Will Gen Y behavior change the future of marketing?

Participation, sharing and gaming all rolled into one promotion: conceive on your Groupon date and win big

If you are over 30 or 35, chances are that your first relationship with media was as a consumer. You read, watched, viewed and received. But if you’re under 30, chances are pretty good that your first exposure to media was as a participant. You learned early on to post, share, distribute and create.

No doubt most of us do both; we watch and we participate. But there’s pretty good chance that as the first generation of so-called digital natives gets older and plays an even more significant economic and cultural role their media habits will force marketers to change strategies and tactics even more rapidly than they’ve had to in the last few years.

The evidence is everywhere. Ninety five percent of Millennials are members of a social network. That is their “news” source, not to mention their preferred media interaction. Thirty seven percent access the web from a mobile device.  That completely changes the when, where and how brands need to connect and interact with this generation. Sixty four percent of Gen Y creates content in some form of another, more than twice the percentage of all web users. Potentially they can play a significant role in developing or expanding a brand’s story.

So what does all of this mean for brands and marketers? Better social media skills? More clever ways of crowdsourcing? Transmedia story telling? A knowledge of propogation planning? An instinct for when to apply game dynamics?

Hard to say. One thing’s for certain, however. The generation that makes thumb contact more often than eye contact isn’t about to grow up and turn into TV watching couch potatoes. And even if they do, chances are they’ll be watching on smartphones, pads and maybe even äppärati.

Next week at FutureM, a panel sponsored by thenextgreatgeneration.com will discuss (it would be foolish to predict) the future possibilities and challenges posed by Gen Y.

Our group includes Chris Mahl, SVP of Marketing for SCVNGR, the hot new gaming platform; Matt Britton, CEO and founder of Mr. Youth, an alternative word of mouth ad agency; Matt Lauzon, the Gen Y entrepreneur behind Gemvara, an online jeweler that lets you design your own jewelry; and the award winning college journalist Alex Pearlman, who edits thenextgreatgeneration.com.

We figure that covers four potential trends that marketers may want to heed: games and game dynamics; word of mouth and social networking; customization and control; and the desire to be part of a community.

The event, probably sold out, may have a waiting list.  But we hope to video the session and share the conversation live on Twitter via #tnggpanel.

Hope you’ll join us there, and even here in the comment section with any of your own predictions, questions, or other.

Thanks for reading.  Hope to see you at FutureM.


Warning: Nice coincidence described below.

Wanted to visit daily but was off driving myself crazy over video color, as it turns out, I can't do a thing about. In a way that was good. For a couple of reasons; 1) Skype is now on my G2 (yesterday) and 2) Google announced Google TV (today) and 3) Facebook announced new Grouping feature which is a wait and see what happens event to me.

Both of those products (if successful) are going to increase the dilemma of advertising campains chasing the youth into their old age. Soon the cost of the 'new' TV will be low enough everyone will have one of some kind. At that time, living room TV, computer, and phone distributively linked to the internet as comfortably as I am now. Of course typing badly because I am watching live ustream. The TWiG (This Week in Google) is showing the hardware (taped segment on live ustream at 16:10EDT [20:10Z]) required to do this. How do you grab my eye? So if I am watching http://live.twit.tv the industry has to be creative. Some observations- Slingbox had a lower third ad which from someone not twit. Feed live.twit has ads that very directed; Audible and Ford catch me paying attention, some other ads not so much.

In short, the kids will change the meaning of entertainment & communication network ad campaign. And at the same time my Samsung LED [Samsung Tools: netflix/blockbuster/hulu/flickr/facebook/twitter] TV's 80 dollar wireless thingie will still not be bought. And the cable networks [USA/TNT/SyFy ...] will be 2nd class in the price points.

Without a crystal ball and not allowed to do fiction, this is far as I go. [17:18EDT, 21:18Z]

Journal of a High-Tech Cat http://duddits-fairuse.blogspot.com/


Have you watched a Gen Y person watch TV? While texting, playing games, and answering their phones, they drift in and out of watching a show. After some rewinding and editing, Gen Y turns the program into their own creation.

Sure, Gen Y watches over 3 hours of TV a day, but it's not a couch potato experience. I would argue that they've turned TV viewing itself into social media.


Read @benkunz and left comment here: http://www.thoughtgadgets.com/2010/10/behind-bubble-creativity-has-always.html?showComment=1286081490957#c6997543736281879387

I said my Crystal Ball could short out. Still true even though I agree with his, 'no big shakeup just evolution' concept. Lots of history in marketing and advertising that I have not learned, some I saw at arms length so my words are from that base. Like I said before, I see where you are going.

This paragraph is where I am already and recently, September in fact, I was told I could apply for an AARP card.

" Hard to say. One thing’s for certain, however. The generation that makes thumb contact more often than eye contact isn’t about to grow up and turn into TV watching couch potatoes. And even if they do, chances are they’ll be watching on smartphones, pads and maybe even äppärati. "

That means i was too early to the party and that is the conflict that shorted my Crystal Ball. The slow to evolve may just be the industry's grave stone for all I know.

I started at The Bean Cast http://www.beancast.us/xn/detail/2038174:Comment:12814 and went in a loop of reading that leaves me thinking Big Screen (home TV) is forever, little screen (get a butt phone call by accident?) is "the way" and the rest fall somewhere around them. Evolution of TV.


