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The Dos And Don'ts Of Advertising To Generations X And Y

Generations X and Y are savvy and skeptical consumers. I know this as a fellow Xer and as the CEO of a generational marketing company. We are an elusive market and advertisers struggle desperately to reach us.Nevertheless, there are a few key tactics to keep in mind when selling a product or service to Xers and Ys: keep it real, be relevant, be creative, and tap into messages or ways to benefit us personally, professionally, and also benefit our communities.

Generations X and Y are savvy and skeptical consumers. I know this as a fellow Xer and as the CEO of a generational marketing company. We are an elusive market and advertisers struggle desperately to reach us.Nevertheless, there are a few key tactics to keep in mind when selling a product or service to Xers and Ys: keep it real, be relevant, be creative, and tap into messages or ways to benefit us personally, professionally, and also benefit our communities. Here are a few examples of dos and don'ts when it comes to advertising to X and Y:DON’T use fictionNostalgia marketing often works with Generation X because it reminds us of our childhood and a brand we trust. But when American Family Insurance recently tried to convince me that my family was just like The Brady Bunch, I was not convinced.The Brady Bunch was a television show! Yes, it entertained us as children (and the ad is entertaining, too). But trying to convince us that selling insurance to the Brady family is the same as selling insurance to our families really misses the mark.Seriously — how many Xer families have six children, a cat and a dog, and can afford a full-time maid on an architect’s salary? And let’s not forget that the actor who played Mr. Brady later died of AIDS.Xers are skeptical, critical consumers. Comparing our families to the families we watched on television is a serious mistake.Here’s a better idea: Use actual families we can relate to–not fictitious characters.DO use a message we want to hearHeineken Premium Light’s "Share the Good"

 commercial begins with a hipster walking across the desert to deliver a beer to a couple in a hot tub. Next, the couple is giving a beer to a young woman, who traipses through the snow to give the beer to a bearded cabin dweller with an excellent laugh, who then goes on to an Indian celebration, and so on.The commercial has been compared to the ‘I'd like to buy the world a Coke’ commercial and the ‘We Are The World’ initiative that Xers remember from their childhoods.While it may not be the most original idea, and the beer may not be considered the best-tasting, the ad itself has received a lot of positive buzz from young consumers who were looking for a refreshing break from the standard American beer commercial.In this example, marketers used nostalgia to reach a younger audience, but they updated it so it was relevant and meaningful to the Xers as grown-ups.DO give something to consumersAs attention and media channels become more fragmented, consumer attention becomes harder to get and therefore more valuable. The old tricks just aren't cutting it anymore. People are too aware of what their time is worth and can change the channel until the commercial break is over, or record a show and fast-forward through the unwanted content.Advertisers are beginning to find better ways to get our attention, realizing that consumers are more apt to listen to and welcome an advertiser’s message when they give them something of equal value in exchange.Jones Soda is giving social networking communities something they find worthy of their attention. Jones is giving well-designed customizable pages to MySpace users. With an entire generation consumed by social networking, what could be more useful than the ability to have an exceptional user profile? It's that kind of thinking that sets a brand up for success in a world of finicky and fickle Gen Y consumers.Likewise, companies are setting up and sponsoring groups on Facebook (which doesn't allow companies to brand their own web pages) and providing worthwhile benefits for membership.Apple Computer, for example, sponsors the Apple Students group, which offers deals on Apple products and has more than 471,000 members. Chase Bank promotes its credit cards on the Chase +1 group, a loyalty program for college students. Members of the group are offered chances to meet celebrities or win concert tickets and VIP passes.Advertising is no longer a spectator sport. Generations X and Y will respond to advertising that goes above and beyond entertainment and offers relevance and meaning. Don't overlook their market share and do advertise with their values and worldview in mind. That's the only way your company will win their attention–and their purchases.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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