more than we could ever want and need thrown at our feet, 24/7.
As both a member of Generation Y and an ad man, I have some insider tips to pass your way—some do’s and don’ts—that can help you reach our ever-stimulated, ever-distracted group.
Five Ways to Gain Our Attention
1. Make it participatory: I still see TV, print and even online campaigns that simply shout a message without inviting participation. In this hands-on world, you can’t afford to miss that opportunity, especially not with the active and tech-savvy Generation Y.
2. Make it easy: We have media ADD. If we don’t get it right away, or at least see how to get it, we’ll lose interest and move on to something we do know how to use.
3. Make it shareable: And not just for Facebook and Twitter, but anywhere and everywhere, especially new trending sites like Pinterest. If you don’t know what that site is yet, Generation Y does, and they are there waiting for you.
4. Take a risk: Gen Y likes daring brands. We’re looking for something that stands out from the crowd in a real way, which rarely happens when you play it safe. Find a great idea, and instead of testing it to death, go with your gut, take a risk, and see how we respond to it in a real-world “test.”
5. Give it meaning: With a reputation for being entitled and spoiled, it’s easy to think we care only about ourselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’re altruistic, optimistic, passionate, and want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Give your message a relevant, meaningful focus, and we could become your most loyal evangelists. Levi’s Go Forth campaign did a pretty good job of capturing that feeling, and Tom’s Shoes wrote it into their business model. You can too.
Five Ways to Lose Our Attention
1. Take yourself too seriously: The power of funny is incredible, especially with Generation Y. We love to laugh. It makes us feel closer to each other and closer to your brand. And your brand doesn’t have to be an Old Spice or Burger King to make a joke. Serious brands can still use humor to illustrate a more serious point. I’d recommend keeping a comedian or two on staff for just such an occasion.
2. Be vague: Mission statements and brand platforms sound great in the boardroom, they but mean next to nothing to a 20-something who will skip your ad after about 0.7 seconds.
3. Give us a product instead of an experience: If you’re VW, you don’t sell cars. You sell a transportation experience. From the moment we consider buying a new car, to the moment years later when we trade it in for a new one, we want to be engaged. Give us an experience, not a product. Kodak thought they sold pictures. Now their business will be the butt of every what-not-to-do marketing case study for years to come.
4. Make fun of us: Take a look at this Samsung Super Bowl ad and tell me there isn’t an army of offended tech geeks—who love waiting in line for the latest iWhatever—eager to bash you online. Making fun of us isn’t the way to convert us.
5. Talk down to us: I’ve heard various decision-makers say things like, “I get it, but our customers won’t,” and “We need to dumb down the language for our customers.” If you think your target market is dumb, it will come across not just in your ads but also in your entire company culture. Try it with Generation Y, and we’ll go hang out with someone who thinks everything we do is brilliant (like Doritos).
So we of Generation Y are a pretty strange bunch, and we like it that way. Learning to reach us isn’t just good business, but it’s also a way to prepare for the future of advertising and marketing. Because we’re going to get older, technology will get only more complex, and the next generation … well, they are even weirder than we are.
Brian Havig is a copywriter at gyro