Gen Y’s are polarizing. I am not sure if they are any more polarizing than other generations because they are the first generation that is younger than me. I am, however, reasonably sure that my generation was polarizing to my parents. My grandparents likely didn’t understand my parents’ generation and that awful Rock & Roll music they saw on the Ed Sullivan Show or Dick Clark’s Bandstand.
I have come to the realization, however, that regardless of whether I agree with the Millennials and the approaches and views on life they hold, they are an increasingly important part of the future of business. We can say that they are lazy and do not have the same work ethic as our generation. We can lament that they are selfish and have a sense of entitlement. We can get frustrated with their use of technology and social media to communicate. At the end of the day, however, we have to adapt. The reason is simple. As we age we lose power while they are becoming the largest part of our workforce.
Here are some facts (click SocialMedia Today for more information):
• By 2015, 47% of the worlds population will be 25 years old or younger
• The oldest Gen Y is 30 years old … the youngest is 15
• The average age of the world population is 28 years old
Whether you get them or not, we live in a Gen Y society and they are not going to change or feel the need to adapt to the way in which we (us older folks) interact or conduct business. If we want to thrive and grow in the Gen Y world, we need to learn how to work with our customers, suppliers, and employees. The onus is on us.
It is Corporate Darwinism.
According to an Edelman study, companies must build trust to gain brand loyalty. Here are four additional findings from their study:
• You must have quality products, in both workmanship and features.
• You must be real. Authenticity is important to Generation Y.
• You must have a social purpose. 1 in 3 say that they look for brands that have a positive impact on the world.
• You must have integrity. Your business must be moral and stand for something greater than just profits.
While it is important to have a quality product, it is not enough to gain the loyalty and fanaticism of the Gen Y community. The fourth bullet above says it all. To build trust and gain loyalty, you have to be Bigger than your Widget.
More so than other generation, the Millennials will talk about the things that best define themselves. To activate this community of viral communicators, you have to be unique. Being like everyone else is not enough and almost every one of your competitors has a good product. To capture the mind and ultimately the voice of this generation, you have to be different.
What Gen Y wants is an experience that goes beyond their expectations. They want the WOW factor. Not too long ago, customers were observers. They were rarely given the opportunity to participate. This is why one-way marketing worked. We saw pictures in print media of people enjoying a product. We watched television commercials of others using the product. Today our customers demand to be part of the experience. They do not want to simply observe, they want to be active in the relationships they have with the companies and products they use.
To gain loyalty you have to be more than your suite of products and you have to offer an active and ongoing experience. This generation is not going away. We have to adapt or run the risk of being a casualty of Corporate Darwinism.