The questions plague every marketer at some point in his or her career. What do consumers really want? How do we earn their trust and loyalty? How do we know when we are strategically moving in the right direction in our campaigns, media buys and new product or service launches?
On a fundamental level, the answers should be easy. We are all, after all, consumers in our own rights, so shouldn't we have some level of natural insight as to what motivates people to connect, click, engage and purchase one product vs. another?
Of course the answer to that is yes. And no.
Digital media's ability to personalize messages has complicated the right-message-at-the-right-time equation, and generational differences in consumption habits has added dimensions that media buyers never dreamed of before. Furthermore, certain demographics are particularly tricky when it comes to delivering messages to them. In particular, those comprising Generation Y -- who currently are enjoying their teens and twenties -- have been distinguished from their generational predecessors by their reported reluctance to be marketed to. It's not that they don't want to use digital media to learn about new products -- they just want to be part of the marketing dialogue and to select where, when and how they are pitched to.
Helping to build this dialogue is a company called Peanut Labs. Through survey applications integrated with the social networks that these segments live and breathe for, Peanut Labs provides direct access into the minds of Generation X, Generation Y, Boomers and other highly targeted custom consumer segments.
With this consumer mind-reading tool available, I decided to ask some industry experts what they wanted to know about media consumption habits of the under-30 set, and then get a sample of how these targets view media's role in their lives.
John Durham, managing general partner at Catalyst asked what one key media platform could this demographic not live without. It turns out that while both television and mobile phones have a tight grasp on young consumers, it's the internet that is indispensable to 56 percent of the 309 survey respondents.
Greg Smith, COO of
, asked about activities that Gen Y engages in while watching TV. Reading, taking and making phone calls, and hanging out with friends all made the list. But, fortunately for the digital industry, the overwhelming majority -- 57 percent -- reported that they use the internet while watching TV.
Trust and time shifting
Doug Weaver of the Upstream Group inquired about what it takes to get viewers to watch a TV show at the exact day and time that it is broadcast, rather than time shifting their viewership with DVRs and online viewing. And it seems that good, old-fashioned quality content still triumphs in the digital age. Fifty-five percent of respondents reported that being an enthusiastic fan of a show is the biggest reason why they would watch it when it airs. Another good reason to watch on time: event viewing, such as the Oscars, the Super Bowl and other live sporting events.
Weaver also expressed an interest in the most important factor in Gen Y's decisions on whether or not to trust a particular website and the information it gives. Surprisingly, the site's association with a trusted media outlet or other trusted source trumped the recommendations of friends and family among survey respondents (44 percent vs. 21 percent).
Highly networked, yet disconnected by phone
Gen Yers have been cited as consumers who are always connected to their online lives through any and every means possible. But when Adam Broitman, director of emerging and creative strategy at Morpheus Media, asked how often they view content on a mobile device, the majority of responses indicated that mobile has not yet reached its tipping point as a web delivery platform.
While mobile content isn't quite ready for primetime, social networking has certainly achieved mass penetration. Most respondents said they spend up to 30 percent of their average day on Facebook and other social networking sites; and 5 percent reported that networking takes up more than half their day.
Your site, your choice
Broitman also inquired about research that depicts Generation Y as a "pragmatic and future-oriented generation that expects its ideas to be heard and acknowledged." Although the people in this group certainly do want to play a part in content providers' decision processes, the majority of respondents (58 percent) prefer that a site retain its authority when incorporating users' suggestions into its content.
Ads get game
Tom Hespos, president of Underscore Marketing was curious about consumers' acceptance of advertising on one of the hottest new platforms: console gaming. According to respondents, 58 percent would be more likely to buy a console game if advertising could keep the price under $30, while only 10 percent would be less likely to buy.
It's obvious that this target market has a lot to say, and loves to be asked for input. Now let's just hope marketers are willing to really hear them.
Jodi Harris is managing editor at iMedia Connection.