So before we go any further, it’s probably good to pause here and provide a little bit of background on “Generation Y” (aka the Millennials aka the Internet Generation aka Echo Boomers aka Generation Next aka…).
To be part of Generation Y, a person could have been born any time between the late 70s and the beginning of the third millennium (the beginning of the generation mixes with Generation X the end tail is part of Generation Z). A Generation Y “factsheet” compiled by Deloitte Consulting provides the following demographic input:
- No definitive agreement on birth years; experts say somewhere between 1978 and 1995; most say 1981 to 1993
- Children of Baby Boomers
- Largest generation (75 million) after the Boomers (80 million), compared to Generation X (40 million)
A U.S.A Today article on Gen Y in the workplace from 2005 defines the generation even more broadly:
“...the broadest definition generally includes the more than 70 million Americans born 1977 to 2002. Generation X was born roughly 1965 to 1976. Narrower definitions put Gen Yers as those ages 16 to 27, born from 1978 to 1989. This narrower view is based on the thinking that as the pace of change in society accelerates, the time frame of a generation gets shorter.”
So there you have it. Depending on who you talk to, someone who is Generation Y may be somewhere between 30 and 5 years old. They may or may not be in high school, finishing college, starting out their career, starting a family, buying a car, learning how to drive a car, dreaming of one day getting a driver’s license…
With that kind of vagueness, it is no wonder marketers are often at a loss at how to approach these millions of potential donors, and more importantly, if they should even bother trying.
And that is precisely why the key word for this generation is PERSONALIZATION. Making nearly 80 million people feel like they are the only one on your radar, like you, the marketer, "get" them as an individual and unique human being, and how he or she is connected to their own unique network of people.
There is much more to say here in the future about Gen Y: the events that influenced them as a generation (as our parents can all recall where they were on the day JFK was shot, we all know exactly where we were on 9/11); their defining characteristics; those who influence them and those they influence, (Joanna L. Krotz has a great article about this on Microsoft 's site for small businesses) but one thing is for certain: marketers ignore this generation at their own peril.
By various estimates, Gen Y's spending power is already over $200 billion and growing. Certainly, this is small compared to the trillions in spending power of the Baby Boomers and the War Generation, but it's no small change and it is only bound to grow. As their incomes grow, so will their disposable incomes, and they will have to make decisions about how to use that discretionary spending and who, if anyone, to give it to.
Personally, I've always felt you are part if Generation Y if you:
1) Know which show "Donna Martin" was on and why it is important that she graduates.
2) Can name every character in the original "Saved By The Bell", including the principal.