Marketing to Generation Y: What You Can't Afford Not to Know

Services for Real Estate Pros with Bea Fields Companies, Inc.

Generation Y.  You’ve heard that they don’t watch TV, and you’ve probably been told that they don’t read that much.  Your research tells you that you can’t target them through MTV anymore, and you certainly can’t tell Gen Y what is cool.  So how do you reach these 71 million “Millennials” that spend over 200 billion dollars annually and will soon replace the baby boomer generation as the largest percentage of the workforce?  The answer is simple—you STOP marketing to them.  Let me explain.

First, let’s look at who they are. As a baby boomer, I can tell you that this generation—sometimes called the “Connecteds”—are our own invention.    We raised Gen Y to believe that they can do anything and be anything.  We made their lives easy enough that they now believe they deserve to live first and work second. (How dare them!)  So the first thing we have to do is stop being pissed off at our own creation and embrace the brilliance of this Gen Y community.

This is the most optimistic generation to ever walk the face of the planet.  They absolutely believe that miracles are possible.  They refuse to work a job that does not bring them a sense of joy.  They care about the earth and servicing their community.  In Gen Y, we have created the possibility for everything that we wanted for the world.  So we must stop whining about them being entitled and embrace the power of this generation.  Once we do that, we can then begin to take a closer look at who they are, what makes them tick, and what they want from our businesses.

Let’s look at who has been successful at marketing to Gen Y: Apple, Jet Blue, Trader Joes, Jones Soda, Mountain Dew, and Red Bull, to name a few.  How do these companies speak to this demographic?  To answer that, we first have to understand the four areas Gen Y considers before purchasing a product or service:

  1. Cheap cost
  2. Good quality
  3. Fast service
  4. An “experience”

When Apple created the 99-cent download that took eight seconds to transact, they hit the nail on the head with Gen Y.  Music is an experience, the quality is stellar, the cost is low, and the purchase happens instantly.  What did Apple do right?  They spoke directly to Gen Y and asked the question: What do you want?

So who gets Gen Y’s attention?  Living in an age where information is everywhere and where everyone can reach them, the Gen Y community is VERY selective about who they listen to.  Just look at their MySpace and Facebook accounts, and you’ll recognize that they get their information from one another—NOT from us, and certainly not from the media.  And the information they get from each other is not in emails, which most of them don’t even touch anymore (I know you probably thought you were being hip with your 100 emails a day!).  They text one another.  They IM.  They watch each other on YouTube.  And sometimes they do all three at the same time! Most importantly, Gen Y does NOT care about what you have to say unless you have been endorsed by their friends. They care about what their community says, and they take each other and their network’s recommendations VERY seriously.

So taking that into account, how do you reach them?  Well, understand that Gen Y is an “experience” culture.  They do not want to be told what to like or what to do.  They want to experience the world for themselves and pass their own judgment.  They love to be in the trenches of life, and they want to be there with their friends.  HERE is where you have to meet them if you want to be taken seriously and respected by this generation enough for them to buy from you:

  • Concerts (Gen Y LOVES live music.)
  • Extreme sporting events (skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX)
  • Movies (mainstream as well as art-house)
  • Hiking events (They love the outdoors)
  • Video games and video game competitions (Cyber Athlete Professional League, GameCaster, Global Gaming League)
  • Mashups (Weather Bonk, Where’s Tim Hibbard, Y! Mash,  Sims on Stage)
  • Tattoo parlors (36 percent of them have at least one tattoo)

Before I wrap this up, there is one more major element we need to discuss, and that is how to earn their respect when you are talking with Gen Y:  AUTHENTICITY.  They don’t waste time on people or companies that are not being real with them.  Authentic is cool.  Authentic is dorky.  Authentic is hip.  Authentic is truthful.  This generation has seen it all, from televised wars to 9-11 to the hanging of Hussein.  They know real when they see it, and it takes them all of three seconds to pass that judgment.

So what does all this mean to you?  It means that you cannot directly market to them until you buy into them, until you value their perspective on life.  So while other experts are out there giving you “tricks” to market to Gen Y, I’m here saying STOP marketing to them and START listening to them.  Hang out with them.  Experience life with them. Respect them.  If you do, their outlook on life will change you. You’ll begin to behave differently, take on some new values, and begin to live more yourself.  When you do that, you’ll find your audience within this generation.


Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Susan Gaieski 07/06/2010 08:47 AM
  2. Lanre-"THE REAL ESTATE FARMER" Folayan 07/06/2010 02:52 PM
  3. Carla Freund 07/30/2010 03:22 AM
North Carolina
generation y
marketing to gen y

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Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

Very informative and gives us a plan to interact with Millennials !!!!!!! Thanks !!!

Jul 06, 2010 11:46 PM #33
Aaron Seekford
Arlington Realty, Inc. - Arlington, VA
Ranked Top 1% Nationwide 703-836-6116

Nice post. Another tip, courtesy of my assistant who was an editor for a youth newspaper for 7 years: Do not call them teens or tweens. They hate that and it's considered belittling, despite how accurate it may be. "Youth" or "young adults" is the best wording when trying to reach them, especially in marketing efforts.

Jul 07, 2010 01:46 AM #34
Dan Cheek
Baltimore, MD
Internet Lead Management

Thanks for your post Bea.  Of the many challenges our industry faces, understanding the changed and changing real estate customer ranks high.  Putting what we know of our customers into context for real estate professionals is the next step.  You'll find a willing, knowledgable audience here on ActiveRain.  Now for the rest...

