The “why” behind Gen Y

I think of myself as a pretty trendy person. But evidently, I don't know jack. I just spent an eye-opening day at IG's Trend School and I learned that I've been looking for answers to all the wrong questions.
November 9, 2011

I think of myself as a pretty trendy person: owner of two pairs of this season’s ankle-high boots; user of all things Apple; a fan of Adele; a player in the new media industry; and a perfectly neurotic mother of three Gen Y children.  But evidently, I don’t know jack. I just spent an eye-opening day at IG’s Trend School and I learned that I’ve been looking for answers to all the wrong questions.

TrendSchool is a real-life sliver of The Intelligence Group’s comprehensive Cassandra Report, a quarterly document highlighting youth culture and immerging consumer trends. Discussions, demos, panels, music, taste testing, and even local Millennials filled the IG program. My first clue that this was going to be a different kind of day was when IG Chief Executive Joe Kessler told us to leave on our phones. When was the last time a speaker encouraged handheld competition?  Hello, social media!

While touching on Gens X, Z and Boomers, the focus of the day’s conversation was on Gen Y’s, the 14 to 34-year olds that are the sons and daughters of Boomers, and are just beginning to become parents themselves.  We all know the Gen Y stereotype: the children of doting parents who were always made to feel special, told they could do and be anything, and that they were all winners on the soccer team. But TrendSchool dug deeper. Instead of asking what these kids want, IG explored why they are the way they are.  And what the implications are for potential marketers and developers.

Without revealing propriety secrets, here’s what I learned. People resemble their times more than their parents. The nature/nurture argument is as outdated as your Blackberry Curve.

Gen Y’s have had technology since childhood. Like bilingual babies, they move seamlessly from real to digital worlds. The immediacy and customization attributes of that digital world are their minimal expectations. They want what they want when they want it. If their parents can’t give it to them, technology can. These kids know how to curate as well as collaborate. Yet, despite being group-oriented, they still demand control. To differentiate themselves, they create their own brand “me” on Facebook and Twitter. They are what they share.  Go online to learn about them as well as to reach them. The world is at their fingertips 24/7. This 72 million-strong mass of Millennials is pursuing the next American dream: not to have more stuff and money than their parents, but to be happy.  Hmmm…I wonder if there’s an app for that.

How you talk to Gen Y-ers is sometimes more important than what you say

How do you reach the Gen Y’s? Send me your ideas at wendy@sandboxsummit.org.


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