4 Ways to Mail to Gen Y

15 May

As boomers ease into retirement, Generation Y is rising on the heels of Generation X as the next wave of culture shapers and decision makers. Gen Yers fall between the ages of 14 and 31 years old and comprise about a quarter of the total U.S. population.

Marketers may have reservations about sending direct mail to this tech-savvy group. “This is definitely a generation that is much more electronically driven, so I don’t think direct mail is really going to be in their sweet spot,” says J. Walker Smith, president of the Monitor Group, in Yankelovich’s Chapel Hill, N.C. office.

For Gen Y, mail tends to spark an interest and push the prospect online for further information and a potential sale, says Richard McElaney, president and founder of Chantilly, Va.–based Micromarketing.

In its Gen X, Gen Y, and the Mail study, the USPS reveals some encouraging truths about reaching young people with direct mail marketing. It indicates that younger prospects receive less mail than their older counterparts: 18- to 24-year-olds receive an average of 6.1 mail pieces per week, compared to 25- to 34-year-olds, who receive 10.9 pieces, and 35- to 44-year-olds, who receive 12.4 pieces. A smaller stack of total mail means marketers have better odds of catching a Gen Yer’s eye than any other age group. Another key cultural difference, the study points out, is that Generation Y uses electronic media like e-mail for personal correspondence and views the mail as primarily commercial and financial. Below are some fundamentals for mailing to Gen Y:

1. Cool Design
Young prospects look for eye-catching designs. According to the USPS, six out of 10 Gen Yers are more apt to open a direct mail package that “looks interesting.” Personalization is also helpful in reaching this audience. “They have less tolerance for things that are not personally relevant, and I think personalization … is going to be a real basic requirement,” Smith says. To brainstorm design ideas, McElaney recommends studying popular magazines among your audience.

2. Value-Driven Offer
When developing an offer, McElaney warns that Gen Yers are more aware of alternatives, so offers have to be aggressive in today’s marketplace. He says that for this reason, in his clients’ back-to-school mailings, percentage discounts and dollars-off deals work best. For the younger set of Gen Yers, the offer has to appeal toboth the parent and teen. McElaney tries to position the offer at an intersection between “value” and “cool.” “The parent may be the financial driver behind the decision, but we also have to have the cool factor so there’s an attractiveness for the product at the student level,” he explains.

3. Mail Responsibly
Environmentalism is higher on the Gen Y priority list compared to prior generations, Smith points out. “It’s a generation that wants to try and do good while they buy stuff for themselves,” he says. McElaney recommends using responsible production practices such as soy inks and recycled or post-consumer waste paper.

4. Texting and Word-of-Mouth
McElaney gives an example of instantaneous word-of-mouth via text messaging, where teens basically send pictures of a product back and forth on their cell phones. Then they will remotely place an order via text, with a friend who is at the store. “Marketing to cell phones or wireless devices is underexploited … and nobody has quite yet figured out how to advertise in conjunction with social-networking sites … So, I think there are some opportunities to pioneer new vehicles,” Smith concludes.

(Originally published in Inside Direct Mail, July 2008)

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