Jul 07, 2010 01:47 AM #35
Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ
Weichert - Lopatcong, NJ


Before jumping to your profile, I was amazed that this is a first post. Now it is clear you are a champ at this and only new to AR! Nice to have your expertise.

Jul 07, 2010 01:58 AM #36
Mary Macy
Top Agents Atlanta Metro - Roswell, GA
Top Agents Atlanta Metro

Great Post, Blogs and Text Messages are a must with this generation, they don't even like email.  My granddaughter brought me a letter the other day and asked me to mail it to her grandmother (my mom), she was not certain how to use the mail.  This is definately going to be a different generation and we need to make sure we meet their communication needs and market through their channels.

Jul 07, 2010 03:29 AM #37
Bea Fields
Bea Fields Companies, Inc. - Southern Pines, NC make a good point.  I use the term Generation Y only in writing, because this is how the public identifies the demographic.  But, to be honest...if you talk to this demographic, they really like to be called "Millennials".  They don't like the fact that by default, demographers just called them Gen Y, because they followed Gen X, and they don't like to be clumped in with another generation.  They are very independent, and they are no longer teenagers anyway.  I think we are getting ready to see a break in generations and the under 20 crowd will become a new demographic with a new world view.  So, they are indeed adults!

Jul 07, 2010 04:28 AM #38
Bea Fields
Bea Fields Companies, Inc. - Southern Pines, NC are right on.  Generation Y uses email for work or college.  They SOMETIMES will send cards, but they feel it is fine to use email, even for thank-you purposes.  I am the parent of 3 Gen Ys, and we insist on handwritten letters (which they don't like) but it is a skill they do need in their back pocket.  Decision makers are still older and more traditional in thinking, so letter writing is something we all need to do a bit more!

Jul 07, 2010 04:29 AM #39
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

Bea, Welcome to Active Rain with this Great Post. It is amazing how different each generation is. It can be a challenge to understand each and work with them effectively! Your blog is a great perspective for the Gen Y group.


Jul 07, 2010 04:35 AM #40
Ilyce Glink
Think Glink Media - Chicago, IL
Best-selling author, award-winning TV/radio host.

This is very interesting.  Generation Y is sometimes called the Peter Pan Generation as well because they put off getting married and having children until they are secure in a career and they have found what makes them happy.

Jul 07, 2010 04:39 AM #41
Scotti Jowers
CENTURY 21 Shackelford French, Search West Monroe Homes - West Monroe, LA
Realtor - West Monroe, Louisiana Homes for Sale

Email marketing, virtual tours, social media, etc... that's the key to Gen Y.  Great post!

Jul 07, 2010 04:53 AM #42
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


Welcome to Active Rain, and congratulations at having your blog featured.  I appreciate your voice and the clarity with wish you expressed your point of view.  I love you view that Gen Y is the creating of the Baby Boomers, and that they are brilliant.  Looking forward to reading more.  Wishing you continued success.

Jul 07, 2010 05:36 AM #43
Virtual Realty Consultants
Virtual Realty Consultants LLC - Wellesley, MA
Making the American Dream a Reality

Bea -

You got most of it right, but read my response in When Baby Boomers and Gen X Label Gen-Y - - The Truth Revealed.  One thing that is very important to understand - - most people who are not Gen-Y don't understand us.  Even those that think they do, patronize us.

If you want your Gen Y agents to be successful and you are looking to prospect to Gen-Y buyers and sellers, my suggestion would be to HIRE a successful Gen Y agent and let them be the mentor to new Gen Y agents.  We just relate better to those who walk in our shoes.

Jul 08, 2010 04:32 AM #44
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Bea - welcome to activerain and what an amazing post.  Hard to beleive that you are new to this.  Great picture you painted of the Gen Y'ers and yes, it is amazing how different each generation choosese to communicate. 

Jul 08, 2010 04:40 AM #45
Charles Greco
Select-A-Home / Island South - Merrick, NY

In a former life I was a recruiter for Deloitte and they spent allot of time and money to understand each generation.  I found your post to be on the mark for gen Y ..

Jul 08, 2010 07:35 AM #46
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

It is important for the real estate industry to understand this generation.  They are a huge component of our population, and when you look at the statistics, the industry is well represented by those much older than the millenials.

Jul 08, 2010 05:55 PM #47
Sergio Rebollo Jr.
Real Estate TeamMates - Miami, FL

Bea..Welcome to ActiveRain. This is a great community to network with others as well a great place to learn from other's experiences and knowledge. I've enjoyed it; I hope you enjoy it as well.

Jul 10, 2010 09:17 AM #48
Sergio Rebollo Jr.
Real Estate TeamMates - Miami, FL

Bea..Welcome to ActiveRain. This is a great community to network with others as well a great place to learn from other's experiences and knowledge. I've enjoyed it; I hope you enjoy it as well.

Jul 10, 2010 09:18 AM #49
Zachary Strong
Coastal Properties Group International - Belleair, FL
Adventure-Clearwater to St. Pete, Florida Real Est
Very good stuff! I land right in the middle of Gen X & Gen Y and I feel like you are right on with this!
Jul 30, 2010 02:31 AM #50
Carla Freund
Keller Williams Preferred Realty - Raleigh, NC
Raleigh - Cary Triangle Real Estate 919-602-8489


This is a fantastic article and reminds us as Realtors, that all people aren't looking for the same house.  As listing agents, it reminds us to be aware of who the typical buyer is for our listings and staging the property so it will appeal to them.  I actually found your article on another site a few weeks back and recommended it to a few folks.  Great Job!

Carla Freund Realtor Fonville Morisey

Jul 30, 2010 03:28 AM #51
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Stellar post!

Aug 09, 2010 12:51 PM #52
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