NET EFFECT. Which isn’t to say echo boomers aren’t brand-conscious. Bombarded by ad messages since birth, how could they not be? But marketing experts say they form a less homogeneous market than their parents did. One factor is their racial and ethnic diversity. Another is the fracturing of media, with network TV having given way to a spectrum of cable channels and magazine goliaths such as Sports Illustrated and Seventeen now joined by dozens of niche competitors. Most important, though, is the rise of the Internet, which has sped up the fashion life cycle by letting kids everywhere find out about even the most obscure trends as they emerge. It is the Gen Y medium of choice, just as network TV was for boomers. ”Television drives homogeneity,” says Mary Slayton, global director for consumer insights for Nike. ”The Internet drives diversity.”
Nowhere is that Net-driven diversity more clear than in the music business. On the Web, fans of even the smallest groups can meet one another and exchange information, reviews, even sound clips. Vicki Starr, a partner in Girlie Action, a New York-based music promoter, last year booked No Doubt, a band with a teen following, into a small Manhattan venue. She says that on opening night the house was packed with teenage girls dressed just like the lead singer. ”How do they know this? How do they keep up with what she’s wearing? It’s not from network television,” says Starr. ”It’s online.”
The Internet’s power to reach young consumers has not been lost on marketers. These days, a well-designed Web site is crucial for any company hoping to reach under-18 consumers. ”I find out about things I want to buy from my friends or from information on the Internet,” says Michael Eliason, 17, of Cherry Hill, N.J. Even popular teen TV shows, such as Warner Bros. (TWX)Television Network’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek, have their own Web sites.
Other companies are keeping in touch by E-mail. American Airlines Inc. recently launched a college version of its popular NetSaver program, which offers discounted fares to subscribers by E-mail. ”They all have E-mail addresses,” says John R. Samuel, director of interactive marketing for American. ”If a company can’t communicate via E-mail,” he says, ”the attitude is ‘What’s wrong with you?”’
This torrent of high-speed information has made Gen Y fashions more varied and faster-changing. Young consumers have shown that they’ll switch their loyalty in an instant to marketers that can get ahead of the style curve. No brand has done a better job of that than Tommy Hilfiger (TOM). When Hilfiger’s distinctive logo-laden shirts and jackets starting showing up on urban rappers in the early ’90s, the company started sending researchers into music clubs to see how this influential group wore the styles. It bolstered its traditional mass-media ads with unusual promotions, from giving free clothing to stars on VH1 and MTV to a recent deal with Miramax Film Corp., in which teen film actors will appear in Hilfiger ads. Knowing its customers’ passion for computer games, it sponsored a Nintendo competition and installed Nintendo terminals in its stores. Gen Y consumers have rewarded that attentiveness by making Hilfiger jeans their No. 1 brand in a recent American Express Co. (AXP) survey.
Compare that record with Levi’s, one of the world’s most recognized brands and an icon of boomer youth. It got a harsh wake-up call in 1997, when its market share slid, and research revealed that the brand was losing popularity among teens. With its core boomer customers hitting middle age, both Levi’s advertising and its decades-old five-pocket jeans were growing stale. ”We all got older, and as a consequence, we lost touch with teenagers,” says David Spangler, director of market research for the Levi’s brand. Now, Levi’s is fighting back with new ads, new styles, a revamped Web site, and ongoing teen panels to keep tabs on emerging trends. “We never put much muscle into this sort of thing before, but now, we are dead serious about it,” says Spangler. “This is a generation that must be reckoned with. They are going to overtake the country.”
Marketers who don’t bother to learn the interests and obsessions of Gen Y are apt to run up against a brick wall of distrust and cynicism. Years of intense marketing efforts aimed directly their way have taught this group to assume the worst about companies trying to coax them into buying something. Ads meant to look youthful and fun may come off as merely opportunistic to a Gen Y consumer. That’s what happened to PepsiCo in its attempts to earn Gen Y loyalty with its Generation Next campaign, says William Strauss, co-author of the 1991 book Generations: The History of America’s Future. The TV ads, in which kids showed off branded trinkets, from jackets to gym bags, fell flat. ”They were annoying,” says Philip Powell, 14, of Houston. ”It was just one long ‘Please, please, buy me.”’
Ironically, Pepsi already has one of the biggest teen soda hits with Mountain Dew, but the drink’s success has little to do with advertising. Instead, kids found out about Dew from their most trusted endorsers–each other. ”[Kids] believe–true or not–that they’re the ones who figured out and spread the word that the drink has tons of caffeine,” says Marian Salzman, head of the brand futures group at Young & Rubicam Inc. ”The caffeine thing was not in any of Mountain Dew’s television ads. This drink is hot by word of mouth.”
Along with cynicism, Gen Y is marked by a distinctly practical world view, say marketing experts. Raised in dual-income and single-parent families, they’ve already been given considerable financial responsibility. Surveys show they are deeply involved in family purchases, be they groceries or a new car. One in nine high school students has a credit card co-signed by a parent, and many will take on extensive debt to finance college. Most expect to have careers and are already thinking about home ownership, according to a 1998 survey of college freshman for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. ”This is a very pragmatic group. At 18 years old, they have five-year plans. They are already looking at how they will be balancing their work/family commitments,” says Deanna Tillisch, who directed the survey.
This article discusses the changes Gen Y has brought to the marketing world, and to websites and online marketing. With the internet being the medium of choice for Gen Y marketers hat to shift from tv domination to online. Young people communicate with friends, recieve discounts and updates and keep on to of all the latest trends.
With disposable fashion and living a characteristic of this group, Gen Y what to know all the options they have, and they want the results swiftly. They move through music, fashion, technology and lifestyles at a rapid pace and with these ever changing personas marketers need to be able to serve these needs.
Websites like ThreeThousand present themselves to the youth market as being edgy, unique, on top of trends and consistently updating. They give Gen Y an easy to use, functional, trendy website they can visit, recive rss feeds and tell their friends about events etc.