Know the Ledge...

So you think you understand how to market to Gen Y. Perhaps you've run some focus groups and and subscribed to one of those great trend reports. If so, you may be privy to eye-opening information such as: their favorite brand is Apple, they don't trust advertising, and they really like brands who do something positive for the environment. Profound.

Well, as this New York Times article illustrates, there's a strong possibility that you don't know sh!t. Here's a little sample, just an example…

The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever. The median age at first marriage in the early 1970s, when the baby boomers were young, was 21 for women and 23 for men; by 2009 it had climbed to 26 for women and 28 for men, five years in a little more than a generation.

"Why does this matter?" you ask. Because if you're going to sell to them, you need to understand them as people.

On a basic level, your demographics are skewed. Income levels have different meanings if someone lives at home. And if they're not saving for a wedding, they have opportunities to do different things with their money.

But it goes so much deeper than that. These people live differently than you, which means they think differently than you, or than what you're used to. They have different ideals, priorities, values. And the things that motivate them to spend with you are probably not immediately apparent. You might think that the cool Facebook app is enough to be down with the kids, but lasting success depends on developing an intimate understanding of who your customers really are.

How to do that is a topic for another post. If you're serious about, we can help you. For now, let's just say it may mean getting out from behind your desk and doing a little real work out in the field. Are you ready?

Demographics // Don't Believe the Hype

In a blog called Influential Marketing, Rohit Bhargava makes a great observation about demographics: They suck. Actually, that's not exactly what he says. What he does say is that looking at age as a demographic is not very useful. You can read his post for the details, but he echoes a point I've made over and over to anyone who will listen (that means you, dear reader) - demographics are only the beginning of understanding your customer, not the end.

Too often, clients tell me what they want us to help them do. Often something exciting like "sell more!" or "create a viral video!" Then I start asking questions about strategy and target audience and spoil all the fun. If the answer is along the lines of "males 18-34," then you're talking about a huge, diverse, group of people with a wide variety of tastes, priorities, values, and interests. The list of brands or products that will appeal across the board to a group like this — or any significant demographic segment — is very short. Chances are you're name isn't on it.

What that response really tells me, and apparently Rohit, is that you haven't finished your homework. You should be able to answer questions like: What kind of music do they like? Are they conservative or liberal on social issues? Who are their favorite clothing designers? What do they do for fun? Do they prefer PlayStation or XBox, or even Wii? Do they like shooters or sports games?

You may think these answers aren't relevant to you selling your product, but let's remember, if you can't engage consumer in conversation, you won't get the opportunity to market to them. How will you get someone into a conversation when you don't know anything about them?