Does Gen Y have a CRUSH on your brand?

August 23rd 2012

Michael McQueen reviews “How Cool Brands Stay Hot” on his blog:

More than ever before, the youth market is as lucrative as it is big. Considering Gen Y possess 50 cents in every dollar of discretionary spending power, companies and brands ignore this target demographic at their peril. After all, businesses whose messaging, distributions channels and products are only geared toward older generations will find themselves increasingly irrelevant in the coming years.


Although my own research has centered on engaging young people asemployees at work, students in the classroom or kids at home, I recently read “How Cool Brands Stay Hot” with great interest.

It’s authors Joeri Van den Bergh and Mattias Behrer examined over 5000 ‘brand stories’ in order to determine why some brands succeed in connecting with young people while others fail to do so.

In an effort to get a clear sense of what is making this younger demographic tick, Van den Bergh and Behrer noted a number of fascinating trends emerging in Gen Y:

  • They never switch off: 83% of students sleep with their mobile phone within easy reach.
  • They are still living at home: In 1980, 11% of 25-34 year olds lived with parents but by 2008, this figure had jumped to 20%.
  • They text incessantly: In late 2009, Nielsen examined 40,000 US teen’s mobile phone bills finding that the average teen sends 3146 per month – equating to 10 texts per waking non-school hour.
  • Their attention spans are getting shorter: Indicative of and perhaps driving this trend, the average length of a Time Magazine cover story has decreased from 4,500 to 2,800 words in past 20 years, and the average news sound bite has slipped from 45 seconds in 1965 to 8 seconds in the present day.
  • They are already talking about brands: In online chat sessions between 15-17 year olds, brands were mentioned an average of 2.5 times.
  • Their opinions are malleable: 60% of brand conversations between young consumers result in one of the participants changing their opinions of the brand.

Looking at successful youth-targeted brands ranging from Diesel to Apple, Oreo and Sprite, Van den Bergh and Behrer found that there is a C.R.U.S.H factor in building a brand that engages Gen Y:


Coolness – The brand must be cool due to its exclusivity, scarcity or novelty.

Realness – Authenticity is the key aspect that separates long-term winning brands from fads. Interestingly, the most effectively authentic brands appealed to heritage and nostalgia.

Uniqueness. The brand must have a clearly distinguishable DNA.

Self Identification. Gen Y will only feel emotionally connected to a brand when it feels like a friend to them.

Happiness – almost 80% of the brand conversations between young people heavily featured the role of emotions – the most prominent of which was happiness.

For further information on Michael McQueen or to enquire about making a booking for your next conference or event please contact the friendly ODE team


  • +61 2 9818 5199

United States

  • +1 877 950 5633
Does Gen Y have a CRUSH on your brand?
Go To Top