Before Social Media, customers had an indirect relationship with the brands: they saw advertisement on billboards or television; they received brochures and bought products from large retailers, such as supermarkets. They were Marketing consumers, whether they welcomed it or not.
Today’s population cannot be reached by such advertising methods and what divides that population is not gender or race anymore, but generation. This new generation is Gen Y (born between 1976 and 1999), children of the Baby-Boomers_also called the “Millenials” or the “Connecteds“. I am one of them! Most of us do not watch commercials or read supermarkets’ brochures anymore. I surely don’t… What about you?
As the Social Media expert Monica O’Brien claimed in a post on the OPEN Forum, “Gen Y is the largest generation in U. S. history. Generation Y is estimated at 77 million people—several million more than the Boomer generation“. The Generation Y is lead by values such as relational connection and higher meaning, and is looking for instantaneity and Authenticity. We don’t want to be told what to watch, to like or to buy by Marketers, but we are willing to listen to friends and contacts online, to hear about their experiences with brands and to decide whether or not we want to get in touch with that brand.
Today’s population is no more consuming Marketing; it is creating it. Generation Y is very different from the Generation X in that sense. When the “baby-boomers” adopted a new pro-active consuming behavior via online activities (i.e. news reading and sharing) and professional networks (i.e. Linkedin), their children, US, took the lead in creating our own content, and therefore designing our own world and market.
The “Connecteds” are so-called because we grew up with computers, high technology devices and gadgets. Lots of Gen Y cannot spend a day without going online, checking emails, the Facebook News Feed or the Twitter updates. I may spend at least 4 to 6 hours online interacting with contacts and friends, and reading news. We go online to play games, share pictures, watch videos, blog or chat. We communicate! Social Media became our main mean of communication and entertainment. This is where we evolve, where we socialize and where we purchase.
The real challenge is for marketers to understand that conventional media do not reach the new generation of customers and consumers anymore and to find out how to reach us online.
The Gen-Y is an “experience” culture looking for low costs, good quality and fast services. The strength of Social Media is therefore massive. If a “Y-er” has a bad experience with a brand, he/she will tweet about it on Twitter or update status on Facebook. The information will already spread on hundreds of followers and friends. If some of his/her followers and friends retweet the post, “like” or comment the status, friends of friends will have access to the message and the information will spread to thousands of people very quickly thanks to I-phones, I-pads, blackberries… The information is no more local, it becomes Viral because of a large and powerful Word-of-Mouth. The danger for companies is consequently also much bigger.
Not only companies have to touch the Millenials, but they also have to gain our trust and keep it.
O’Brien, M. (2010, April 21). How to Market to Gen Y. Retrieved from Open Forum: http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/how-to-market-to-gen-y-monica-obrien