The Cry of Gen-Y: Shut Up and Take My Money!

by Adam Rodricks

I was recently at a convention where I met a budding small business partner. Let’s call him Jack. Jack’s company had paid for presence at the event so he could promote the business in-person to a younger clientele. He was greeting people at the main doors, handing out pamphlets, shaking hands and Purell-ing as he went – “networking” was what he called it. He was positioned fifteen feet upstream from a recycling station, which had begun to overflow with the very brochures he had handed out seconds earlier. Jack was not only ineffective at promoting his business; he was damaging his brand and depleting his resources as well.

Many of the mistakes Jack made can be traced back to how he promoted to the emerging demographic, which I call home – Generation Y. There are a few things you should do (and perhaps more importantly, avoid doing) when trying to get us on board with your product or service, and some of them can have a major effect on our purchasing decision. Below you’ll see three of the biggest ideas which can help turn our conversation into a transaction or better yet, a relationship.

Make your value evident immediately – because we won’t search for it. We barely read headlines let alone sentences and paragraphs, even if what you’re saying appeals directly to us. Our eyes are trained to look at specific portions of the page and screen (the “Golden triangle” for example); being aware of how we take in information is the first step in sharing the value your small business can offer us. Like Jack, you will have a few seconds to get our attention, hold our interest and inspire us to take action – is there really time to communicate much else?

Gen Yers are inundated with marketing messages: why would drive your message home?

Gen Yers are inundated with marketing messages: what would drive your message home?


Do you feel a connection? Because if we don’t, that’s a problem. When given the choice between two similar products, Gen Y-ers will often choose the product that they identify with emotionally. Suddenly, you aren’t promoting your product, you’re promoting your brand and by extension, yourself. Jack’s constant use of Purell made the person he last shook hands with feel uncomfortable, and made the next person think he was sweaty and nervous.

Timing is everything – Even if we do have the spare time, we may not give it to you. Chalk it up to our sense of entitlement. There’s a reason ads targeted towards us are concise and punchy. It’s the same reason our choice social networks have frequent, short updates and limits of 140 characters. And that reason has nothing to do with a short attention span, rather the volume of promotions being targeted at us throughout the day. When most people saw the text-heavy pamphlet Jack was sharing, they evaluated Jack against the previous two points and when they came up with no clear value and no connection, they decided they had no time to “waste” and felt little remorse for recycling his precious pitch.

Keep these three ideas top of mind and you will enter an entirely new conversation with us. Direct, concise and meaningful communication is as desirable to consumers as it is to you and your business. By following these guidelines, your business becomes more memorable and likeable to a demographic that has long-refused to have the conversation. But now we’re talking.

Are you listening?



adamAdam Rodricks is Staples Canada’s Social Media Specialist and the host of StaplesTechTV.A BBA graduate from the University of Toronto, he has worked in Marketing and Communications for Fortune 500 companies and as the Lead Gaming Editor at Operation Reality Gaming. His favourite office supply is the duo tang, largely because of its name. 




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