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How to connect with urban millennials: results from a global research community


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This Marketing paper offers insights on what drives Generation Y and how global brands can really connect with youth worldwide. By discussing trends with young people in our global research community, we managed to gather 10 interesting Gen Y evolutions. The paper also highlights the key dimensions behind cool places, products and brands.

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How to connect with urban millennials: results from a global research community

  1. 1. Generation Y (aged 15 to 30) is the most marketing-savvy generationever. On a global scale, this new consumer cohort is much larger thanthe previous generation X and their impact on society will soon surpassthe Babyboomer’s largely documented influence. But what drives thisfickle generation and how can global brands really connect with youthworldwide? This paper highlights the key dimensions behind cool places,products and brands derived from a research community connectingurban youth in 15 different cities around the globe.
  2. 2. It’s so uncool to think you’re coolLate 1980s and early 1990s youth marketing was on Today, twenty years later, things have changed dramatically. This new youththe rise. Marketers were in search of new segments generation, called Generation Y or Millennials, has been bombarded withand target groups to conquer; the young consumer was commercial messages since their birth. They have learned to filter out all thosea rather easy target to them. If only you shouted hard loud marketing messages and their parents empowered them to have anenough through specific youth media such as MTV that opinion of their own and to never simply believe whatever somebody isyou ought to use brand X to be a cool hipster or sexy proclaiming. But the global brands are still there. So are the commercial media.chick, your success was guaranteed. Commercial And there must be countless times more choice of both. To survive in a clutteredmedia were relatively new, global brands were by and fragmented world flooded with products and alternatives, today’s youthdefinition cool and young people loved to submerge in uses collective peer wisdom and social connections. They believe what theirconsumerism. Buying stuff made them feel best friends and parents are telling them and self-consciously explore the roadsindependent and grown up. And the yuppie culture they want to take rather than to follow whatever the next image advertisingendorsed the glamorous appeal of brands that dictated wants them to to dress, behave, walk and talk. And what are brands to do now? They have lost their role model or oracle status. Although the current youth generation still embraces cool brands, the ones that just claim they are cool won’t even reach their radar. They decide themselves what’s cool and what’s not. “Coolness” is not a brand personality trait that you can deliberately plan or chase. You have to earn the status of ‘cool brand’.
  3. 3. The CRUSH model as a backboneIn How Cool Brands Stay Hot. Branding to Generation Y, Joeri Van den The 5 components of the CRUSH model are:Bergh and Mattias Behrer describe a model, based on years of youthexperience and quantitative Gen Y research in several European Coolness: What does it mean to be a cool brand for this generation? How domarkets, to connect with this new generation of consumers (Van den you achieve a cool status and why should you bother?Bergh, Behrer, 2011). The brand CRUSH model (see Figure below) Realness: Brand authenticity is a key aspect that discerns long-term winningsummarizes the five aspects that are key in developing branding brands from fads. With Generation Y, authenticity is attained in another waystrategies with Generation Y. than the traditional approach of claiming origin, heritage or history. Uniqueness: A clear positioning based on a sustainable brand DNA will increase impact among youngsters. This generation is craving for anchor brands in a fragmented world. But how do you assert uniqueness when most innovations are copied within a couple of months’ time? Self-identification with the brand: Gen Y’ers will only feel emotionally connected with your brand when it feels like a friend to them. This implies that your brand should reflect their diverse lifestyles. A better understanding of their identity construction will make your brand fit in with youths’ lives while embracing diversity. Happiness: Popular youth brands know how to leverage from positive emotions and avoid arousing negative ones. Based on their research work, Van den Bergh and Behrer concluded that brands which are highly rated for each of the CRUSH elements by Generation Y’ers are more likely to experience increased word-of-mouth and a more positive brand image, eventually leading to a better NPS (Net Promoter Score).
  4. 4. How we did it: a global online community of influential youthIn order to obtain an answer to these questions, InSites Consultingand MTV Networks teamed up to create “Crushed Ice”, a globalonline community of influential youth discussing whatever theyobserved around them in their local cities during six consecutiveweeks. We started from 150 carefully selected urban recruits, aged18 to 29 and living in 15 cities around the world (in alphabeticalorder: Amsterdam, Berlin, Cape Town, Dubai, Istanbul, London,Mumbai, New York, Paris, Rio, San Francisco, Shanghai, StPetersburg, Stockholm and Sydney). Recruitment sources werepanel brokers as well as cool blogs such as andcontributors to the MTV global Sticky panel. All of them had to passa TOEFL test to make sure they could fluently communicate inEnglish. To ensure all of the participants would be rightfully placedto feed our objectives, we used innovator-gatekeepers standardizedscales as well as open-ended questions tracking their leisure timeactivities, sports, frequently visited websites and social networks aswell as devices owned. Half of the participating Gen Y’ers werestudents, the other half were already working. Each of them neededan active interest in at least one of the five topics we were todiscuss in the community: •  shopping & fashion Between them the participating Millennials from all five continents produced •  in-home entertainment (movies, games, technology) 1,589 posts. The community platform was “live” after a kick-off session in the second half of April 2011 until early June 2011. •  going out •  food & drinks •  travel
  5. 5. Findings fromaround the globeThe findings of the research community can be grouped intwo different areas. From the substantial amount of postswe were able to derive some general Generation Yinsights. They are a collection of typical traits andevolutions describing the daily lives of this youthgeneration. Furthermore the five CRUSH dimensions fromthe brand model were intensively discussed in thecommunity, resulting in a global qualitative exploration ofthe key dimensions of cool brands, places and events forthis generation. We will describe both results in thefollowing paragraphs.