These new marketing opportunities seem to all revolve around mobile phones. Augmented reality, location-based social media, and gaming dynamics can all be used to amplify or change the mobile experience. Brands that learn how to create a better mobile experience for consumers are likely going to succeed, in my opinion.

It's also important to consider how easy it is to transfer material from the computer screen to the mobile phone screen. Foursquare 2.0 seems to be moving in this direction with the "add this to Foursquare" button. The button could be used as a mobile reminder, a mobile coupon, or a mobile "to-do" list that seamlessly transfers from one screen to the other, making an easier on-the-go experience for Gen Y. I think it's important to consider this when planning mobile apps and marketing to Gen Y in general.

While there are some "Gen Y behaviors" at play here, there are also some very basic human behaviors behind a lot of these new pieces of tech. I wrote the TNGG article on gaming dynamics, and I read the SCVNGR "playbook" as research. What really stuck out to me is that these gaming dynamics are all rooted in very basic human psychology and very basic conditioning principles. What brands really need to do is figure out how to use these gaming dynamics to provide value to the Gen Y consumer (extrinsic, intrinsic, or both).

I think Ben has a point here, too. There's always going to be a new piece of tech that allows brands to interact with consumers in a different way, and marketing will evolve to cater to it. The key is to find out how to combine new tech with old psychology in a way that benefits consumers. Yes, it's important to figure out how Gen Y behaviors differ from the previous generations, but it's also important to remember how we're similar. Humans are always going to create, view, and share, and I think at end of the day brands just need to figure out how to facilitate this process via new technology (especially mobile).


Let me suggest the radical answer of "No."

Yes, marketing will evolve, but I think, Edward, you take today's tech trend line too far. Let me challenge your hypothesis that "as the first generation of so-called digital natives gets older ... their media habits will force marketers to change strategies and tactics even more rapidly."

First, social media is not replacing mass media. The social media Kool-Aid drinkers should pause and reread that line. Adults 18-24 today watch 210 minutes of live television a day -- vs. 336 for adults 45-54 and 421 minutes for adults 65+ -- less than their older peers, but not nothing, and still an almost obscene amount of 3 hours and 30 minutes a day. This represents almost one-half of all young adults' media use. Now, within the migrating wave of social media, much of it is similar entertainment -- consuming videos on Hulu and YouTube, watching video games as they wiggle controls. It's important to look at the entire entity of consumer behavior when building campaigns, and old media cannot be ruled out as "replaced" by new media. Instead, much of what we see are simple shifts in formats, with similar consumption modalities inside.

Second, there is no creativity revolution. Why? Creation and collaboration have always been part of human activity -- this is nothing new. The pianos people once circled around in homes in the 1920s were devices people used to make music; churches were the weekly aggregation of storytelling and pageantry; dances are where people used to throng to express themselves. Humans have always had two concurrent needs, to watch entertainment from afar (campfires and TV) and to share stories and create their own entertainment (guitars and YouTube). If anything, sociologists could worry that modern Americans are *less* creative than their forebears because they spend more time passively watching video and playing video games than running outside to create their own entertainment, or playing instruments that require hard practice.

So the real answer is more nuanced. Yes, media is changing, because it always has. Yes, humans create and share, because we always do. The fragmentation of television in the 1980s led to marketers to consider one-to-one marketing in the 1990s; the rise of millions of sites on the Internet in the 1990s led marketers to chase content portals or search engines in the early 2000s; the rise of simple social-media creation interfaces in the past few years has people now worried about curation and viral propagation. These are all important steps forward. The challenge for us in the ad industry is not to believe every minor shift is a paradigm revolution, because today's Twitter is tomorrow's fax machine, just another tool for people to do what they've always done. Watch and share.


Damn, I sure wish I could go to this. Sigh... Anyway, to answer your headline question I'm going to have say, um, HELL YEAH. To me, though, the change is easy to see: marketers will have to listen and respond. It's really that simple. Sure, spreading the message still matters, but if all you do is yell at the world, well, people will tune you out. As they should.


Great post. People say 'nothing is really new' in terms of creativity. I say nothing is really new in terms of human behavior. This can all be easily predicted and planned out for clients, so they adapt technology to their problem as it comes along. Look at Old Spice on Twitter. Good ol' simple great creative writing that began with a TV spot. Same idea, channeled through the dynamics of twitter. As you say, it's about taking the kernal and then seeing what happens when you apply game dynamics or crowdsourcing, or any other techniques to that story.

I'm in my 30's. We posted, shared, distributed and created 'back in the day.' We just didn't have the ability to to do it so readily and easily, every day, in an instant. I remember how punk brands would use whatever small group dynamics they had to spread their music and involve other members/artists to take part and be rewarded. Had it been digital, it would have mimicked myspace.

And I remember even earlier, how GI Joe crowdsourced their action figures. Online (and for a good cause) it would be Pepsi Refresh. That was in the 70's and 80's. I don't think that much of the behavior is new. It's just the technology behind it that's making it more accessible and blowing it up.

'Propogation Planning' is catchy. Might become the next boardroom buzzword. If it helps explain to clients what's inherently understood by cultural observers, that's only a good thing. But it's already been happening for a very long time on a much smaller scale, and recognizing that makes it easier to grasp. It's just about tapping into that 'want of participation' that's always been there. I think it's important that we keep our eye on just how simple and universal these things are, and to recognize that they have always been there. We're simply expanding on them...dousing that flame with the lighter fluid of technology.