Why should you care? Because there are 62 million of them and they already have nearly $143 billion in buying power. And they will have even more by the time you finish this article. In fact, we found this generation important enough to our business to form an additional practice group focused on marketing to them. So here are five things you, brand marketers, need to know to be successful with this generation.
1. They’re Not Brand Loyal
Unless you happen to be Apple, endearing your brand to Gen We for the long term won’t be easy. They left MySpace for Facebook. They abandoned Guitar Hero for Angry Birds. And they dropped “High School Musical” like a bad habit when “Glee” came along.
They’re more concerned with value and function than brand because they were molded by the largest global recession in recent memory. Where my generation wore Abercrombie & Fitch because of the brand, this generation will buy from a brand only if its products meet their economic and functional needs.
The point is: keeping a brand relevant to this audience is tough. To do so, you will have to evolve with them, demonstrate value to them, and market yourself in non-traditional ways.
2. They Expect Brands to Fit Their Mold. Not the Other Way Around.
A great example of this is characterized by how this generation responds to technology and information architecture. My generation was willing to learn to click the “start” button to shut down our computers (remember Windows 95?), even though it made no sense to do so.
Not this generation. They won’t blame themselves or stick around when products and brands don’t perform the way they want or expect them to – they will blame the brand and go elsewhere.
Just look at 10 mobile phones owned by Gen We’ers. You’ll see 10 completely different wallpaper schemes, 10 different collections and configurations of apps, 10 different ringtones, 10 different cases, and the list goes on.
Tailor your brands and products to them, or allow them to do so. They won’t be okay with doing it your way.
3. They Care About the World and What Your Brand is Doing For It
This generation grew up with Dora the Explorer and Diego, and is the first generation to experience “green” in the mainstream. They’re not going to be a group of tree-hugging hippies, but they do care about the world and want to associate themselves with individuals and brands that care as well.
Consider the 13 year old that started his own manly scented candle business – ManCans (featuring scents like Bacon, New Catcher’s Mitt, and Campfire). He makes his candles in soup cans and donates the soup to a local food bank. He’s received thousands of orders.
Or the 12 year old who wanted to do something about obesity and started a mobile dance studio in an old school bus. On afternoons after school, Amiya’s Mobile Dance Academy travels to kids who couldn’t otherwise afford dance lessons and teaches them everything from ballet to hip-hop.
Consider how your brand treats the world, because Gen We will.
4. They Expect You to Entertain Them
Conditioned by things like ToonTown and Club Penguin, this group expects to be entertained – even by brands. They have much shorter attention spans than previous generations, and an uncanny knack for processing massive amounts of information.
For example, when I rode in my mom’s car as a child, I looked out the window. I might have even conversed with my mother. Not this generation. They watched cartoons on the SUV’s video system, played with their DS’s or played with Mom’s iPhone. And the more tech savvy of them probably played Toyota’s “Backseat Driver” app – which uses GPS to create a virtual driving route that mirrors the actual road and integrates real world landmarks into the game.
The point is, this group has always been entertained. And they will expect entertainment from you if you hope to connect with them.
5. They Actually Listen to Their Parents
A new survey finds that consumers rate Target, Safeway, Subway, Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Walgreens, Bank of America and Verizon Wireless as being the best retail and restaurant brands when it comes to using social media to communicate with customers.
The survey, commissioned by social media customer service company Conversocial and conducted by Liel Leibovitz, an associate professor of communications at New York University, measured sentiment across eight different industries to rate the best and worst in social customer service – as well as garner consumers’ feedback on their social customer service expectations. The eight sectors and 38 companies featured in the survey were selected from a list compiled by the National Retail Federation’s Stores Magazine. 589 consumers representing a gender and age balance roughly reflective of the U.S. population were surveyed.
Channel-wise, respondents rated department stores and the dining sector the best at communicating with customers via social media, while supermarkets and the retail banking and telecommunications sectors were rated worst.
Brand-wise, results highlights include:
*Subway beat Starbucks, McDonald’s and Burger King in the dining category.
*Best Buy beat Apple in the electronics market (albeit by a small margin).
*Target swept the department store category, with a comfortable lead.
Highlights of findings relating to consumers’ social media customer service expectations:
*More than half (55%) described their experience of communicating with brands via social media as “disappointing” or “mediocre.”
*About 30% said that they expect companies to reply “within hours” when contacted via social media; 29.2% expect a response within the same business day; 16.6% expect a response in less than 10 minutes; and 13.1% expect a response in less than an hour.
* Contrary to general assumptions, different age groups expressed more or less similar expectations/behaviors.
*21% said that they had used their mobile devices to contact companies via social media while still in-store.
The research clearly indicates that “consumers have grown to expect faster and more attentive customer service via social media,” observed Leibovitz. “Consumers are looking for greater transparency and efficiency, and social media channels can certainly provide that.”
“The conversations a company has with its customers via social media truly represent its brand, often at the very dynamic moment when point-of-purchase decisions are being played out,” added Conversocial CEO Joshua March. The survey results confirm that “ignoring or delaying a response to complaints and questions has consequences among the buying public.”