I technically am on the outskirts of Generation Y, having been born in the latter half of 1976, while Gen Y officially includes those born between 1977-2000. Now, that’s quite a span, because it encompasses 34 year-old adults as well as 11 year old preteens, and it is hard to perceive them as one single generation.
There are commonalities, as you can read in several researches and articles on the topic, of which I recommend the ones in Portal HR, a well researched set of interpretations and local adaptations of international content. Because this is a blog about marketing and management, the most interesting for me was “Cum ar schimba Generatia Y abordarea in management” outlining three characteristics of Gen Y-ers:
1. Their tendency to question established ways of doing things
2. Their democratic, merit-based outlook that makes it difficult to adapt to rigid hierarchies
3. Their inclination for radical solutions, and their profound dislike of communication barriers
For marketing, these commonalities can somewhat offset the large age gap between the earliest and latest Gen Y-ers. Of particular interest are the implications of the characteristics mentioned above.
Gen Y will often question even successful models or experiences, because they are not only open to something new, but actively seeking it. What could this mean for brand loyalty, for example? Does this make Gen Y more likely to switch to another brand? Does it make it easier to generate trial for a new product? In my opinion, yes, but this propensity must be carefully balanced with other considerations, because as both studies and experience demonstrate, Generation Y is extremely concerned with value, the ratio between cost and benefits, and can easily assess it with the help of their online environment. So something new and attractive will not be tried for its own sake, but only if it delivers value beyond what the trial costs.
A rejection of rigid hierarchies reflects that Gen Y does not like to be told what to do. This impacts the way in which endorsements of a product work. For many years, marketing has relied on arbiters of cool, who were deliberately shaping opinion and consumption. This millennial generation is likely to reject the idea that anyone can dictate what is cool and what is not. They might even want to step outside the boundaries of accepted trends deliberately. There is a certain rebelliousness imbued in their more democratic outlook, and it certainly must make marketers shift significantly away from mass-marketing to niche marketing.
The dislike for communication barriers has a corollary. Or several. There is a thirst for information. The dictum “Information is power” holds truer than ever with Generation Y, but unlike the previous generations, the power is not in the accumulation and withholding of information, it is in its generation, sharing and circulation. This is the essence of the much touted viral marketing. Gen Y will share information that they think is somehow valuable, and they will do so much more than their elders, and more efficiently, due to the slew of online tools. The implications for Word of Mouth are staggering, and barely begin to be comprehended. Notoriety, awareness generation, and the adoption cycle are all changing.
Is this a new phenomenon?
No. Generation Y has been around for a while, but what is new is the ever increasing prominence and effect that their choices are having upon our lives. And marketing.