How Gen Y Really Wants To Interact With Brands


by Sharalyn Hartwell, Oct 28

Long gone are the days when delivering your message was a simple as buying TV spots and placing newspaper ads. Now it’s a complex process to distribute resources among dozens and dozens of outlets. All the while, there’s the worry that if you actually do penetrate through the noise, you might wind up annoying your customer.

Always plugged in or logged in Generation Y can be an enigma to marketers. A typical lamenting marketer might say something like this—“I know how to reach Boomers by making traditional media buys or sending direct mail, but Millennials are all over the place. Should I just put all my focus on Facebook now?)

Let me make things a little clearer.

When it comes to interacting with brands, as in receiving direct communication from companies about special offers or deals, Millennials aren’t that different than older generations.

Our research found that email is the number one way Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials prefer to hear from brands about special offers. Two in three Millennials say they want to subscribe to emails to get special deals and offers from companies.

In addition to that simplification, the good news for marketers is that Millennials are not just open to several types of interaction from brands, they actually want it. Conversely, Boomers and Xers mainly want email and some direct mail. They aren’t terribly interested in Facebook interactions or text alerts.

But, Generation Y is.

One in three Gen Yers want to get ads or notices on Facebook from companies they choose. One in four wants to subscribe to text alerts.

These types of brand interactions speak to the communication lifestyle and cohort perspective so characteristic of Millennials. They also go hand in hand. Most (85%) of Adult Millennials (ages 18 to 34) have cell phones, two in five have smartphones and about half anticipate buying a smartphone within the next year. If they have a smartphone, you know they’re using Facebook on-the-go. That gives marketers more opportunities to reach this seemingly elusive audience.

But, just because they’re open to many types of interactions, don’t bombard them. Be strategic. Regulations and good sense may prevent marketers from simply spamming potential subscribers, but smart marketers will also remember that Generation Y wants to choose the companies they hear from on Facebook and subscribe to email and text alerts.

This is a generation who has always known TV stations devoted entirely to them (Disney and Nickelodeon when they were kids, ABC Family as teens and young adults). The digitalization of the music industry has trained them to listen to and purchase only the songs they want. Shopping sites like Amazon let them buy just about anything, whenever they feel like it. Millennials have been taught to expect customization.

Interaction from companies isn’t much different. They want to choose who gets to reach them (a big reason why direct mail is lower for Gen Y than older generations—43% vs. 51% Gen X and 59% Baby Boomers). In order for them to choose your company and your messages, marketers have to offer something of value.

Generation Y is savvy to the world of marketing. They’ve been actively marketed to for as long as they can remember and they get why it has to happen. But, what they won’t tolerate is marketing that doesn’t make any sense to them. They may be to open to several forms of communication from companies, but only if they’re relevant.

Be relevant and your brand will have many opportunities to interact with this coveted demographic.


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