Gen Y: How To Target The Largest Consumer Group In History


Generation Y frequently stumps marketers, and for good reason; unlike previous generations, Gen Y-ers tend to ignore shifted values
shortened attention spans
more traditional advertising such as magazine ads or TV commercials. They grew up on the frontlines of the technology revolution, and they expect instant, personalized communications on the channels and devices they’ve grown accustomed to.

For brands, the challenge is not just figuring out the purchasing behavior of Generation Y–it’s also figuring out how to adjust to this generation’s shifted values and shortening attention spans.

Let’s explore how you can customize your communications to captivate your Generation Y audience and transform them into brand advocates:

Segmenting Your Generation Y Audience

Much larger than Generation X and, according to Emerald Insight, the most important consumer marketing group in America since the Baby Boomers, Generation Y is a gold mine for marketing opportunity–that is, if you know who they are and how to reach them.


Well-educated, tech savvy, socially responsible and eager to be seen as individuals instead of a general audience, Generation Y responds best to messaging that is:

  • Honest
  • Short
  • Direct
  • Personalized
  • Ethical
  • Humorous
  • Surprising

Demographics alone will not help you identify your Generation Y audience, as they are not a uniform market; psychographics and implementing the Value And Lifestyles (VALS) model is essential to understanding Gen Y-ers on a more granular scale and crafting an effective marketing strategy.

Sell Experiences, Not Products

Millennials place more value on the experiences a brand can provide, and are less interested in the hard sell of a product.

So when you’re marketing your products or services, think of how it can add to their current lifestyle: What problem does your brand help them solve? How does it make their lives easier, align with their values and fulfill their needs?

  • Think of the values they prioritize–happiness, diversity, social responsibility, trust, etc.–and let your messaging emphasize these values.
  • As mentioned earlier, keep in mind that Gen Y-ers are seeking honesty, humor, adventure and stories that make them feel a meaningful connection to your brand.
  • Part of selling the experience is using descriptive language and visual elements that set the scene for your audience. Use a combination of high-resolution images and compelling short copy to paint a clear picture of how the experience will look or feel unique to them.


The Dollar Shave Club is a great example of a brand that markets to Generation Y effectively by incorporating humor, descriptive language and plain-spoken truth into their YouTube ad.

Step Up Your Word-of-mouth Marketing

According to a report from RazorFish, word-of-mouth recommendations and online consumer reviews are the top two sources of advertising that have the most impact on Millennial purchasing decisions. This is why it’s essential to partner with industry influencers to spread the word to your market, and encourage honest online reviews of your brand.


Today, YouTube and social media celebrities have just as much, if not more, influence on Millennials than traditional celebrities.

Consider partnering with influencers in your industry who will encourage their followers to become your brand evangelists and spread the word about your brand. Millennials follow influencers because of shared interests and values; when you partner with influencers who closely align with your brand’s culture, their fans will likely identify with your brand’s products or services, too.

  • Start our 4 part Influencer Marketing 101 series here

Encouraging referrals and online reviews is also a highly effective Millennial marketing tactic. This generation frequently seeks out feedback from these online reviews, blogs and directly from their peers before making a purchase.

Mastering Social

Millennials expect real-time conversations and engagement on social media in order to build trust with a brand.

According to Forbes, 62 percent of millennials feel they are more likely to become a loyal customer if a brand engages with them on social networks. Instead of using social media as a megaphone to promote your products and services, your brand should focus on using social media as a way to encourage two-way conversations.

Regularly ask your audience to share feedback online, and include them in the process of developing new products or services.

You should also encourage them to submit their own content–and then feature it on your social networks. Hosting a photo submission contest, or a similar user-generated campaign, is a great way to put the spotlight on your audience and make them feel valued by your brand.


The perfect example of this? Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign, where fans can submit their own flavors and recipes in hopes to win a million-dollar prize and see their flavor stocked on store shelves.


Generation Y doesn’t want to be marketed to -- they want to feel a human connection with your brand and make sure their voice and opinions are heard.

Once you understand who makes up your Generation Y demographic, and the core values that drive them to make a purchase, your communication and marketing strategies will become much more meaningful and effective.

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* Adapted images: Public Domain Dedication (CC0) Public Domain, via

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