Thursday, April 21, 2011

Insider's View: Generation Why

Generation Y, the audience coveted by marketing communications pros yet elusive of so many. Generation Y, otherwise known as millennials, have been notoriously difficult to profile, but if a company truly understands this market and successfully engages them, they will be an asset for many years. Here are some aspects of this generation (which, being one, I might know something about) to help you get to "know" them.

Personality of Generation Y

Generation Y is a generation of joiners and doers. This group is actively engaged with society and would consider themselves friendly and social beings. This group is ambitious and accordingly has high expectations of the world around them. They are used to getting their way, but aren’t afraid to work hard to get what they want. They are stubborn, and they are passionate. They feel that anything is within their reach and ability. They are competitive. They have a high sense of self-worth for a group just coming of age. Millennials are more educated than previous generations and are accordingly achievement oriented. They have the desire to leave the world a better place than the one they came into, and they believe it is possible. Their value is just beginning to be recognized by external sources.

Inquisitive. Generation Y needs to know the who, what, why, when, and how. They want to know how things work from beginning to end. They are used to being able to find any information explaining the world around them with the click of a mouse on Google. Share, don't hide, information with this group.

Collectivists. If Baby Boomers were the “me” generation, millennials might be the “we” generation. This group thinks of themselves as part of a connected society that they are helping to improve. Previous generations have been more individualistic. Recently graduated millennials are moving into urban areas in droves, abandoning the suburban lifestyles they grew up in. There is a large focus on convenience and togetherness over space and expansion.

Social creatures. Not only do millennials see themselves as part of a whole, but they enjoy the interaction that comes along with group membership. They are a highly social group that values having a robust life outside of school/career where they view socialization as a necessary part of their lives. Gen Y wants it all.

Some aspects that have affected Generation Y

Technology. While there is some debate regarding the exact definition of millennials, members of this group were born somewhere between 1979 and 2001. From 1979 to present, the world has gone from this:

to this:

Among the technological developments these young adults have experienced include: the internet, laptops, mobile web, etc to name a few. Naturally, this has had a profound effect on the way this group views and interacts with the world. Essentially, they are used to rapid technological advancements, and they embrace the latest before other groups and faster than other groups.

Current Events. Millennials grew up through life-changing events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. They have experienced a country at war most of their lives, and are keenly aware of global warming and environmental issues that have been hot button topics in recent years. Combined with the 24/7 availability of information due to the digital revolution, Millennials are actively engaged with current events, producing a further pro-social mindset.

Causes. Millennials are very cause-oriented, and they are more likely to support cause-related activity than other groups; a study by The Cone suggests that millennials are the most civic-minded generation to date. The group largely holds positive attitudes toward non-profit organizations. They are also much more likely to have volunteered than any other group. This audience was involved at a young age, often required to volunteer or do community service hours as part of a high-school level education. This has instilled the spirit of volunteerism among them. An estimated 80% of millennials will have volunteered in some way in the past year and 20% volunteer on a weekly basis. Millennials are trying to make a difference in this world, and they expect others to do the same. They are attempting to live up to that responsibility by volunteering, recycling, educating friends and family on social and environmental causes and donating money.

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