Generation Y: what every marketer needs to know

The emergence of Generation Y – defined as those born in early 1980s up to the early 2000s – presents marketers with many challenges. This market segment, also frequently called Millennials, spans a broad range of life-stages, from those just starting secondary school to those with spouses, kids and mortgages.

They are not, therefore, a homogenous whole – but have been shaped by the same socio–economic trends. They share similar traits, habits and values – all of which marketers need to grasp fully in their branding strategy. Read below to discover the main characteristics of Millennials and how your brand can appeal to this young and influential demographic.


According to research from Ashridge Business School and the Institute of Leadership and Management, graduates entering the workplace are an academically talented bunch but have very high expectations – 32 per cent are unhappy with the performance of their boss and half plan to move into another job within two years. Strongly motivated by money, status and the prospect of career advancement, they also value a high degree of freedom and autonomy in how they carry out their work. A work life balance is important to them and they do not accept the culture of “long hours” embraced by Generation X – those born between the early 1960s and early 1980s. Additionally, over a third of graduates engage in personal tasks online while at work at least once or twice a week compared to 25 per cent of managers – a finding that creates opportunities for marketers looking to target audiences during the working day.


The cultural values and interests of Generation Y are intertwined with the rise of the culture of digital media. According to a large international study of 12,000 18 to 30 year olds in 27 countries carried out by Telefónica, Millennials are defined by their ubiquitous use of technology. They also believe that education in technology will ensure future personal success. Generation Y could also be termed the smartphone generation – 76 per cent of Millennials own smart phones globally. This is reflected in their media channel preferences, with the tnternet trouncing TV and print not only as the best source of entertainment but also for credible news coverage. The internet, including social media, was seen as the best source of entertainment by 64 per cent – crushing print magazines and newspapers, with a mere three per cent.

Nearly half of the 18 to 30 year olds surveyed in the UK believe they have an excellent knowledge of technology compared to just 30 per cent worldwide – suggesting that marketers need to appeal to a increasingly tech savvy audience at home. This embrace of multi-channel digital culture is underlined by the Ipsos MediaCT Tech Tracker research that found that 38 per cent of tablet computer owners use their tablets while watching TV at least once a day, with a further 15 per cent doing so a minimum of once a week. The most popular activities while watching TV were e-mail (51 per cent), social networking (46 per cent) and online shopping (25 per cent).


Younger Millenials have never witnessed boom times and their attitudes have been shaped by the worldwide downturn. A US survey of younger Millennials, aged 14 to 17-years-old carried out by MTV showed that more than three quarters worry about the negative impact the economy will have on their future. Only 51 per cent agreed with the statement, “If I want to do something, no one is going to stop me,” a marked drop from 71 per cent in 2010. The majority – 60 per cent – believes they will be worse off than their parents and the same number feel “very stressed” about getting into a good high school or college. Brands that create a feel-good factor via personalised marketing and a sense of heritage will appeal to a demographic, which has a lot more to worry about than previous generations. For example, a report by Woot Media, Generation Y and Brand Loyalty found that Cadbury is the most liked brand amongst UK 16-34 year olds (82 per cent). Cadbury has fed this appetite for fun and feel-good branding with its launch of a 10-year marketing strategy, known as Joyville, which centres around a magical place where the brand creates its 100-year-old Dairy Milk bar.


Generation Y is far more aware of marketing and advertising than previous generations – and with this commercial awareness comes scepticism about the nature of advertising. This means they may not respond to traditional marketing methods in the same way as previous generations. If they feel they’re being “marketed to”, they are likely to switch off. For instance, luxury brands are in danger of losing a generation of customers who see “luxury” as a purely marketing concept, says TBCH planner Lauren Took.

A report by Woot Media, Generation Y and Brand Loyalty, found that Cadbury is the most liked brand amongst UK 16-34 year olds (82 per cent), followed by Amazon 78 per cent, Pringles, Walkers and Heinz (all 74 per cent). The top ten is completed by Google, Coca-Cola, (both 73 per cent), Galaxy (71 per cent); Kellogg’s and Facebook (both 70 per cent)

Brand preferences evolve through different Generation Y life-stages, with brands that are more family-focused increasingly coming to the fore for those in the 25 and above age brackets.

So what the answer for brands? “Be authentic,” says Took. “Everything your brand does should be justified by a reason beyond making a load of cash. Apple thrives because they believe in doing things differently, and challenging the status quo. Starbucks has built its brand around the motto that everyone should have a “third place” to escape to. Neither of these brands are campaigning for drastic social change. They are however, telling this generation they really care about something. Something more than making money.”


WORDS: Rob Gray

The Marketer Magazine


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