Generation Y Women


Generation Y Women

Look out. Having grown up with the personal computer and the Internet, Generation Y women are leading the charge in the twentyfirst century. These young women in general also enjoy education and now outnumber men on college campuses and in graduate schools . Raised under the prosperity of Boomer parents whom they appreciate as role models, Gen Yers continue to expect things to go their way, and they'll stride right through any obstacles that may lie in their path .

The savvy buying minds of this segment have long since become the focus for retailers and moviemakers. The Internet, as familiar to Gen Y as TV was to their parents, is a critical channel through which to market goods, movies, music and services to them.

GENERATION Y'S BUYING FILTERS

The women of Generation Y will likely keep us all on our toes. As marketers we have to learn to speak to the unique experiences of their formative years ( especially involving the Internet) and to resonate with their feelings of optimism and entitlement. In general, they are the most advertised-to generation in history and will likely expect even more from the brands that serve them than do the preceding generations. We have to be up to the challenges. Generation Y women are approximately 36.2 million strong, and they are destined to be a major market force and marketing focus for years to come.

The characteristics that may be influencing a Gen Y woman 's view of your brand include:

Optimistic. Though they experienced the dot-com bust and 9/11, the wealth of their collective life perspective leads the members of Gen Y to view things with an overall sense of optimism and security.

Technology savvy. This digital generation has never known life without computers. And now, with cell phones, pagers and instant messaging all part of their daily lives, technology skills come naturally and new innovation is welcomed and expected. All of their interactions with technology have accustomed them to expect instant gratification. Girls ages 12 to 15 are among the fastest growing groups on the Internet. [2] And, nearly 70 percent of all twelve- to nineteen-year-olds go online each week. [3]

Doers. This generation prefers to learn by construction and discovery rather than instruction. They are active initiators and doers, rather than passive observers or absorbers.

Entitled. Thanks to their cocoon-like upbringings, this generation of young women will often expect results at lightning-quick speedincluding their own fame and fortune .

Multicultural. From the first day of nursery school, these women have lived in a true melting pot of skin colors and cultural differences. They are racially diverse and familiar with multiculturalism. According to a recent Gallup survey of youth, this generation is the least prejudiced about race and the most dissatisfied with race relations. [4]

Individualistic. Their independence and self- reliance lead these women to look for products that suit their personal tastes and preferences: So, customization is key. They will look for ways to further personalize purchases even after they buy them. Jones Soda, for example, offers their customers their own five minutes of fame via its Web site, inviting loyal fans to send in a photograph of themselves for possible use on a Jones Soda label. So far more than sixty thousand labels are ready for production, and even though the odds are lowonly forty are picked annuallythe lure for Gen Yers is irresistible. If they don't get picked, Jones Soda lovers can also pay to have their picture on a customized twelve pack of bottles.

Education focused. Influenced by Baby Boom parents who valued education, and entering a workplace that demands it, most Gen Yers recognize that the key to their success lies in advanced learning. These women are continuing the trend of outnumbering men on college campuses (since 1979) and in graduate schools (since 1984). [5]

Socially conscious. Responding to messages from schools and churches that they can make a difference, Gen Yers are exhibiting a refreshing altruism that embraces the environment, poverty and community problems. According to Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation , "Surveys show that five out of six Gen Yers believe their generation has the greatest duty to improve the environment." [6]

Confused and stressed. Under all their optimism lies a healthy dose of confusion and stress. This period in life is, in fact, a whirlwind of new responsibilities and freedoms for Gen Yers that can make them feel helpless, indecisive and panicked. So prevalent is the feeling among Gen Yers that the term "quarterlife crisis" has been coined to describe it. [7]

Independent, yet collaborative. Gen Yers want to do things their own way, while still working enthusiastically in teams . They believe in their skills and are not shy about taking risks. Many Gen Yers are confident beyond their years and have taught their elders about technology.

Entrepreneurial. Until Gen Y, Gen X had been touted as the most entrepreneurial generation in American history. Encouraged by their predecessors, and often financed by their Baby Boomer parents, Gen Yers are starting their own businesses in record numbers . According to the Kansas Citybased Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, in 2000 "more than 65 percent of fourteen- to nineteen-year-olds [were] interested in starting a business compared with about half of the general public." [8]

REFLECTING GEN Y WOMEN IN YOUR BRAND

The women of Gen Y are style-conscious and tech-savvy, so they appreciate flash and dazzle much more than their parents do. They expect things to come at them rapidly and loudly (figuratively and literally), and they also enjoy parodies of "way back when" in the 1980s, like the Old Navy retro television ads of the early 2000s.

