Cindy Gallop, the founder of If We Ran the World and Make Love Not Porn, the latter of which inspired the presentation’s topic, gave the only presentation that came with a parental advisory warning. (Sorry Tavi!) Her presentation’s hook was simple but provocative: hardcore pornography is now more easily accessible than ever, and it’s being used as a primer on how to have sex. On a broader level, this demonstrates how Generation Y learns from the culture around it. They’re not looking for a separate tutorial; if you want to educate Generation Y, you have to embed your lessons in popular culture. Gallop uses this idea on her site to re-educate young lovers, and marketers should be keen to learn the same lesson.
Sterling Lanier, the president and founding principal of the market research consultancy Chatter, understood how difficult it would be to follow a presentation on porn, but he did a great job presenting Five Things Prestige Execs Need to Know About Generation Y. Using ethnographic studies (namely, home visits and subject-created brand boards) and quantitative follow-ups, he and his team put together a list of six critical findings on how Generation Y consumers view luxury and luxury brands. (He had to come up with a title before he had finalized his presentation, so he offered the sixth point as a bonus.)
- Generation Y views luxury is an investment, not an indulgence. Consumers will pay more for quality. Like other speakers described, they aren’t just chasing trends, they want luxury that lasts. They even describe experiential goods like vacations as an investment (i.e., as a recharge in the midst of an exhausting but productive lifestyle.)
- Generation Y are equal opportunity buyers. They still view classic prestige brands as luxury (just as their parents did), but their world view is less static. They are open and willing to accept new luxury brands.
- Generation Y are “rationally exuberant”. They’re willing to spend money on luxury, but they feel the need to justify it. One such way is to describe it as an investment. Prestige brands can use this trait to their advantage: provide the excuse for consumers, and they’ll embrace your brand.
- Bling is blung! Ostentatiousness is out and subtlety is in. Lanier related that Generation Y consumers want brands to be clues, not metaphors. In other words, they’re looking for minor details that will convey a layer of their personality to a passer-by, but only if that individual knows about the brand and its subtle details.
- Generation Y offer life support for lifestyle brands. Just as Generation Y consumers are embracing subtlety over spectacle, they are embracing breadth over depth in brand acceptance. Whereas past generations chose one brand to advertise their personality, young consumers are showing their different facets with different brands (demonstrated earlier that morning by Tavi, when she identified no fewer than five brands as part of her outfit.)
- Let’s make a deal! Generation Y consumers are looking for deals that justify a purchase, not just a sale that saves them money. In a video from an ethnographic visit, a young woman used the term “deal” five times in about 18 seconds when describing a buying decision. (It was at this time that I looked at my watch and realized that I was missing out on my daily Gilt deals e-mail as I watched the Forum. Egads!) Lanier recommended that prestige brands use deals to drive sampling of their brands by Generation Y consumers.
Greg Shove, the founder and CEO of Halogen Network, touched on a topic that is obviously near and dear to my heart in his presentation on Finding Gen Y Online: the power of blogging. Blogs help drive product decision-making for Generation Y consumers because they are contextually aligned and authentic. Said plainly, blogs are more trustworthy and applicable than many traditional web or advertising methods. Unfortunately for the brand seeking to leverage this, blogs are also hard to scale and often hard to control. (However, as Jared Cohen noted, it’s still critical that one influence the conversation even if one can’t control it.) Shove shared three rules on how brands should use blogs:
- Really understand who your target audience is. This goes all the way back to understanding basic marketing STP. It’s a waste of time, money, and effort to use a blog to take advantage of contextual alignment if you’re not on the same page as your readers.
- You can find them easily on the big web model, but they don’t care that you are there. The web is a crowded channel, and just because you’ve found your audience, it doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to keep them. You have to engage them so that they feel you are on the same page.
- Create a new set of audience metrics. It’s not enough to just have hits on your website; you have to transform the visitor’s impressions into engagements. It’s critical that visitors interact with your content, whether that’s by sharing it on social networks or engaging you in comment threads. (This is something that I’m still working to do here. I’d love feedback!)
In addition to these rules, Shove also shared a few insights that I’d like to share.
- If they don’t share, they don’t care. This is where engagement is critical. If a Generation Y consumer is really interested in what you’re saying, they’ll pass on the link to their friends through Facebook posts or re-tweets. (By the way, you can do both with the buttons at the top of this post.)
- Take your brands to the consumers, not the consumers to the brands. You need to adopt a push strategy, rather than just offering a dot com address to your consumers and expecting them to visit your site. Get your brand out there on appropriate blogs, on Facebook, and on the minds of your audience!
Sebastian Jespersen, the founder and CEO of VerticPortals, used a product demo to describe The Digital Foundation for Gen Y. His message was very similar to Shove’s, repeating critical points such as the need to convert impressions into engagements and adopting appropriate measurement techniques. I believe that the strongest and most novel takeaway, however, is how Generation Y uses multiple touch points on a daily basis, and your message must be recognizable across these different channels. The impressions given by your website, your Facebook Fan page, and your point-of-purchase environment must be consist in order for the consumer to find them to be authentic.
Adam Walden, a general manager at Noise Marketing, presented on The Evolution of Gaming. As someone who still remembers Christmas 1989 fondly as the year I got my Sega Genesis, this was another topic that interested me. Gaming has become more and more social and mainstream in recent years. Consoles like the Wii are designed around a social experience instead of state-of-the-art graphics. Computer gamers are cooperating in MMORPGs, and people who would never classify themselves as gamers are spending hours of their days on Facebook playing Farmville and MobWars. Additionally, gaming concepts and technologies are finding themselves into mobile use and the so-called “real world” in the form location-based offerings (like those from Foursquare or Twitter) and augmented reality, like Google’s recent Earth and Sky apps.
Check on the fourth and final part of my review for a summary of who Generation Y consumers are and how they can be used to advance your brand.