Gen Y: The rise of cultural diplomats

Posted by John Gilboy on October 22, 2014

Uncovering Gen Y trends and influence is a hot button concern for many brand communication stewards (thanks Captain Obvious). On a serious note, we get it. Harnessing touch points for the digital native generation is a mandatory to drive engagement and build brand equity.

In the spirit of marketing differently and taking the road less traveled, however, we need to move beyond standard issue Gen Y hallmarks. Think of the buzzy descriptors that have emerged and repeated ad nauseam – short attention spans, demand praise and humor get them every time (wait - this guy again!). Turns out humor (especially the tasteful quirky sort) gets most any one of us to smile and let a brand inside our consciousness.

1As part of our effort to hunt + gather new thinking about Gen Y, last week we went to the bastion of everything cool + now (Brooklyn, obviously) to attend the Cassandra Sessions conference. No doubt, this day of millennial immersion is one to savor because The Intelligence Group provides a really dynamic environment of learning and sharing among planners, insights strategists and brand marketers alike. Side note, if you want a dose of what’s trending in lifestyle, fashion, entertainment or technology – the Cassandra Daily provides some stellar forward thinking.

There were a number of insights coming from IG’s global Gen Y research that raised eyebrows of interest: GY’s are 3x more likely to want to use socially conscious brands over luxury brands; 86% would rather be healthy than wealthy (wow – that’s a big deal!). However, from my perspective, it was the focus on this generation’s tilt toward global citizenship that sparked heightened interest and intrigue as a brand counselor.

When we think of Gen Y, it’s imperative to appreciate the notion of diversity and inclusivity that has defined their world. In fairness, there is debate whether Gen Y resides in a post racial environment via willful colorblindness. However, as MTV’s recent study suggested, there is a great deal of optimism that Gen Y has a perspective unlike prior generations and this informs how they intersect with brands and people (online + offline).

Gen Y’s openness of thought has influenced their global perspective and appreciation of culture. As demonstrated through the conference presentation research, we have never lived in a time when a collection of people around the world like Gen Y has shared more of the same aspirations, goals and personality traits. Put that in perspective and consider there are more than 2 billion GY’s globally, meaning this is a massively powerful and influential audience.

Today’s open source environment affords Gen Y the chance to connect in meaningful ways with like-minded contemporaries around high-value interests like travel, gaming and even food. (The universal bonding element of food is especially cool – international supper club experiences for local travelers like Eat With represent a trend pinned to Gen Y inclusive focus.) Gen Y’s affinity for diverse cultural experiences and interactions represents a generational shift in priorities – 74% say traveling is a life goal & 79% are interested in learning another language.

Gen Y is comprised of a class of cultural diplomats – they consume and distribute cultural “in the know” information as a unique form of currency. Marketers and consumer brands have a tremendous opportunity to intersect with these diplomats and insert themselves in the push/pull of brand love sharing that occurs as part of the cultural discovery.


Topics: Digital Marketing, Digital, Marketing