Capturing the Elusive Youth Market

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” But marketing dollars aren’t. The Intelligence Group (IG), a young-consumer insight company and publisher of the Cassandra Report, illustrates the success companies can have targeting Gen Y through its Cass Awards. IG recently announced the winners of the 2012 Awards, which applauded the few brands that excelled in targeting this young segment last year.

“It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy: [Millennials] are, by nature, elusive for marketers,” says Joe Kessler, president of IG. “I think marketers have to put more time and energy into figuring out clever and smart strategic ways to engage with them.”

Kessler says the awards were designated through a “qualitative” editorial process rather than a quantitative voting system.  Red Bull, IKEA, JetBlue, and Topshop were among the brands that received recognition for their millennial-targeting campaigns—or campaigns aimed at those born between 1980 and 1995. The winners excel in collaborating with Gen Y’s, enabling creative expression, and providing content sharing platforms, Kessler notes.

Millennials’ desire for brand interaction stems from their “group-oriented” nature, which is primarily nurtured by exposing them to large classes and activities, says Kessler. He also holds this temperament accountable for these young consumers’ social media “ubiquity” and for their heavy social reliance when making a purchase or content-consumption decision, exemplified through the explosion of sites such as Yelp.

“As a result of [their social presence], you also have the consequence of them being the subject of more marketing messaging than any generation ever has been,” Kessler says. “They understand that they’re being marketed to, but they distinguish between being marketed to, talked at, or offered something and being given the opportunity to collaborate with a brand in a way that makes them feel a certain sense of ownership and pride.”

Often after Gen Y consumers interact with a brand they want to notify their peers. Kessler attributes this sharing addiction to millennials’ tendency to document their lives online. In addition to social, Kessler says video is another marketing element that resonates with Gen Y’s. For example, Red Bull was awarded Best Livestream Stunt for its Red Bull Stratos campaign, in which Australian skydiver Felix Baumgartner dove to break the sound barrier. The dive was streamed live on YouTube on October 14, 2012, and now has more than 32 million views. 

“I think we’re seeing a resurgence in television, which isn’t all that surprising, but obviously the manner in which millennials can control content now has lead to a very different equation for marketers when it comes to the development and delivery of video,” Kessler says. “[Videos] present marketers with an opportunity to aggregate an audience that’s harder and harder to aggregate.”

However, Kessler says that he’s channel “agnostic” when it comes to circulating a video, explaining that a video can start on TV and go viral via social.

Although reaching millennials is fairly simply, Kessler says, engaging them can be challenging due to the excessive volume of content available. However, he says the real millennial marketing challenge lies within organizations rather than with the target audience, particularly when it comes to getting companies to update ancient infrastructures. “The ability to be change quickly [and] to be nimble I think is paramount in reaching young consumers today,” Kessler says.

When it comes to millennial myths, Kessler says mistaking empowerment for entitlement is a major marketing blunder. “I think they’re a highly empowered generation who feels the ability to accomplish things that their predecessors—their Gen X siblings and their Boomer parents—might see as overly idealistic, but in reality is quite pragmatic,” Kessler says. “I think marketers and brands that understand that fine line, understand not to cross it, or respect empowerment without criticizing this degree of entitlement will probably do a much better job of communicating with [millennials] and engaging with them.”

The awards include the following:

  • Best Livestream Stunt, Red Bull Stratos Live Jump
  • Best Small Space Solution, IKEA
  • Most Effective Use of a Vlogger, Volkswagen’s “Don’t Make-up and Drive!” PSA
  • Most Creative E-Comm Integration, Target’s shoppable film
  • Best Online-Offline Stalking, Mellow Mushroom’s Giant
  • Best Use of QR Codes, Budweiser
  • Most Clever Campaign About the Campaign, JetBlue
  • Best Application of Peer Pressure – the Obama Campaign’s Remind Friends to Vote
  • Best Unintentional meme, Chanel Nº5’s “There You Are” Video
  • Best Brand Response, Bodyform video response
  • Freshest Ad, Oreo’s Daily Twist
  • Most Exclusive Filter, The Grey Poupon Society of Good Taste
  • Best in Show, Topshop Live Fashion Show
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