Buckingham: Youths Seek Happiness, Success on Their Terms

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NEW YORK -- Messages of happiness and success are the key to attracting Gen X and Gen Y. It's just that these generations define both differently than earlier generations, DM Days keynote speaker Jane Buckingham said yesterday during her presentation about marketing to youths.

Buckingham, a Gen Xer herself, is the founder of youth marketing consultancy Youth Intelligence and author of "The Modern Girl's Guide to Life."

Gen Xers, who are ages 27-39, assume marketers and others are lying to them because they grew up with the promise of family values but the reality of divorce, the promise of a healthy world to live in but the reality of a hole in the ozone layer and the promise of free love but the reality of AIDS, Buckingham said.

Of their noted slacker image, Buckingham explained that Gen Xers "went through their midlife crises 25 years too early."

Now that they are emerging from those midlife crises, they are remarkably susceptible to marketing that "helps them figure out what is happiness," Buckingham said. Instead of hating marketing as they are often accused of, Gen Xers only hate bad marketing, she added.

Gen Xers have figured out that they are better at parenting than their own parents and, as a result, are embracing this role wholeheartedly. Buckingham called it "competitive parenting." She suggested talking "to them through their family and their need to prove that they're good parents."

Any marketing that helps Gen Xers define success for themselves, acknowledges that they aren't joiners and plays to their interest in nostalgia will do well, she said.

Gen Yers, ages 14-26, are more driven because they watched Gen X asleep on the couch for years, Buckingham said. However, since they have no real direction, they experience a lot of stress. Anything marketers can do to acknowledge and alleviate their stress will be well received, she said.

Gen Y benefited from a concerted effort to build their self-esteem and witnessed many well-publicized good deeds such as Habitat for Humanity and Live Aid. As a result, they're impatient and expect to change the world and be in control with little effort.

They also expect to be famous, which explains the popularity of blogging. Many youths today see blogging as a way to chronicle their lives before they become famous. Marketers who can give them someone to look up to will be successful, Buckingham said.

Marketers who have done well at speaking to both Gen X and Gen Y include Apple, Snapple and Volkswagen.

In terms of direct marketing, Buckingham said Gen X and Gen Y like offers, so promotions are a good bet. Anything that helps build word-of-mouth is also wise.

Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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