L2 GenerationNext Forum – Part 4

(This is the fourth and final part of my review on last week’s L2 GenerationNext Forum.  Check out the first part, second part, and third part.)

Jane Buckingham, the founder of Trendera, compared Generation Y to its predecessors in her presentation on What Gen Y Wants From Your Brand.  Whereas members of Generation X found themselves going through mid-life crises a few decades too early (creating the ubiquitous Gen X “slacker”), members of Generation Y are now seeking to define themselves at an even younger age, in their teenage years.  Buckingham believes that some trends are cyclical (something I recognize when I’m looking to Mad Men for fashion inspiration.)  She did offer one word of caution that marketers targeting any generation should heed: over-promotion will only lead to increased expectations.  This is especially critical for Generation Y, as many of the presenters have discussed how they value authenticity and credibility.

Ben Kaufman extended social connectedness from online networking to product development when he founded Quirky.com.  He spoke about new definitions of luxury in his presentation on Social Product Development & Gen Y.  Specifically, he differentiated earned luxury from bought luxury.  Generation Y values a sense of achievement (which is probably why my peers and I can get so excited over Foursquare badges and mayorships.)  Earned luxury is a sense of entitlement that has to be built from the ground up.  Kaufman views an iPod accessory that he designed as a more luxurious item to him than any prestige brand he wears.  While the idea that the best luxuries are “the ones where you’ve accomplished something really hard” sounds like a terrible constraint for brands marketing to Generation Y, it’s actually a tremendous opportunity.  Companies can leverage the consumers’ desire for connectedness by bringing them inside the process of creation.  While the Woodstock generation bragged that “I was there”, today’s up and comers want to brag that “that couldn’t have happened without me.”

Andrew Wagner, the editor-in-chief of the magazine ReadyMade (and the man with the day’s best facial hair) finally gave a name to a series of attributes that we had been discussing all day in his presentation on Mindful Consumption: Gen Y & The New Marketplace.  Mindful consumers value their connections with others and the authenticity of products and brands.  This concept doesn’t just fit a do-it-yourself magazine; it also sums up the points that define Generation Y as consumers.  Like Shove and Kaufman said before, if you want to engage Generation Y, don’t just show them something, let them participate.

Matt Britton, the founder and CEO of Mr. Youth, opened his presentation on How Gen Y Can Evangelize Your Brand with a simple but profound point: people are becoming more like brands, and brands are becoming more like people.  Given new social media channels, individuals are working harder than ever before to manage their own personal brands while companies are using the same channels to communicate to individuals as their peers.  There is a shift in the power of influence, and this is leading to the rise of an individual than Britton refers to as the Consumer 2.0.  This consumer is defined by several traits:

  • Connectivity
  • Individuality
  • Authenticity
  • Ownership

Does this sound like any generation you know?  As the new consumer leverages social networks, there is a change in how marketers must act and react.  Traditionally, marketers focused on customer awareness, expecting that to lead to customer engagement.  Now that consumers are collaborating in their purchase decisions more than ever by sharing information on social networks, awareness of a brand often occurs without a consumer ever receiving the initial brand message.  It’s critical that the brand put more resources into engagement.  That which used to look like a plain funnel now steps out and then back in again.  Britton recommends a few things that brands should and should do to take advantage of this changing paradigm:

  • Don’t observe, converse
  • Don’t reach, engage
  • Don’t market to, market with
  • Don’t create, crowd-source (something that I’ve tried my hand at in the past)

The end goal to all of this is to turn your brand’s observers into fans, then evangelists, and finally into ambassadors.  Brands have an opportunity to leverage their consumers’ desire for connectivity and ownership.  If they market intelligently, they can utilize their customers’ fervor to advance their bottom line.

Justin Nassiri, the founder of VideoGenie, gave the final product demo and presentation of the day, explaining how you can Let Your Customers Deliver Your Corporate Messaging.  He demonstrated the VideoGenie platform, which L2 used to capture and post some participant reactions to the Forum.  Nassiri shared what he called the new rules for online customer interactions:

  • Be in the conversation
  • Be where your customers are
  • Nothing beats video (although hopefully, this textual review is the next best thing!)

Finally, Scott Galloway returned to the stage to close the Forum to reiterate the two goals of the day.

  1. To gain insight about Generation Y
  2. To be inspired to (or scared into) action

I think that both goals were met.  I hope that the brand and industry professionals in attendance were inspired to take advantage of the opportunities that marketing appropriately to Generation Y can offer their companies.  Meanwhile, I expect that young marketers like me were scared into action a little bit.  Seeing a 14 year old who has made such an impact on stage reminds me that I’m not as young as I think or accomplished as I hope to be.  I guess it’s well past time to get a move on!

I hope that this review has accurately reflected what the presenters wished to share and that I satisfied the curiosity of those who couldn’t make the Forum.  The next L2 event is a clinic on mobile marketing on June 23rd.  Keep an eye on their website or sign up for their daily digest e-mails to get more information (or just wait for my review!)

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