Unless you have a few Gen Yers on your marketing team, you'll really need to pay attention in order to develop messages that authentically resonate with, and reflect the values of, this generation of women.

GIVING GEN Y WOMEN THE BEST PERSPECTIVE OF YOUR BRAND

  • Traditional mass media broadcasts of prepackaged content will be less likely to meet the steep expectations of Gen Y.

  • Customized and highly personalized offerings will be in demand from this Internet generation.

  • Self-discovery is a passion and a goal unto itself for Gen Y women. Quizzes and other forms of personal learning, packaged as entertainment, are a huge hit with them.

  • Instead of explaining things to this generation, provide ways for them to actively discover what they want to know about your product or service via your Web site.

  • By encouraging online sharing and comparing of information, you can incorporate the social aspects of shopping as much as possible into the online realm. For example, you might provide a tool to e-mail a photo of a shirt to a friend with the message, "I really liked this shirt, what do you think of it?"

  • They are skeptical and sophisticated. Remember that these women have been targeted by countless marketing messages in their short lifetimes, so they are alert to advertising trickslike unconvincing contests or incentives, or Internet pop-ups that mislead or reroute anyone who responds.

  • They expect to find your brand represented across multiple media channels, with seamless integration between your online and off-line business units.

  • Product placements in television shows and movies and sponsorships of concerts are hugely influential brand endorsements for this generation.

  • Present these women with flash, dazzle and entertainment, but do it without slowing them down. They are tech-savvy, so they know it can be done.

  • They fully expect offers of free stuff through contests and promotions.

  • Target specific interests and provide a compelling offer in any e-mail copy delivered to Gen Y women. From their perspective, mass marketed copy is simply spam.

  • Use peer word-of-mouth and viral marketing to reach these women. This generation's younger members, in particular, have been known to build powerful grassroots support for individual entertainers, recordings and films .

  • Provide ways for Gen Y women to learn and then quickly personalize their experience with your product, service or brand. Personalization can come in the unique way they use your digital camera on their rafting trip in Colorado, for example; or in the way they creatively rework your product to make it more expressive of their own style such as embroidering or painting their jeans .

Overall, Gen Y women are savvy and aware. As members of today's key emerging consumer group , they are an incredibly important segment of the women's market. A brand that works for these women, and around which they develop a sense of ownership, will reflect these women's own philosophies and voices. And because this is a generation of upgradersof cell phones, cars and fashion forging a lasting connection with them holds long-term importance for your brand.

While confusing and elusive to many marketers, Gen Y women represent an economic powerhouse that will grow only stronger as they enter the workforce en masse. As marketers, we should appreciate the ways they are different from their older siblings and parents, and treat them like the savvy consumers they are.

GEN Y INDUSTRY STUDY: MOBILE PHONE MANIA

With more than 50 percent of fifteen- to twenty-four-year-old Americans owners of mobile phones, it is no surprise that Generation Y outpaces all U.S. mobile users in minutes used, number of calls placed, messages sent and wireless data accessed. High ownership and usage statistics point to a strong connection between female Gen Yers, in particular, and their mobile phones. So these wireless communications devices represent much-valued freedom for these women.

Cell phones can give Gen Yers a sense of independence even while they are still bunking at home, living in dorms or sharing apartments. The text-messaging, Internet-accessing and picturesnapping capabilities of mobile phones also empower these women to create communities of friends on their own terms.

For example, young women can maintain constant contact with one another via text messaging, regardless of time or place. They can manage their social lives on-the-go , as they move from classroom to extracurricular activities, from mall to party, finally returning home. Given the way Gen Y has wholeheartedly embraced the cell phone, these young women will likely continue to eagerly adopt new data services as they are developed.

Boost Mobile LLC (a unit of Nextel Communications, Inc.), headquartered in Irvine, California, is a good example of how to tap into the technology lovefest of this younger generation. This lifestyle-based telecommunications business unit was expressly set up by Nextel to focus solely on developing and distributing communications products for the youth market, such as a pay-as-you-go wireless phone service with a two-way walkie-talkie; pay-as-you-go airtime cards and a wide range of accessories; Java games for wireless phones; downloadable ring-tones; and other cutting-edge mobile services. Boost Mobile's marketing efforts center on youth activities like action sports, music, fashion and entertainment, right down to the surf- and skateboarding action images on their mainly black-and-silver Web site.