  6. 6. Understanding Generation Y The downside of being a technology generationPew Research Centre (Taylor, Keeter, 2010) found that the majority of generation members believe they owna unique and distinctive identity. When Generation Y’ers are asked to describe their own generation, they willindicate that they are the first “technology generation”. Technology to them means so much more than just acollection of gadgets: they have fused their social life into those gadgets. Although they still remember how lifebefore the Internet was, they came of age in a society packed with mobile, digital, interactive, social andonline technology and they are hooked to it. The virtual unlimited access to information allows them tomake more deliberate choices. While it is often said that “Google makes us smarter”, and professors at theSemel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA have actually found proof that searchingonline is beneficial for the brain (Small, Vorgan, 2008), most youngsters realize the information society comeswith a trade-off in terms of attention span. Infobesitas, being overwhelmed with information, is a realitynowadays, even for media savvy youth; being constantly connected feels so good that it’s addictive. If theyare in situations without Internet or mobile (text message) access, most youngsters experience loneliness anddepression. Media have even reported that they would rather miss sexual intercourse for a month than beingdeprived from access to Facebook.From a social perspective, the constant connection made deep genuine and personal interactions moredifficult. After all, everyone already knows what you did yesterday through your status updates or tweets, sowhat do you talk about when going out with a friend? Most messages that are exchanged via social mediahave to be condensed to one-liners on Facebook, mobile text messages of 160 characters max or eventweets with only 140. So although the frequency of being in touch with peers has dramatically increased,contacts are more superficial and relationships are changing.
  7. 7. We don’t have to worry about the present, we worry about the futureYouth today have high expectations in life. Their Babyboomer parents taught them how to value their ownopinion and strive for achievements. Media often portray successful 20-something CEOs like MarkZuckerberg endorsing the “You can be anything you want to be” mythos. The increased importance ofself-esteem in society has clearly affected youth’s attitude and behaviour. Psychologists like Dr JeanTwenge found that the number of college students with a high narcissism score has risen by two-thirds.The professor mainly blames our education systems, designed to raise the self-esteem of youth (Twenge,2006). In her book The Narcissim Epidemic she even suggests treatment for what she deems an epidemic(Twenge, 2009). This generation has a high trust in itself and is open to try many different things as youthdon’t accept being stuck in a certain situation whether it’s a job, housing, or relationships… All of them areeasy to change in their view. They work to live rather than the other way around and express a clear needto be stimulated with a variety of working experiences rather than find depth in their career. Gen Y’ersunderstand what kind of big opportunities lie ahead and are willing to work hard if necessary.Being called “lazy” infuriates them.Older generations often criticize this generation for taking the shortest route to get what they need. Butthat’s simply the way they were educated: attaining the objectives with the least possible efforts in asmart and quick way. Most youngsters will express a strong work/reward ethic. They believe you will getrewards in life if you work hard enough. Failure is assumed to stem from laziness. Most teenagers will onlyselect role models and celebrities who have really earned their success by working hard. In the MTVYouthopia study, Barack Obama and Britney Spears were often quoted as people who are admired for theirwork ethic and for achieving great things from humble beginnings, by overcoming adversity to maintaintheir success(Rose, 2010). Gen Y’ers feel they don’t have to worry about the present, since most basicneeds have been fulfilled as opposed to how their grandparents were struggling. On the other hand thenegative aspect of their status, anxiety, is an increased self-imposed pressure and a fear of failure. Theirability to shape their lives the way they want has urged them to take up the responsibility to make the mostof it. The social network voyeurism and exhibitionism with live streams of what friends are experiencing andachieving, leads to benchmarking stress and quarter-life crises, replacing the good old mid-life one ofprevious generations.
