L2 GenerationNext Forum – Part 1

I haven’t had a chance to make use of all the opportunities that my being part of the New York University Stern School of Business alumni network offers me, but I have done my best to take advantage of some of the marketing-related events to which I have access.  For example, later this week I’ll be attending the Silicon Alley Insider’s Startup 2010, and last Friday I attended the L2 GenerationNext Forum.

The forum was organized by L2 (LuxuryLab), a think tank for prestige brands that was started by Scott Galloway, a brand strategy professor at NYU Stern (and the man responsible for getting me interested in branding and identity.)  The man knows how to put on a show, and after hearing his personalized introductions for each speaker, I think someone ought to get him a hosting gig on a branding awards show.

The intent of the forum was to present the unique characteristics of Generation Y consumers and demonstrate the opportunities that prestige brands possess in marketing to them.  To this end, attendees watched a parade of speakers presenting talks and product demos ranging in length from 4 minutes to 13 minutes on a variety of topics relevant to Generation Y.  As Galloway explained in his opening remarks on The Next “Greatest Generation”, understanding how Generation Y operates is our best way of understanding the future of business.  They are the closest thing that we have to a crystal ball when it comes to knowing the future of our work force and our consumer market.

With twenty one speakers in a four hour session, a full in-depth review would be much longer than most of you would care to read here, so I’d like to give you a brief overview of what I got from the talks.  For some of the speakers, these are the few key points that I drew from their speech.  For others, these are the points that I feel are most appropriate for the folks who regularly read this blog.  I’ve broken my review into four parts so as to not overwhelm you and your browser. The links to the subsequent parts are available at the bottom of the posts.

If you want to go more in-depth, I’d check out the L2 Twitter feed or website or see the tweets under the #L2GenNext hash tag.  There was some pretty thorough live-tweeting going on during the event.  Alternately, leave me a comment on any of my posts and I can elaborate on a point that interests you!

Here are my thoughts on and takeaways from the speakers.  I’ve included the name of their presentations (in bold text) and the salient points that I’d like to share.  I’ve also included links to the speakers’ websites or Twitter feeds where available so that you can follow them.  I’ll editorialize on a few of the talks (or the presenters) and share the ages of the speakers who made me feel old and lazy, even though I’m a member of Generation Y myself!

Matthew Bishop, the NY bureau chief of the Economist, described The World Gen Y Will Inherit.  He opened his presentation on a fun note, relating the excitement of The Economist being used to define luxury in an episode of the Simpsons.  (I also found it amusing that the magazine was used again in the show, when it was described as an “adult magazine.”)  He explained how Generation Y has an instinctive concern with financial stability, as they’ve come into maturity during a time of economic concern.  They need to plan for their future, as older generations have been “stealing the family silver” in the form of ballooning debt and the like.

Laura McEwen, the publisher of Teen Vogue, spoke about The Dynamics of Influence.  She contrasted Generation Y to their predecessors on a number of points, including their greater connectivity and need for less privacy than past generations (a point about which I’ve written in the past.)  She summed up just how much things had changed in one line: “it’s a new world when we think of Brad Pitt as old.”  She described two critical characteristics of Generation Y that I would be remiss if I didn’t share.

  • Generation Y has an amplified voice, that is, they have a wider variety of “microphones” to spread their message and influence, especially when the range of social media channels in which they are fluent is taken into account.
  • Generation Y has a greater sphere of influence in areas that are the bread and butter of prestige brands: fashion, beauty, and shopping.  Instead of looking to their parents for fashion inspiration, they are now telling them what to wear (or not to wear, even going so far as to send mothers back upstairs to change.)

I was curious to hear more about how this sphere of influence might affect e-commerce, but sadly, the speakers weren’t taking questions.  McEwen did briefly demo the Teen Vogue iPhone “Haute Spot” app that included e-commerce links, so there is clearly an influence.

Jeanniey Mullen, the chief marketing officer of Zinio, gave the first product demonstration of the day, showcasing her company’s online magazine store.  In offering magazine content in an electronic form, they seek to leverage the market’s trust of a traditional magazine with the convenience of internet publications.  One telling comment by Mullen was than older generations access 4 or 5 different screen sizes (e.g., television, computer monitor, projector screen, smartphone, etc.) so a content provider has to format for all of those screens.  As Generation Y moves to a fewer number of screens (i.e., viewing content traditionally available on TV on a computer or iPad), there exists an opportunity for content providers to explore depth of content more than breadth.

Check out the second part of my review to read about presentations on politics, health care, and underwear, as well as insights on environmentalism and fashion that only teenagers can offer.

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