Boost Mobile's further marketing efforts involve a partnership to create a cell phone with Roxy, a leading casual apparel, lifestyle brand for young women from the Quiksilver company. The women who buy this phone consider wireless devices a part of their everyday lifea fashion statement and an avenue for self-expression as well as a communication device. Just as Roxy apparel represents freedom, fun and individual expression, so too does the design and custom features of the RoxyBoost wireless phone manufactured by Motorola.

GEN Y INDUSTRY STUDY: MOBILE PHONE MANIA

The Roxy Cell Phone's Gen Y Women-Focused Features

  • Ringtones specifically selected with the Roxy girl in mind, including "Funky Town," "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," "California Dreaming" and "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go."

  • Preloaded Java games, including Tetris and Snood from THQ.

  • No credit checks, hidden charges or monthly bills. Boost Mobile customers pay for minutes only as they need them through the purchase of Re-Boost cards.

  • Boost 2-Way long-range walkie-talkie feature.

  • Built-in speaker phone, 250-entry phonebook, voice-mail , "vibra" call alert.

  • National roaming, text messaging and always-on wireless Web access.

CONNECTING WITH GEN Y WOMEN: LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE MOBILE PHONE INDUSTRY

Position your product within their lifestyle through strategic brand alliances. Boost Mobile pursues brand positioning, partnerships, distribution channels, service offerings and price plans, wireless phone models and other variables that are uniquely suited to the lifestyles and behaviors of young people.

Stay on top of technology, continually offering upgrades and increased access. Via its mobile Web service, Verizon Wireless is another company positioned to successfully tap the teen segment. By partnering with Bolt, a global-communications platform for fifteen- to twenty-year-olds, Verizon will provide mobile Web subscribers access to "Bolt Everywhere," a wireless platform that enables two-way communications on any WAP-enabled device. Bolt provides proprietary interactive tools and services that offer teens e-mail, voice mail, voice chat, people-searching and instant messaging. Now that's increased access!

Identify and exploit alternative distribution channels. Boost Mobile phones are available at more than eight hundred locations where youth prefer to shop, including Best Buy, Wherehouse Music, Good Guys, Wal-Mart and the wireless and youth fashion retailers where Roxy and Quiksilver products are sold. Boost Mobile has become an authentic part of the Gen Y lifestyle culture, by being available through national retailers, convenience stores and retailers that focus on music, surf, skate and snow- related activities.

Offer interactive products that young women can brand with their own personality. As we mentioned, the Roxy wireless phone has ring tones specifically selected for young women by the Roxy design and marketing team. Gen Yers can further personalize their phones by adding ring tones and graphics that represent their own tastes in music. They can also download customized content that appeals to their sports and pop-culture interests. And then there are the additional mobile-related accessories like paste-on nails that illuminate when the phone beeps, hand-set covers, branded carrying cases and mobile desk stands.

Remove payment barriers and provide multiple and flexible options. Boost Mobile's retail channel makes sure there are no credit checks, hidden charges or monthly bills. Their customers pay for minutes only as they need them through the purchase of Re-Boost cards available in several denominations at locations convenient to a typical youth's day (for example, all authorized Boost Mobile retailers and 7-Eleven stores).

Make wireless Internet easy and highly accessible. Bell Mobility recently transformed its Solo digital- prepaid service into a wireless Web service for its Gen Y segment. Solo subscribers can use their airtime minutes to talk or surf the mobile browser service. Teens can access numerous Web sites, as well as send e-mail, use Yahoo instant messaging, enter concert contests and shop online.

Give Gen Yers the control. This demographic does not respond to hard selllike inflexible plans, limited phone features, intrusive marketing messages or mobile spamming . Gen Yers need to be empowered to personalize their world and define community building on their own terms.

[2] According to USA Today , cited in Women and Diversity : WOW! Facts 2002 (Washington, D.C.: Women's Business Network, 2002), page 141, http://www.wbni.com.

[3] According to Teenage Research Unlimited, http://www.teenresearch.com/home.cfm. Also cited in Women and Diversity: WOW! Facts 2002 , page 141.

[4] The recent Gallup survey of youth is cited in Neil Howe and William Strauss, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), page 218. Also cited in "Teens and Race," American Demographics , June 1999.

[5] U.S. Department of Education, 2000, http://www.ed.gov.

[6] Neil Howe and William Strauss, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation , page 216.

[7] See http://www.quarterlifecrisis.com, and Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner, Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties (New York: J.P. Tarcher, 2001).

[8] See http://www.emkf.org.