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Generation Y: Who they are, and why marketers should care (Part 1)

Another generation of consumers has come of age: Generation Y, or those born between 1980 and 1999 now wield huge buying power in the U.S. market (though those born in the latter part of this time bracket still have a couple years until they’re full-fledged adults).

Many of them are done with college, embarking on careers, buying homes, going on more expensive vacations, beginning families, etc. With a population 7% larger than that of the baby boomer parents, their disposable income is vast and marketers should be taking that into account.

According to Barron’s Magazine these Millennials (those who have “come of age” since 2000) “already account for an annual $1.3 trillion of consumer spending, or 21% of the total.” That number will only grow larger as their job positions rise and salaries increase.

The impact of social media

A marked difference between Gen Y’s and previous generations is their propensity for influencing social media. Business News Daily recently reported, “Thanks to social media channels, which are largely populated by this generation, consumers and not traditional media outlets are becoming the primary source of information on products and services.” Thus, having a high quality, consistent presence on social media platforms has never been more important.

Also thanks to Millennials and their preference for all things digital, it’s easier to get information than ever before, meaning brands must be very careful about how they portray themselves. James Marshall Reilly, the founder and CEO of The Guild Agency, explained that, “News is instant, constant, and unfiltered, and the opinions of ordinary consumers have the potential to go viral. Couple that with the fact that Millennials are very, very conscious of brand image—we want brands we buy to reflect who we are as people.”

KFC’s viral nightmare

For instance, a recent picture of a little girl scarred by a pit bull attack went viral after a KFC employee asked her to leave, saying her appearance was making the other customers uncomfortable. The Facebook page created to support the little girl, “Victoria’s Victories” went from having 250 followers to over 150,000 followers almost overnight once the girl’s guardian related the incident, creating a lot of bad press for KFC along the way. The company reacted quickly, saying they’d be investigating the matter and regardless of the outcome donating $30,000 towards the girl’s recovery. And that is just one small example of the power of social media.

Friend recommendations rule the roost

Another result of the proliferation of social media is the user’s capacity to share articles and pages with friends. Gen Y is more likely to listen to a friend’s recommendation of a brand than to believe a blurb published by the company itself.

Sarah Sladek, CEO of management firm XYZ University explained, “Generation Y doesn’t readily trust a marketer’s effort to sell them anything. They value trust, which is why they frequently seek out the opinions of their peers and consult user-generated review sites.”

Sources:

Business News Daily

Facebook – Victoria’s Secret

Barrons

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