  8. 8. Real trends cross bordersIn the global village, Gen Y feels that local trends don’t even exist anymore. If anything is a real trend, it willimmediately cross borders via social media and youth around the world will pick it up. A recent example ofthis evolution is the series of so-called Internet memes that was rapidly spread across borders. First therewas ‘planking’, young people taking Facebook pictures lying stiff like a plank of wood. (see picture below)The trend hit the headlines when a young Brisbane man in his twenties fell from a balcony in an attempt totake the perfect planking picture. Soon, over 600,000 planking fans imitated the silly behaviour all over theworld. But only a few weeks later the meme’s popularity faded, perhaps because even Gordon Ramsay gotinvolved in it… And, it was suddenly replaced by a new meme: ‘owling’, i.e. imitating the position of an owl,for instance on a fence or roof or - why not - on top of your office desk… Then ‘tilting’ came up, ‘leisurediving’ and who knows what’s next….Insert Figure 3 here
  9. 9. That said, when discussing trendswith young people on the globalcommunity, they did come up witha list of 10 interesting Gen Yevolutions:
  10. 10. 1Social media as their mostimportant news channel:because they are the most up-to-date news channels and alsothe most tailored and targeted,as you choose yourself who youfollow or what kind ofinformation you want to receive.In the same way brands shouldempower Gen Y’ers to tailortheir product experience to theirwants and needs.
  11. 11. 2 Minimizing environmental impact:This generation feels ecologically responsible. Organic and green products will find a more interestedaudience in this age group and they stress the importance of locally produced stuff. Responsible brandingis also about PEOPLE. Creating safe working places and offering a fair salary rather than exploiting them,are synonyms to social branding. They like companies that put clear societal goals forward and act uponthem without bragging. They dislike companies that actively communicate about CSR programs, which isseen as “green washing”, McDonald’s being a bad example. Because eco claims became just anotheradvertising strategy in the first decade of the 2000s, Gen Y’ers are very cautious in really believing what abrand is telling about protecting the environment. When sports fashion brand Puma worked together withYves Behar’s Fuse project to design a shoe box that would reduce the ecological footprint, many of themreacted sceptically on blogs. Puma’s viral movie explained that using a bag instead of a box reduced thecardboard by 65%, eventually resulting in a lowered usage of paper (trees), energy, water and loweremission of carbon dioxides. But youngsters called it brand propaganda, questioning the positive impact ofthe design, uttering that 77% of the carbon footprint in shoes come from raw materials (leather, rubber andcotton) and only a mere 5% come from the packaging. To win credibility with CSR programs to thisgeneration, there are 3 things brands and companies should keep in mind:1.  Gen Y will rarely deliberately choose a brand because of its charity or ecological programmes. A brand’s socially responsible image will never make up for poor quality or other basics. Rather than communicating green aspects, they want brands to focus on how an innovation makes a product itself better and at the same time it happens to be produced in a responsible way too.2.  What really makes a difference is when a company is advocating responsible actions to other players in the industry and becoming a change agent. Examples are: Cadbury for using fair trade in all products, Mars committing to become exploitation-free by 2020 through Rainforest alliance & UTZ certification, Bodyshop (for its values), Sainsbury (fair trade), and Johnson&Johnson (minimizing environmental impact).3.  Gen Y does not like to be marketed TO but like to do marketing WITH: instead of bombarding young people with programmes, they want to make a difference themselves by owning the values and choosing themselves how and where charitable contributions will go. This was already found in other ESOMAR papers too (see for instance: Namiranian, 2006).
  12. 12. 3Renting and sharing propertyEconomic downturn on the one hand and exponential house pricingon the other hand have spurred youth to rent properties rather thanbuying them; they even share flats to cope with the high living costs.Sharing expensive stuff is not only smart but also has positive sideeffects on the environment. That’s why recent start-ups like Buzzcarin France (to share cars) or Frents in Germany (sharing and rentingout belongings whenever you don’t need them) are getting theattention of youth worldwide. Gen Y will embrace brands that showthe same type of smart thinking. Think of the way Apple is positioningall its innovations as cutting-edge examples of smart and efficientdesign.
  13. 13. 4 Working or studying abroad for a semesterLife is all about experiencing something extraordinary or new. Young people have alwaysbeen involved in exploring the unknown, but today they have so many more possibilitiesto make that happen. Studying abroad for at least one semester or starting aninternational career is seen as a must-to-obtain language skills and improvesintercultural understanding. Taking a gap year is much more common today than it wasfor previous generations. Brands that radiate this cosmopolitan feeling, connecting youthfrom all parts of the world with shared interests and passions, will hit a sensitive spot ofGen Y.
  14. 14. 5Settling down lateAs stated before, Gen Y’ers want to get the best out of their lives and to reallyenjoy it before getting married or leaving the family home. The ‘Hotel Mum’trend has been boosted by the economic recession. It has also led to anincrease in ‘boomerang children’, returning to parental homes after a period ofindependent living. In 1980, 11% of the 25-to-34-year-olds in the United Stateswas still living with their parents. By 2008, this figure had already risen to 20%(Robert, 2010). For brands targeting Gen Y, this means they’re often alsotargeting Gen Y parents, since they are still very much involved in the purchasedecisions of their children.
  15. 15. 6 Reality TVIt’s been on every possible channel in every possibleformat since the start of the new Millennium and yet it stilldoesn’t really get boring for the Millennials, who grew upwith reality TV content such as Big Brother, ExpeditionRobinson (a.k.a. Survivor), the Osbournes or Pop Idols.Like Rose & Wood stated in Journal of ConsumerResearch, the popularity of these shows on TV can beseen as a quest for authenticity within the traditionallyfiction-oriented entertainment industry (Rose, Wood,2005).
