A Brief History of Generation Y

Equipped with over 200 billion dollars in buyer power per year, Gen Y is the next generation that marketing professionals must focus on to sustain business. This birth of Gen Y creates a new form of marketing that no longer aims towards Baby Boomers or Gen Xers. Supercilious marketing gimmicks no longer engage us. We want real time, convenient, simple, and reliable customer service. No longer is it feasible for a company to limit its marketing strategy to the normal 8-5 schedule.

A Brief History of Generation Y

So who are theses Gen Yers that are forcing companies to take on new strategies, funnel millions into new ideas, and market to a generation that no longer rely (or trust) on simple advertisements.  Its up in the air what age range commits to the tech-savvy Gen Yers. The general consensus is that anyone born anywhere from 1983 to 1997 can be considered Gen Y, give or take a few years.

A few weeks ago a featured question on #jobhuntchat, a twitter-based job hunt chat co-hosted by @Cornonthejob and @blogging4jobs, dealt with the topic of Gen Y being an age or mindset. Technically I believe it is an age group, but with the advancement of technology and the ability to be connected from anywhere in the world, it has transformed into a mindset. Being a mindset, companies are able to promote their business in a more attractive manner relative to a broader spectrum of consumers.

Gen Y grew up around the Internet, cell phones, iPods, video games, and cell phones. They are tech savvy, multitaskers in the greatest sense of the word, able to talk on the phone while surfing the Internet and watching television at the same time. Facebook is littered with groups similar to You were born in the 80’s If…. I’ve compiled my own very condensed list that references Gen Y.

You know you are Gen Y if…

T.V. is a background noise I’m not saying you don’t watch television, but besides a few favorite T.V. shows, you are more in-tune with your friends recently updated Facebook status, twitter update, or taking down those pictures your friends put up after you got wasted and puked on yourself at the bar last night.

You€™re Socially Conscious  Whether it be political, social, or environmental, you are always looking up the latest gossip on who Paris Hilton slept with this time or which White House scandal happened this time around. For me, I am more environmentally conscious.  When topics such as the BP Oil Spill go viral and Gen Y unites together something needs to be fixed because Gen Y is able to cripple a brand.

You value the opinion of your friends over ads – When you see an ad online for the newest gadget, you don’t always believe what it reports. You’ll check out your friends to see if it’s something you really like. Have you ever seen an advertisement for an iphone application that costs 99 cents and before you buy it, you want to try it out first? On a friends’ iphone? This is the same principle. This generation doesn’t put a lot of trust in advertisements. They’ve lied, cheated, and bent the truth in the past, so why believe them?

Since the buying power has shifted from Gen X to Gen Y, marketing professionals will now have to build trust and become more reputable in order for this generation to take them seriously. The Gen Y portion of blogging4jobs.com will focus on marketing trends and techniques that have worked. It’ll incorporate connecting with the generation in real time and through the use of branding and advertising campaigns.

If you are in marketing, public relations, business, or any industry that has changed the way you operate due to the shift in generations, what’s one thing that has changed? If you don’t realize the shift in buying power, I don’t think your company will be in business much longer. Look at Blockbuster? They weren’t quick enough.

Blake McCammon, is an intern at Xceptional HR and is also our Gen Y twice monthly blog contributor.  Connect with Blake on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.  Blake is a recent grad of Northeastern State University with a degree in Business Administration.  During school he created and managed his university’s social media strategy while also spearheading a university “Go Green” campaign.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions


  1. AvatarBlake McCammon says

    Aside from being a boring post, this is full of untrue information, generalizations and stereotypes. The writer needs to do some real research before he posts information like this. Total fail Blake. #fail

  2. AvatarJulia says

    Some of this is true, but there are a lot of assumptions about our generation. Many of those born ’83-’87 are right out of college and facing debt from college loans while balancing little to no income. Their buying power has gone down tremendously. And as much as I love facebook, it’s not my life. You’d have to be a mindless drone to spend your day clinging to every status update your friends make. It’s called get a real life and get offline, chunks! Also, #twitterisfornerdswhodontknowhowtocommunicateinmorethan140characters

  3. AvatarChanelle says

    I shared this story with a friend of mine and we both laughed at the TV in the background point. We were talking on Skype and both of us had the television on in the background as noise. Lol!

  4. Avatarrblake says

    @Julia – I think there will always be generalizations about a group of people – especially in this case as we are talking about a generation. The main point of the post is that there needs to be a shift in marketing because the old way of marketing isn’t as effective as it once was. You see companies reaching out on social networking sites more and more.

  5. AvatarSherri Elliott-Yeary says

    Very true for my daughter about the tv. These kind things are second nature and don’t both her. I noticed this same thing when I went into the Apple store to purchase an iPad. It was bustling and very loud and yet learning and training was still happening.

  6. AvatarTiffany says

    “During school he created and managed his university’s social media strategy while also spearheading a university “Go Green” campaign.”
    This is completely untrue. The university’s social media campaign was launched by others, and managed by someone else before it was given to Blake. The only thing he did was post messages that he was told to post. Even a trained monkey could do that. That should be corrected.

