generation y

Generation Y 101: The Future Has Arrived

generation yGeneration Y is moving up the career ladder and getting wealthier. By 2017 its 79 million members will have more spending power than the baby boomers and Generation X. Its spending patterns and purchasing habits will shape business and marketing for the next 20 years.

The members of Generation Y, also known as the Millenials, make up 25 percent of the US population. Born between 1977 and 1995, they will soon become the largest consumer group in history. Getting ready for the dominance of the Millenials is an essential part of every business’ long-term strategy.

These are the defining characteristics of Generation Y, from a marketing and business perspective.

Digital advertising trumps television

Millenials have been exposed to outbound marketing, such as television adverts, from birth. They are less responsive to advertising in general than previous generations, and are particularly immune to television adverts. Instead, Generation Y reacts positively to digital adverts. They respond best to attention-grabbing, creative adverts that break new ground. Millenials also like to engage with the content they consume, and the brands they buy. Feedback is key to maintaining their interest in a brand. Ignore their comments at your peril!


Millenials are comfortable with multiculturalism, and less likely to identify themselves solely by race than their parents. They are less likely to respond favourably to ethnicity-based marketing strategies.

Price sensitivity

It’s tough out there, and the Millenials are consequently highly price-sensitive. They are savvy buyers and habitually compare prices on-line. Millenials react favourably to discount offers, freebies and loyalty schemes. Generationalinsights.com reports that 77 percent of Millenials take part in loyalty schemes that involve free giveaways. They are also 50 percent more likely to tell their friends about schemes than any other generation.

Digital nuances

Social networks are the natural habitats of the Millenials They do not consider on-line interaction to be inferior to face-to-face meetings. While the rules are still being written, Generation Y has strong opinions about on-line etiquette. Millenials frown upon excessive posting, lack of interaction, and platform-inappropriate messages. Marketing campaigns not only have to provide the right content, they also have to distribute it via the appropriate channels.

Brand new me

Millenials views their on-line identity as their personal brand, and, like any brand, are willing to modify it to suit their circumstances. Millenials have a fluid vision of their on-line selves: They assiduously curate their on-line identity, modifying on-line behaviour, and editing their photos, to improve their reputations. They see little distinction between their personal and professional on-line selves.

Trust in the crowd

The Millenials trust their families and close friends to make important recommendations about purchases and life decisions. However, they favour anonymous first-hand reviews more than third-party resources such as consumer websites and guidebooks. Millenials value authentic opinions and actual experiences above everything else. They are so used to managing their own brands that they understand how unreliable third-party reviews can be.

Content rather than opinions

With social media networks governed by nuanced codes of etiquette, Generation Y expresses its opinions by sharing other people’s content. Millenials prefer to post a video clip of someone else that they agree with, rather than expressing themselves directly. This presents a huge opportunity to content marketers. Tap into the way the Millenials think, and they will distribute your content across the Internet.

Pessimists with a conscience

Millenials are not optimistic about their professional prospects. Grassroots organization Generation Opportunity claims that 75 percent of them expect to have to delay major life choices and purchases due to financial constraints. Generation Y is not obsessed with career advancement and financial security. That is not to say that they are slackers: Many Millenials are turning to entrepreneurship rather than tackling the career ladder. Others are looking for work with a social angle. At work, they value access to social networks higher than a pay rise.

With Generation Y expected to spend almost 2.5 trillion dollars by 2017, it is time to get to grips with the first digital generation. It is the future of your business!

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About Omar Kattan
Omar is MD & Chief Strategy Officer at Sandstorm Digital. His experience includes 10 years in traditional marketing and advertising in the Middle East and a further 10 years at two of the largest media agencies in the UK. Follow Omar on Twitter for updates on the latest in digital, branding, advertising and marketing.
Elliot Dwennen
Elliot Dwennen

Fantastic post Omar! I couldn't agree more. The thing that we have to understand is if we look at 2015. Just 3 years from now. The Millenials group will not only be taking shape on both population, impact of work and community but the dawn of working Gen X will start to appear. As well as the shift in middle class spending and economies to Brazil, India and China. Where expected 2 billion people will be added to the middle class. The pyramid from the elite spenders to the working class will start to resemble a more diamond like shape. Two things come up Significance(in themselves) and Contribution(to the community-which for the GEN Y is the world). Referring back to your post that "Millenials don't want to buy stuff", is because this generation wants to feel they are not just bettering themselves but making a better world for others. Status and like Mark and yourself said, instant feedback is what the Millenials use to. And expect it to be no different in the work environment. Large companies really have to change the way they work. Because this generation has no time for that. A quick jump to cause marketing is one way that large fortune 500 companies are aligning themselves. But if this does not reflect the company culture this facade will die off quicker than any other campaign. Its also been noted that this generation that have attended fantastic schools such as harvard are turning their backs on 'financially great careers' on wall street etc. To work as teachers a more rewarding job. Most live with their parents as the desire to live to work and pay for a mortgage does not appeal to them. The freedom to give their time to causes they believe in is more important. Where will the Millenials spend their money? Charitable causes, Experiences, Education and Self-Development, along with digital assets. Are the current trends. The world is not built for this change of mentality coming out of the Industrial Age. Big, Exciting, Changes are a coming!

Mark Sampson
Mark Sampson

Great post Omar. I particularly support your "Pessimists with a conscience" point. If you look at the environment favoured by Baby Boomers (strict, regulated, button-down, money driven) and then compare this to what Gen Y values, organisations will have to adapt culturally to create environments in which talented Gen Y candidates want to be a part of. Gen Y has grown up with the Internet, text messaging and social media - therefore they are used to expecting immediate feedback. Appraisals once a year on their performance aren't going to sit well. In addition, they value social interactivity; banning Facebook or Twitter (in the same way personal calls were banned) for this generation will have detrimental affects. Gen Y doesn't care about money the same way Baby Boomers did. They care about belonging, brand mission, culture and values fit - they want to ensure whoever they work for shares the beliefs they have. Gen Y is expected to make up about 75% of the world's workforce by 2025 - never has it been more important for organisations to understand and tell their story in a way that connects, motivates and engages this new generation of workers.


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