  16. 16. 7 Urban cyclingFrom the colourful scraper-bikes craze in Los Angeles and the BayArea to the cheap fixed-gear bikes painted in bright colours (“fixies”) inJakarta or even the more organized urban bike renting in cities suchas Barcelona or Paris: urban cycling is big. It’s the easiest way to getfrom A to B without traffic jams or the need for scarce parking spotsand like Graham Brown mentioned in his Youth Marketing Handbook:It’s all about reclaiming the social space in busy city centres aroundthe world (Brown, G. et. Al., 2011). Nike has launched some brilliantcampaigns (Run Unleashed) to activate leisure running with Gen Y. Ina number of cities like Stockholm and Antwerp the brand set up acompetition between runners living in different districts of the city and“take Stockholm”. The campaign was an enormous success.
  17. 17. 8 Customizing, co-creation and smart crowdsGeneration Y believes in the social economy. If they had tostart up a business today, it would incorporate socialnetworking. They believe in this medium since it is essentialto involve and engage them individually and communicatewith them on a real one-to-one basis to build a sustainableand meaningful relationship. It’s about giving the brand backto the fans/consumers. Gen Y’ers firmly believe that bothproducts and marketing actions should be co-created andthey feel the crowd will always outsmart the individual.Peers are the most trusted source of information, whichexplains why user ratings are very important to them and willalways be consulted before making purchase decisions.Their favourite brands are the ones that offer customizationof their products and communications. Ben & Jerry’s in theNetherlands for instance co-created its Facebook fan pagewith Millennials.
  18. 18. 9 True heroes are close to themFor young people emotional connection (closeness and friendship), real humanityand achievement are the most important aspects of “heroes”. They are rathersceptical about traditional celebrity role models. They see their friends and parents asthe real heroes. The former because they can always rely on them personally and thelatter because they were capable of raising their children in more difficult andchallenging times. This shift means that brands should be careful when pickingcelebrity-endorsed campaigns, and think thorougly about how they can use thefeeling of closeness, humanity and achievement in communications.If they talk about other types of potential heroes, who are not so close to them,other criteria are important:•  They bring change for the better in the world; lighting examples are Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, together with other activists, revolutionaries and politicians•  They are extremely skilled in their field of expertise, to the extent that their skills and achievements evoke real emotions; examples are sportsmen (at least as long as they are capable of staying top-of-the-bill)•  They are involved with charity work, e.g. Bono
  19. 19. 10 Everything starts with an E(xperience)Gen Y is an emotion-driven generation and more emotional thanprevious generations. Especially the quest for happiness is key in theirlives (Van den Bergh, Behrer, 2011). Leisure-time activities such asgoing out, food and drinks & travelling will all need a strong emotionalcomponent allowing them to escape and relax from everyday reality.They are looking for both indulgence and adrenaline-provoking thrills.The trend of “gamification” of society, offering competition and challenge,fits perfectly in this experience-driven life. Brands should challenge theiryoung target groups and position their products as achievements or amoment of indulgence or escape after hard work.
  20. 20. A qualitative explorationof the CRUSH modelIn the global Gen Y community, we discussed each of the 5 components as explained inFigure1. We were looking for intermediate dimensions that would explain why something wasconsidered to be cool, real, unique, just like them or happiness generator. This would allow us tobetter understand both Gen Y thinking and drivers for the brand attributes that we had found tobe important in previous quantitative research studies. All sub-dimensions are summarized thevisual below.
  21. 21. In How Cool Brands Stay Hot, Van den Bergh & Behrer state that ‘coolness’ todaysurpasses its historic links with resistance or rebel attitudes. For this youth generation, coolbrands are attractive and appealing brands which are popular in their immediate socialcircle and bring a sense of novelty, surprise or originality. For companies, it means theyhave to reinvent themselves continuously, not by looking at what other players are doing butby developing from within the heart of the company or brand. This grassroots thinking hasnothing to do with chasing coolness but it’s about creating and maintaining relevance for thestimulus-addicted Generation Y (Van den Bergh, Behrer, 2011). In our global Gen Ycommunity we discussed what youth see as cool places, brands and stuff to understandwhat the foundations of this brand relevance are for them. We found eight differentdimensions of coolness with youth around the world: TogethernessYoung people are even more social than previous generations. Brands or places that arecapable of connecting youth socially will have a competitive edge. After all, life is all aboutmeeting friends and new like-minded people and sharing moments and experiences. Thecoolest places and moments are those where friends are involved and they can buildshared memories. Togetherness can refer to partying hard but also to relaxing with a movie,chilling at a beach bar or just hanging out in the city and shopping. International feelingYoungsters feel they are citizens of the globe. In Istanbul for instance Turkish youth goes toClub Babylon to watch live gigs of musicians from all over the world. Brands that radiate thiscosmopolitan feeling will be considered to be cooler. The fact that H&M has shops in Asiaand the US makes the brand more appealing, because if youth is buying H&M in Tokyo too,it’s a guarantee for Europeans that it is a truly cool brand.
