Gen Y to Marketers: You Are Missing Your Blue Ocean

In 2005, a great business book called “Blue Ocean Strategy” challenged marketers to stop thinking incrementally and looking for ‘white spaces’ in which to compete. The book, now published in 41 languages urged mraketers to identify latent market needs. The authors maintained that too many marketers were playing a losing game by competing in crowded, fiercely competitive ‘red oceans’ when they should be looking for wide open blue waters.

Gen Y may present a remarkable blue ocean for many industries. Not only are they big, they purport to want something different and new. And many are literally begging marketers to ‘think differently’ about them.

Just today, Advertising Age carried an article by, Megan Meagher, a 25-year-old account planner at Taxi, New York titled “Millennials Are Evolving; Are You Keeping Up?” Megan doesn’t understand why marketers aren’t doing more to win over her age group, especially now when the recession has her retinking her spending priorities and brand preferences:

“I’m a changed person, thanks to this recession. I eat more meals at home and actually pay attention to the price of groceries. Living on my own for the first time, I find myself buying and using more household products, from dishwasher soap to stain remover. As a result, I’m newly receptive to advertising in those product categories. But what surprises me is how few marketers — outside of clothes, shoe, food-and-beverage and entertainment marketers — actually pursue my age group. I wonder why that is, when much of what I’ve learned about brand building in my work in strategic planning suggests that marketers that reach out to Gen Y may find that the payoff lasts decades.

In a few years my generation will be the moms and dads of the world, the major household buyers. Within the next decade, we’ll be generating $2.77 trillion dollars per year. It’s essential for brands to grab us now and reach out in ways we find meaningful. ”

The number of marketers with explicit Gen Y appeals is fairly modest, and most tend to be from entertainment, technology or traditional youth marketing categories. For marketers in food, wine, financial services, travel, appliances, household products and for retailers, this article and others like it should be a wake up call to start sailing in the blue ocean — before it turns red.