Generation (wh)Y?

As published on MarketingTribune on December 14, 2012. ‘Generation Y’: they are now aged 13 to 29, most of them never knew a life without Internet or smartphones, it is difficult to convince them through traditional advertising, they easily see through cheap marketing tricks, they consider themselves to be enterprising, they want brands to be honest and transparent, and they find it difficult to commit themselves to one single brand. As this generation is about three times the size of the previous generation X, their impact on society and other generations is clear. What does this imply in order to successfully involve youngsters in market research?

It’s about them, not about you

When Martin Lindstrom is talking about Generation Y, he often uses the phrase ‘me-obsessed generation’. Youngsters have grown up in a context where everything revolves around them: their parents take the time to listen to them, they are used to products and services being adapted to their needs (example: Coca-Cola introduced cans in Australia with the names of consumers on them). So take a moment to think about how you do something in return for the youngsters who participate in your research. What is relevant to them, what is really fitting for them? Don’t put yourself in the spotlight; try and reach youngsters through their own channels and make sure they can really have an impact on a choice or a decision. In research on the ‘Voice of Holland’ we integrated a research community in ‘their own’ Facebook fan page of the famous television programme. That is how you start off from their own natural environment.

Learn whilst playing a game

What most marketeers underestimate in this generation is their urge to learn new things. They are real ‘stimulation junkies’, looking for unexpected and ‘cool’ experiences. Furthermore more than a quarter of all youth wants to be remembered as ‘someone who achieved something in life’. So think about ways to involve this generation in a fun way in research, through ‘gamification’ techniques (useful copy from the computer games world). Try and bring the youth back in a ‘flow’ or help them to learn something by participating in your research. This is possible through the way you ask a question, the tasks you give the youth (e.g. make teams compete) or what they get in return (e.g. new insights, ‘badges’, etc.). In other words, it is better to ask a question such as ‘Imagine being on death row and ordering your last meal; describe in detail what you would choose to eat’, rather than ‘What is your favourite meal’. The information you get will be much richer.

Who are you and what do you aspire?

Being ‘real’ is very important to youngsters. Tell them who you are, why you need them and what you want to achieve. Gen Y is convinced that the brand of the future grows through co-creation and that a group of people can obtain more than an individual. Therefore you need to be as transparent as possible (e.g. introduce the people behind your brand), to really include the youngsters in your story (e.g. clarify their role) and to allow them to actually experience the results of your research (e.g. communicate in the media about the process, the impact or the results of your research). One of the participants in Ben & Jerry’s research landed an apprentice job at Unilever that way!
Would you like to count on the opinion and the help of youngsters in the future in order to continue your brand’s growth? Then think and act from their world, which will reinforce the quality and quantity of your insights!
Take a look at our latest paper on how to involve millennials in your marketing or find out more on

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