  22. 22. Story-generating NoveltyThe stimulation junkie generation is always looking for great stories and Brands have to stay up-to-date and have to innovate continuously, bringingmemories. Memorable events or experiences will set the tongues fresh aspects of their products under the attention of youth in order towagging. While New York is the city that never sleeps, Shanghai is so stimulate conversations.fundamentally weird that you stumble upon little treasures every time youvisit the city. It is just one big story generator, you never run out of littlethings that amuse, and so you never ever get bored. Cool brands Limited & hiddenregularly bring new stories and generate conversations by their actionsand point of view. This generation of consumers do not passively receive A limited availability of products makes something more cool for youngbrand stories told by companies anymore, they co-create the meaning of people. This can relate to the feeling of scarcity or uniqueness (e.g. eventsbrands. The Keller Fay Group found that youth have on average 145 on specific nights) or the fact that you have to be ‘in the know’ before youconversations a week about brands. That is twice the rate of adults can enjoy it.(Hein, 2007). UnexpectedFacilitating life and delivering experiences As mentioned before, Gen Y likes positive surprises. Brand and shopOne respondent explained how the “Chrome to Phone” app on her concepts that are built on a great creative idea like The Icecreamists, a pop-Android Nexus S mobile made her life easier. The app automatically up ice cream shop linked with Selfridges in London, are good examples ofsends websites, phone numbers and Google roadmaps from an online creating unexpected experiences. The shop is targeting adult ice cream fanswebsite to your own mobile phone with one single click. The technology and has a sexy/kinky interior and waitresses. They have been known toand “always too busy” generation is keen on innovations that help them create buzz with Viagra ice cream (not really using Viagra as an ingredientorganize their life, do things better and more easily and save time in a but claiming to have similar positive effects for consumers) and the Babyseamless way. Having the opportunity to customize the product itself and Gaga taste, supposedly made from breast milk (and banned after 3 hours). Ahaving it just the way you personally prefer it, is another aspect of cool fusion of different styles also enhances the feeling of unexpectedness. Thebrands experiences. In the Cereality bar in San Francisco for instance Burgermeister burger bar in Berlin is located in a former art deco toilet stallcustomers choose from their favourite cereal brands and customized under a bridge and is a fast food burger bar. People reclaiming the urbantoppings (nuts, fruits, candy, raisins, chocolates…) and type of milk to space in global cities, for instance by using a scaffolding in Berlin as acreate their own perfect breakfast. The staff is dressed in a pyjama balcony to enjoy the nice weather, street dancing in Paris or guerrilla knittinguniform to make the experience complete. in several cities, are an unexpected surprise for youngsters and therefore deemed ‘cool’.QualitySuperior product quality is still one of the core aspects of cool brands.Especially when it’s unexpected. For instance, food trucks are normallyseen as serving mediocre or bad tasting fast food, but the “Off the grid”gourmet food trucks as seen in San Francisco bring a variety of deliciousfood. They make it easily accessible and also offer free side-events ofmusic and craft, creating unique markets.
  23. 23. In our experience economy, brand authenticity became For instance, the Japanese retailer Muji is knownmore important. Not only because authenticity helps for its simple and beautifully designed products.brands to differentiate from the many alternatives but The brand’s culture is distinguished by itsalso because consumers value “realness” in a world minimalistic design with emphasis on recycling andflooded with imitations and staged experiences. To the avoiding waste in production and packaging. Thenew consumers of Generation Y, the classic retailer has a no-logo and no-brand policy and theinterpretation of authenticity: origin, history and name Muji is derived from the first part ofheritage, as defined by Gilmore and Pine in the book ‘Mujirushi Ryohin’, which can be translated as“Authenticity. What Consumers Really Want”, is less ‘non-branded quality goods’. Muji shops have aappealing and less relevant. In most cases young Japanese feel which you sense the minute youpeople are not even aware of these types of brand enter a shop. All items are plain and pure, awaypersonality claims. To them, the modern from show-off and just humble and polite, just likeinterpretation of authenticity: being honest to the Japanese culture. Another example is theyourself (the brand’s DNA), to youth (transparency) hippie American spirit and heritage of the Ben &and to society (CSR) is more in line with their Jerry’s brand, that even today - when it’s part ofexpectations fed by their education (Van den Bergh, De the multinational Unilever - is translated not only inRuyck, Van Kemseke, 2009). product, variety names and packaging, but also in the campaigns and CSR programs. ThisIn our global qualitative exploration of the authenticity consistency is an important aspect of authenticity.concept, both history and heritage of brands were Dunkin’ Donuts and Budweiser for instance wereonly seen as “real” when the projected brand culture seen as brands staying real for ages by simplyfitted with the DNA of the brand. delivering the same simple products and messages. When youth sees a fit between what a brand is claiming and its historic DNA or an existing culture or environment, it is not perceived as fake but as real.
