GENERATION NEXT

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gen-Y is changing the marketing rules. This is the I-Me-Myself generation that’s grown up in the digital world. It buys brands like Mudd and Paris Blues, rather than Nike, Levis & Converse.


Mudd, Paris Blues, In Vitro, Cement…do these ring a bell? Now consider the second list – Levis, Converse, Nike? If the names in the first list don’t ring a bell then, it’s sad, for your name just got transferred into the list of “the older generation”.

The market is in turmoil and the best brands are losing their grip on the market. There is a whole new breed of shoppers from whom these once famous big brands are facing a shrug of indifference. Levi’s, an iconic brand, woke up to the harsh reality that it was losing its popularity and watched in disbelief its market share slide down & down. Nike’s sneaker sales are tumbling too, and it no longer remains the coveted one. Who is causing all this upheaval? It’s a new generation called “Generation Y,” which is changing the rules of the game. At the “Pepsi and MTV Youth Icon 2007” awards, Orkut was declared winner as the style icon for the Generation X. In this fiercely fought battle of style, Orkut defeated big names like Abhishek Bachchan, among others. The world is changing at a super fast pace and marketers need to make a quick note of this if they want to stay ahead. This is a different generation.

Who are these guys?

Well, this is a generation which is difficult to define. It’s very young. On the one hand, it’s like the Tata Safari commercial which states “Reclaim Your Life”. On the other hand it’s like the Bajaj ad which shows that though this generation has access to the latest in technology and all the material goods, it has not forgotten its culture and traditions. It’s a generation that doesn’t trust advertising. It thinks online and spends hours on the net. It’s a generation that values companies and products that support good causes and will most easily switch to a brand that gives back something to the society. It’s a generation where many live in a single parent home and almost all seem to know someone who is gay, and it’s no big deal! For a market like India, where 72% of its population is under 35 years of age, it’s particularly important to know this generation if you want to stay in business.

The work place is changing. Students barely out of college are walking into swanky offices & getting hefty pay packets. The economy is booming & new sectors are emerging, opening numerous doors of opportunities for the young. Companies are realising how good the youth are for their balance sheets. At Infosys, 59% are rookies. Citigroup says the younger its taskforce gets, the better its profits become. With corporate bending backwards to please them, this generation has a lot of spending power and is dictating spending patterns.

The Google Generation

This is the I-Me-Myself generation which enjoys the iPod, as much as the ‘My Pepsi My Can’ concept. It is always looking for something different and if you can keep it stimulated all the time, you win. The reason why Nokia mobile phones have beaten their competitors is because of constant innovation which has prevented this generation from getting bored. This generation thinks differently. They rank Honda as the number one car brand because Honda makes it easy to accessorise cars and remodel them. Plus, their preference to shop at eBay has more passion than at Macy’s.

To keep pace with this new breed of consumers, brands are reworking their strategies. Toyota has designed a new car “Echo” which is targeted exclusively at first-time-car-owners for it calculated that by 2010 there would be four million “new drivers.” Motorola introduced the “Razr” phone to attract these young guys. Tommy Hilfiger ensured that it did not slip down the popularity charts by making sure that those teen film actors, rappers, and young MTV icons were seen sporting its clothes. Volkswagen changed its advertising strategy. The ads are more quirky, less serious, funny, unpretentious and less bothered about keeping the traditional image of the company. Coca-Cola is launching “Red Lounge” where the cool guys can chill out and Pepsi can be kept at bay.

Even real estate developers are designing apartments to suit the needs of these very highly educated, young first-time renters, with plenty of cash and a want for premium and rarest of tastes. Wi-Fi, high speed internet, hundred-channel cable networks, gyms et al, are the basics nowadays. To surprise them, developers are putting cable connections in the wall anticipating that these guys would use a flat screen TV. They are including coffee bars in the apartments. Options of high speed dating, video games played on big screen are some other unique offerings.

So much so that even the rules and ways of marketing have changed! McDonald’s has realised that product-placement in video games is more beneficial than ‘in-film’ branding. Lux sells itself as “**X” to appeal to the young crowd. It has created a dance track “Lux Friday Night Fever” to look cool-n-happening. Microsoft has launched coolhotmail.com to make your e-mail id more rocking. Samsung came up with its youth marketing initiative “Target yo,” for they are the key influencers of digital & high-tech purchases.

Retailers are also changing their store designs to cater to this generation. Shops today contain areas with lots of visual stimuli, brilliant colours and interactive activities to encourage these young people to hang out and not just shop. Virgin Records long back started this – by putting lounge chairs in its music store, with option of listening to the music without any compulsion of buying.

For sure, this group of consumers cannot be ignored and is soon going to take over the world. What’s more, if you catch them young, chances of turning them into loyal customers for many years to come is very high.

How to get them?

The most expensive TV programmes, according to Advertising Age, are ‘Friends’ at Number 1 and ‘Will & Grace’ at Number 2. It’s easy to figure out why – the millennium generation watches them!

They don’t read newspapers, but love magazines. They hang out in ‘cool’ joints. Pubs are passé; cafes are in. So Himalaya Drug Company decided to launch its honey in Café Coffee Day outlets. HLL launched its Liril Orange Soap in Café Coffee Day too. Traditional advertising is taking a back seat. For this crowd, word of mouth works. Mountain Dew became a super hit, not because of its ad campaign, but because word spread that it contained a very high dose of caffeine.

This generation lives off SMSes, iPods and chat sites and those are the very places to catch them. Very rarely will they be found sitting in front of TV or reading newspapers. They live in a virtual world – literally. No wonder sunsilk gangofgirls.com got 100,000 members in just 36 days; and companies like Unilever, Nokia & Nestle are now spending less on TV and print, and more on mobile phone & internet. Axe has created a virtual land called ‘Axeland’ to attract consumers. Lee (jeans) has now launched the ‘Lee Lounge’ as its online social community. From pub crawling to blog trawling, this generation lives life on its own terms. They buy differently and they need to be marketed to differently.

From hereon, a scorching pace of innovation, unconventional marketing, honesty and the ability to connect with the youth is what will keep most brands in business. To figure how to wriggle your way into the hearts and wallets of this brilliantly networked, well informed, hi-tech group of people – all you need to do is think and act like them. This generation is unique, for this is (yes, you got it right) generation next!