Futurist: Get to Know Gen Y Now

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NEW ORLEANS -- Marketers should start familiarizing themselves now with the next generation of consumers, Generation Y, futurist David Thornburg said yesterday in his keynote speech at the opening of the NCDM Winter 2001 conference.

The buying power of the under-30 set is growing and will only get bigger as they get older, said Thornburg, founder and director of The Thornburg Center. They differ with the older-than-30 demographic in key ways that database marketers should recognize.

Unlike their parents, members of Generation Y think in parallel, rather than linear fashion, Thornburg said. They're able to handle many tasks at once, such as teen-agers who are known to have four-instant message chats going at one time while talking on the phone and listening to music.

Generation Y members are graphics-oriented and see text as supporting visual elements, as opposed to the other way around, Thornburg said. They are more apt to begin tasks at a random point in the middle of the process, rather than at the beginning, and are more oriented toward play than work.

They demand quick gratification and want to have an active hand in the design of the products they select, Thornburg said. These qualities explain the quick success of the now-defunct online music tool Napster, which allowed consumers access to the exact music they desired at a moment's notice.

Young people see technology as a tool, not as a hurdle to be overcome, Thornburg said. If marketers do not provide them with a satisfactory experience, young people are more likely to walk away, rather than try to fix the problem.

"On the Web, you're one click away from another vendor," Thornburg said. "That's the reality of the world, and that's what people expect."David Thornburg

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