  24. 24. Classic occasions are real because of what they represent, for instance the Christmas tree at theRockefeller Centre is “real” because it’s a real tree but mainly because it represents so many years ofshared memories and emotions; it became the icon of Christmas in New York. Real emotions supportbrand realness. Riding a Harley Davidson motorbike is more than just the cliché American stereotype offreedom. It is feeling the emotions of the wind whipping through your hair and the ability to take in all ofnature’s beauty around you.Another aspect of realness is being democratic and open, available for everybody, not just for elites. Onerespondent in Brazil made the comparison between Copacabana beach and Ipanema beach. They are bothin Rio de Janeiro. The first is known from songs and films and is told to be the ideal perfect beach. But thelatter, just around the corner from Copacabana, is definitely the real thing for youth. Ipanema beach gatherspeople from all social classes, all sexual orientations and everywhere in the world.To quote one participant: “The walls separating the tribes on the beach are invisible and can be crossedanytime you want. The only passport you need to enter the area from a different group is simply the smileon your face. Ipanema summarizes the authentic carioca spirit: it’s democratic, easy going and…marvellous.” Levi’s curve ID jeans offering perfect fitting jeans for all sizes and female curves werementioned as an example of how brands can be democratic as well.Respect for nature and the environment was also mentioned as a source of “realness”. LUSH Cosmeticsfor instance takes care of youth’s health AND the environment by only using natural and organicingredients: fruit, vegetables, essential oils and no animal fats. They are against animal testing and theirpackaging is 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable. LUSH is a supporter of protest groups andanimal rights operations and has introduced the ‘Charity Pot’ body lotion of which the full purchase pricegoes to charity.
  25. 25. In an effort to reduce choice complexity, Generation Y’ers, like any consumer, group products together in a so-called consideration set. Brand salience or uniqueness is the most important factor for brands tobecome part of the consideration set (Ballantyne, Warren, Nobbs, 2006).Many young people link the unique things around them to specific places or locations, it is “something thatexists nowhere else”. German participants of the community talked about ‘Ampelmännchen’ and ‘Ampelfrauen’in Berlin (traffic light figures wearing a hat). They were introduced in 2005 and have since spread like a memeacross several cities of Germany to the east side of the country. Other examples combine place-bounduniqueness with heritage-based realness like a beautiful metro station in St Petersburg, French baguette orthe German Club Cola. Club Cola is a cola soft drink which was originally manufactured for the Socialist UnityParty of Germany at the end of the sixties, so that East Germany could have its own cola similar to the tasteand appearance of the ones sold in the Western world. It was extremely popular with the East Germans. Today,Club Cola is still available in Germany and because of its DDR heritage it has become a cult drink over theyears. The brand’s slogan, built on uniqueness, is “Nicht für jeden. Nur für uns”.Of course innovation and creative segments of culture like for instance art and design are key drivers of abrand’s uniqueness. Art and design are seen as true craftsmanship, meaning it automatically embodies aunique artist’s approach. When young people receive a crafted gift from one of their friends for their birthday, itis seen as a unique and very valuable piece. So working together with artists or designers, like Beck’s recentlydid with an augmented reality piece of art by Arne Quinze on top of the statue of liberty in New York,automatically adds uniqueness to the brand. “Handmade” as a label has the same result. Another option forbrands is stimulating personalization of their products, because when youngsters are customizing theirEastpack bag or their own Nike shoes, they become unique designs and thus more valuable.The last dimension of uniqueness is linked with people, the human side of brands. There’s nothing moreunique than a person, and brands which are linked with specific persons - like for instance Facebook, Virgin orApple - are therefore more unique than brands youngsters can’t connect to a human face. In a broaderperspective, you could also see this human face of brands as the employees or staff working for the brand andrepresenting the brand’s value and personality to consumers. Whether it’s the shop assistants, the help deskstaff or just employees talking about their job on the train, they are the human face of a brand and will support(or ruin…) a brand’s uniqueness.
