Now that blogging, YouTube and MySpace have made it possible for anyone to become a reporter, producer or social advisor, what used to be a frightening possibility for advertisers and marketers has become a startling reality. Gen X, Gen Y and other emerging decision-makers cannot be "wished" back into a 50-year-old media world no longer relevant to their personalities, lifestyles or interests. Using traditional media to reach today's new decision-makers is as appropriate as thinking one's dusted leisure suit still has some wear in it. Companies have little choice but to ditch the leisure suit and plunge warily into new venues.
Online games, satellite radio, iPods and smartphones have elevated mobility, community and choice to higher positions in any campaign's list of key considerations. Companies must measure, understand and embrace this permanently changed landscape. If they don't, they risk degradation of brand equity and failure to draw new audiences.
Once a marketer realizes the only way to build a relationship with this generation is to accept who they are (much like their parents have been forced to do, begrudgingly), where they exist in the media universe and what techniques are most effective to bridge the gaps, they can move forward. Marketers that will be successful in reaching Gen X and Gen Y grasp that media choices can—and must—be customized to reach individual decision-makers.
The keys to unlocking the generational secrets are:
Creativity New generations of decision-makers are "digital natives." Text and graphics are a bigger part of their digital world than audio and video content. Advertising will evolve to deliver dozens of targeted creatives instead of a few "one size fits all" commercials.
Language They use instant messaging as a primary communications vehicle. They have evolved a very different "language," whereby they communicate in new abbreviations and slang. Marketers must "learn" their language and use it to communicate.
Formats They consider themselves leaders in the adoption of new messaging formats. Marketers must stay close to rapidly changing trends and tendencies.
"People call our generation apathetic. We're not apathetic toward the news, we just don't want to hear the same old bull crap all the time," said John Fiske, a 22-year-old law student in San Diego and a classic Gen Yer. "Nobody caters to us," he said, adding that the big television news cable networks—CNN, Fox News, MSNBC—"think they can attract young people by playing rap music at the beginning and end of their shows. We see right through it."
Media expenditures since the 1950s have gone primarily to television, followed by newspapers, magazines and commercial radio. But this 50-year trend has now realized its apex, with generational declines in consumption among Gen X and Gen Y.
Where we used to have only Web portals and sites, we now have VOIP telephony, digital signage and mobile media. The "descending triangle" of traditional media is being displaced by the "ascending triangle" of Internet-enabled media, composed of all Web-based media, e-mail, mobile media and digital-signage media. We at SeeSaw Networks call this the "Outernet" (or OOH networked media). The Internet is now blending with the "Outernet" to form this rapidly integrating media cluster, which is displacing the descending media triangle of television, print, and commercial radio.
The ascending triangle, digital devices and evolving demographics are driving this change in how media is consumed and the corresponding volume of that consumption. The aggregate consumption of media is rising by generation, as access is no longer tied to the constraints of a physical location. In addition, new technologies provide media consumers new channels of access to information and entertainment. These technologies include a dizzying array of digital music, video players, handsets, DVRs and an almost daily introduction of new and different devices.
Gen Yers are "Influencers" by nature, and they will influence younger and older decision-makers. New devices and services will be bought by/for them, they will encourage older populations to "get with it" and join them, and they will be emulated by younger generations trying to be like them.
The increased usage of multiple devices and services will continue to erode time available for more conventional media choices as media becomes more of an "on-demand" experience—as opposed to a time- or location-based experience. The phenomenon of media multitasking is now in effect: Young influencers regularly watch television, text message and Web surf simultaneously—creating a very convoluted media experience.
The Internet and associated applications are dominant media sources in their lives. They seek out new and improved media that have different consumption patterns than other groups. In order to reach, connect and engage these emerging decision-makers, marketers must first embrace them.