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An extensive, helpful guide to Gen Y marketing

by Casey Schmidt  |  March 31, 2020

3 min. read
Different illustrated people working.

Gen Y is a generational label designed to people born somewhere in the 1980s or 1990s. As such, marketing efforts towards Gen Y are (and should be) constantly changing. With that said, it’s important to create campaigns that will give these age groups a chance to latch on and enjoy whatever it is you’re promoting. Here’s a guide to make sure you handle gen y marketing correctly.

You can’t please everyone (but you can at the same time)

Certainly, it would be great if we could create a marketing campaign that pleased everyone. This isn’t possible, though that’s not to say a campaign can’t come close. When we sell a product or service, we offer a brand experience and aim this experience toward users who need or may need the product or service. Within that group (of users who need our product), there is going to be a wide range of different generations. Certainly, our campaign can’t please everyone. Fortunately, it really doesn’t have to. In fact, by not attempting to please everyone, we often end up doing so.

A group of young workers in an office.
It’s impossible to target all audiences.

Here’s an example that illustrates this paradoxical idea. Let’s say a company is selling a new pair of sunglasses. They create an advertisement that shows a young woman with immense fashion sense and style wearing their shades. Now, one could make the argument that this wouldn’t connect with older generations, or with people who don’t follow fashion trends. In reality, it’s typically the opposite. The age of the actress shouldn’t discourage older age groups (it may even draw them in, sometimes) and a lack of fashion may draw the audience to the unique style displayed in the advertisement.

So how does this apply to marketing for Gen Y? Well, this principle fits into potential campaigns aimed at Gen Y’ers. Certainly their entire generation is going to have people on widely different spectrum and paths of life. That doesn’t mean you can’t focus your campaign on something unique and specific and draw a wide range of people.

A group of workers at a table.
Promote campaigns that build up all types of audiences.

Keep it simple, honest and ethical

Like any generation, Gen Y’ers can sense when they’re being misled or tricked when seeing an advertisement. For Gen Y especially, they’ve grown up largely on the internet, where they’re bombarded with gimmicky, shady ads on nearly every site they visit. It has become very easy for people in their age range to detect and disregard campaigns that are taking an angle. They also have grown accustomed to the simplicity of things. If there’s a simpler path to take to complete something, they figure out how to do it.

How can we implement these ideas into our own campaigns? We can start by creating campaigns that don’t overwhelm our audiences. Keep things fresh and simple and even fun or comical. As long as we’re creating good content and providing a general sense of our services, the audience should get the message. Also, honesty goes a long way in a campaign. It’s impossible to pretend something didn’t happen if it did. Structure your campaigns around these ideas to create something that connects with audiences without hiding aspects of your company or its mission and goals.

A young woman in an office setting.
A simple campaign brings about positive results.

Finally, be ethical when possible. This of course always applies, but will definitely pick up a lot more steam with the Gen Y crowd, who expects this above other things such as price, performance, etc. If there’s a way to make positive change with your campaign, don’t hesitate to try. Chances are it might be helpful to your company ideals and goals regardless.

The last thing to remember is to not overthink things. This leads to awkward patronizing and turns off audiences. Sure, it’s important to target things that a certain age group will enjoy, but that doesn’t require a weird slogan or campaign theme. The more you relate with your audience, the less chance you have of turning them off.