  26. 26. Consumers choose brands to develop, extend or However, if the values of a brand go against yourportray their self-identity. For adolescents who are own, it will easily turn into a “hate brand”. Think ofstill in the process of constructing their identity, BP after the oil spill disaster or Roger Davidthis is even more prevalent than for other age clothes being boycotted after it had launched a T-groups. Brands, styles and products deliver shirt line “promoting” rape.tangible ways of meaning transference and arechosen to reflect the values, interests and Since Generation Y’ers are on the urge to achieveopinions (Tuten, 2007). In the CRUSH brand something in their young lives, aspirational brands which radiate positive energy will be easiermodel (see Figure 1), youth’s self-identification to identify with. “Apple is smart and creative, justwith the brand has a very strong direct effect on like me” said one of our more humble communitybrand leverage. It is crucial to obtain a good participants. There are three levels of aspiredconnection with Generation Y and keep a cool identification, a brand can use to connect withbrand hot for the long term (Van den Bergh, youth:Behrer, 2011). 1.  “I want to express myself and my style”: brands that are representing certain lifestylesFor this generation of consumers, image like for instance Billabong or Roxy for surfersadvertising and the old-fashioned way of shouting 2.  “I want to do something better”: brands thatbrand personality through mass media is no help youngsters to actively experience their passions, like Gatorade, offering pre-workoutlonger doing the trick. Brands need a strong point and post-workout electrolyte hydrationof view and act upon these values to convince the formulas are helping them to engage withmarketing-savvy generation that it’s not just a sportsgimmick or campaign but truly a part of the 3.  “I want to make the world a better place”:brand’s DNA. Brands that strongly advocate brands that are change agents in their marketcertain values which are in line with your own, like fair trade brands, Bodyshop or Lush arewill enhance identification. Nike, for instance, is all reflecting the concerns of certain parts of theabout personal achievement, competition and youth populationsuccess with a “yes you can do it” mentality. Thebrand was created by athletes and is still devotedto the athlete community and spirit.
  27. 27. Studies on emotional attachment to brands have found that evoking positive emotions iscrucial for brand engagement. Brands should induce affection or warm feelings like love, joyor happiness. They should arouse passion and make Gen Y’ers feel excited, delighted orcaptivated (Thomson, MacInnis, Whan Park, 2005).The most important ingredient of happy feelings for this social generation of youth isbringing togetherness. Hanging out in shopping centres or just spending time with friendsat IKEA, for instance, are simple and adored ways of having a good time. This social part ofhappiness is also seen in the many young participants commenting on the fact thathappiness spreads like a virus and that making other people happy by spoiling them forinstance will bring personal happiness too. Happiness is also related to the five senses andindulgence. For some participants eating a Vegemite sandwich (like in the song) orCadbury chocolates is making them happy. So, apart from spoiling taste buds, how canbrands find entrances to happiness? Our participants found five areas of brand happiness:1.  Excitement: brands like Lonely Planet, the North Face (outdoor clothes and equipment), BMW are all linked with the thrill of danger, speed or the unknown2.  Occasions: some brands are linked with happy moments in life like drinking a Sam Adams beer on a summer Saturday afternoon3.  Comfort/Security: you can rely on a brand when you need it, for instance Starbucks coffee as a hide-out offering the perfect coffee everywhere around the world4.  Experience: some brands offer a true delight to work with their products, designers couldn’t live without Adobe’s software programs Photoshop, Indesign, Dreamweaver…5.  Marketing actions that make you smile: some brands know how to make people smile, think of Coca-Cola nurses giving massages or Ola offering free ice creams on the first summer day or a Russian juice brand decorating bus stops like part of a jungle in summer
  28. 28. Conclusion To stay hot and follow the current evolutions among this youth generation as described in this paper, coolbrands need to connect on a deep and individual emotional level with Generation Y’ers. Researchcommunities such as the ‘Crushed Ice’ one we did for this paper offer the unique opportunity to engage withthem for a longer term than traditional focus groups or in-depth interviews. Youth loves engaging with brandsthat feel as close to them as their best friends and are eager to help marketers and researchers to go theextra mile based on their valuable input. Gen Y’ers want to be heard and want to change the world. (Or, asmany would phrase it: “dominate the world”). Brands that are willing to put them in the driver’s seat will benefitfrom their insights.With this generation, brands first need to deserve trust and affection. Successful Gen Y brands don’tdictate or shout, but empower and leave control in the hands of youth. The main difference between shoutingand having a conversation on equal levels is actually: listening. And isn’t that the job of marketers andqualitative researchers? Brands that are truly capable of listening to the assertive voice of this generation, notjust to pre- or post-test existing ideas but to re-evaluate their brand’s core positioning, products andcampaigns (like MTV did), will find their relationship gaining strength.It is our belief that the brand-building model we describe in this paper, summarized by the CRUSH acronym,combining coolness, realness, uniqueness, self-identification with the brand and happiness is a powerful wayof looking at the challenges a brand faces when connecting with the new consumer. I would like to end with aquote from Gert Kerkstoel, the former global business director of Nike SB: “Strong brands always had a moreinteresting and unique point of view to share with consumers. But today the depth and the authenticity of thestories behind the brand, and the skill with which they are told, have become much more important becausethey became part of everyday conversation, be it real or virtual. The key to brand survival over generations isauthenticity and connectivity. The essence is to let the organization BE the brand. You need a truerelationship with the current Generation Y to understand their spirit and let that guide the creative evolution ofyour brand. That is very different from just trying to catch the next trend.”
  29. 29. The authorsJoeri Van den BerghCo-founder and Gen Y expert InSites ConsultingAuthor of How Cool Brands Stay HotMore info on www.howcoolbrandsstayhot.comElias VerisSenior Research Innovator, InSites ConsultingTom De RuyckHead of Research Communities, InSites ConsultingMore info on SbarbaroInternational Head of Research, MTV, Viacom
  30. 30. InSites Consulting Research Communities Collaboration with consumers is hotConsumers have conversations about your products. Like it or not, but they want tohave an impact on the future of your brand, and social media has given them the powerto do so. This is not a threat, its an opportunity! InSites Consulting research has shownthat companies who listen actively & involve consumers in innovation and decisionmaking, outperform the competition. Making ordinary consumers create extraordinary value for companiesResearch Communities (MROCs) enable you to join this conversation and start a realdialogue: give key customers a seat in your board. A research community is a carefullyscreened group of consumers, gathered on a closed platform, around a commoninterest, for a longer period of time. The longitudinal character of communities offers thebenefits of consecutive learning, yields more relevant and deeper feedback, thus givingyou access to consumers complex opinions and enabling co-creation. Having aresearch community will bring the voice of the customer into the heart of your business. Flexible solutions & global capabilitiesWe offer a wide range of MROC solutions, tailored to different business needs . All ofthis with flexibility in terms of duration, deliverables and scope. Moreover, InSitesConsulting has global capabilities through its trained and certified network of communitymoderators in 32 countries.Ready to bring the consumer into your boardroom? We are! Find out more
  31. 31. How Cool Brands Stay HotThe book is about connecting with a new generation (Generation Y) whichwill determine how society and the consumer markets will evolve in thenext 3 decades. The book is based on 5 years of intense new marketresearch and insights and case studies of MTV teams from all over theworld, and offers insights in the psychology and behaviour of “theMillennials” as consumers. The book describes the five maincharacteristics of successful youth brands and will help companies get intouch with this new generation of consumers by understanding theirpreferences and dislikes. The book is interspersed with case studies andinterviews with global marketing executives at international brands suchas H&M, Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Nike, Nokia and Jack & Jones. It presentscreative ideas to its readers about how to position, develop and promotebrands and how to make them relevant for Generation Y. More info andupdates on: http://www.howcoolbrandsstayhot.comThe book has just won the ‘Marketing Book of The Year 2011’ award. Aprofessional and international jury nominated it as one of the 10 bestbooks of 2011. Afterwards 2,153 marketers from 85 countries voted ‘HowCool Brands Stay Hot’ as best marketing book of the past year. More infoon this award on:
  32. 32. Joeri Van den BerghGen Y expert and author of ‘How Cool Brands Stay Hot’Hear the key take-aways first hand from author Joeri Van denBergh in a workshop or presentation.More information on +32 496 232 919   @joeri_insites
  33. 33. ReferencesBallantyne, R., Warren, A., Nobbs, K. (2006) Small, G., Vorgan, G. (2008)The evolution of brand choice. Brand Management, Jun; 13(4/5): 339-52. iBrain. Surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind. New York: HarperCollins.Antin, J. & Churchil E. F. (2011)Badges in Social Media: A Social Psychological Perspective. Available online from: Taylor, P., Keeter, S. (2010) Millennials. A portrait of generation next. Confident. Connected. Open to change. Available online from:, G., Dhaliwal, J., Benjamin F., Kunto, G. (2011)The Youth Marketing Handbook. Amazon Kindle Edition. Thomson, M., MacInnis, D., Whan Park, C. (2005) The ties that bind: measuring the strength of consumers’ emotional attachment to brands. Journal of Consumer Psychology; 15(1): 77-91.Gilmore, J.H., Pine II, B.J. Authenticity. (2007)What consumers really want. Boston MA: Harvard Business School Press. Tuten, T.L. Deconstructing identity: an exercise to clarify the determinants of brand legitimacy.Hein, K. (2007) Marketing Education Review,Teen talk is, like, totally branded. Available online from: Spring; 17(1): 57-61. Twenge, J.M. (2006)Namiranian, L. (2006) Generation Me. Why today’s young Americans are more confident, assertive,Brand engagement. Teenagers and their brands in emerging markets. ESOMAR entitled – and more miserable than ever before. New York: Free PressWorld Research Paper, London. Twenge, J.M., Campbell, W.K. (2009)Robert, S. (2010) The Narcissism Epidemic. Living in the age of entitlement. New York: Free Press.Facing a financial pinch and moving in with mom and dad. Available online from: Van den Bergh, J., Behrer, M. (2011) How Cool Brands Stay Hot. Branding to Generation Y. London: Kogan Page.Rose, H. (2010)Youthopia. A study of hopes and dreams. London: Viacom Brand SolutionsInternational. Van den Bergh, J., De Ruyck, T, Van Kemseke, D. (2009) Even better than the real thing. Understanding generation Y’s definition of ‘authenticity’ for the Levi’s brand. ESOMAR Qualitative Research Paper,Rose, R.L., Wood, L. (2005) Marrakech.Paradox and the consumption of authenticity through reality television. Journal ofConsumer Research, Sep; 32: 284-96