    • blogging4jobsblogging4jobs says

      Hi Tiffany,

      While I appreciate your comments, I would encourage you to reach out to me directly as the owner of Blogging4Jobs to talk more. My email is jessica@xceptionalhr.com or by phone at 405.912.4885. I would also encourage you to use your actual name and contact information so that you can be reached and appear more credible.


  7. AvatarCindy Trevino says

    I disagree with the comments here. This is a good post and was thoughtfully written. Gen Y is very focused on their networks of friends which thy value very much.

    Great job, Blake!

  8. AvatarShennee says

    Hi Blake-
    Welcome to the blogosphere. I enjoyed your post about Gen Y. I am part of the Gen X generation, however, you illustrate how Gen Y is different. I would like to see an post about Gen X. and then a comparison between the 2. Looking forward to reading your future posts.
    The best-

  9. AvatarJonathan Hyland says

    Another post detailing the “differences” between generations. Ho hum.

    What’s the point, Blake? I’m incredibly dismayed at the fact that there are Gen Y’ers who consistently keep towing the line and spewing this crap all over the Internet. Where did you get these “generalizations” from, anyway? Let me guess…

    1. The post deadline was coming and you said, “f’ this, I can spew this out. Hell, I did it in college.”;
    2. You picked the top 5 results from a Google search on “gen y”;
    3. And now here I am leaving a comment with vitriol.

    There is absolutely, positively NO VALUE WHATSOEVER to be found in itemizing the differences between generations and coming up with “ways to strategically manage and partner with your Gen Y employees” (this is a paraphrase of just about every OTHER article itemizing ten OTHER differences about Gen Y). If we spent nearly as much time building relationships and accepting folks as we do listing the differences between everybody, I think we’d be along the right path of forward progress.

  10. AvatarBonita says

    In all seriousness… If it wasn’t for this incredible shift of mesurable demographis to a teachable midset for those who are past the ’83 – ’97 birth years, I would not have a job… or at least not this one.

    The org. I work for is struggling to jump on board with transparancy and openning the conversations to all. We are making strides and if it wasn’t for the valuable info I get from researched bloggers, like yourself, I would have a much harder time convincing the boys upstairs of the importance of “putting ourselves out there”, strategically of course.

  11. AvatarLori says

    Thanks Blake for your blog post. Since you are categorized within the Gen-Y classification yourself, you have brought up a few interesting points I have not considered.

    I would also add from observing my Gen-Y teenage son, Gen-Y priotizes continuous connectivity to their individual tribes moreso than previous generations. Whether the platform is facebook, twitter, text message, instant message, the Gen-Y’ers use a more constant flow of text compared and less phone calls.

  12. AvatarHR Minion says

    Dudes, what’s with some of these comments? Disagreement is fine but personal attacks are for trolls and not worth anyone’s time. I don’t normally care for posts about generational issues, but you make a great point about Blockbuster. They couldn’t compete with Netflix when it came to convenience, cost, and technology. Hell, even Wal-mart couldn’t in that area and I think that says a lot.

  13. Avatarrblake says

    @Jonathan – I think there is a necessity to understand that Gen Y focuses on a different type of marketing. Why do you think so many companies are putting a heavy emphasis on Facebook & Twitter? It’s because that is where Gen Y spends most of their time. I have seen it happen numerous times that when someone doesn’t like a company enough, they will start a “Twitter Campaign” to exploit whatever the company did wrong.

    You don’t have to like what I posted, but since when are we so hateful?

  14. AvatarCarrie says

    Wow – chill out… why is it that so many people who aren’t Gen Y, are so hell bent on attacking them? For everyone that disagrees with the stereo-types, we should all stop and think about those of us who helped mold this generation!

    Blake’s POINT in this post was talking about marketing to specific generations and ANYONE who has any business/marketing experience knows that “assessing your (target) audience” is Marketing 101.

    So no matter how tired any of us may be (especially in the HR world) of hearing the generational stereotypes and comparisons, its still reality from a marketing perspective.

    FURTHER, Blake isn’t an industry guru – he’s an intern and a recent college grad, and if any of you have a professional bone in your body, you should be a little humiliated that you don’t know how to assess your (attacking) comments a little more appropriately before you hit send… especially in the technology age in which we live now.

    Regardless of what generation you are, if you can’t say something nice… still applies.

  15. AvatarSylvia Dahlby says

    Sorry, I think these simplistic generalizations are flawed in that it paints an entire generation with one brush.

    I’m a Boomer and point #1 about the TV easily applies to me. Likewise I am socially conscious & absolutely value the opinions of my friends over ads (who doesn’t)?

    In fact, if this article were about a women in general or minority group, it might be deemed sexist or offensive. It should be no wonder that Gen Y does not want to play by the old rules of being lumped into convenient consumer silos.

    The marketing wonks are in a quandary over Gen Y because they’re finding all the old media gimmicks don’t work – hence a flurry of research so they can adjust their marketing & branding strategies. Well the bad news is that all marketing is becoming more personalized & individualistic. Throw away your mass marketing strategy & welcome to the brave new world.

  16. AvatarChanelle says

    My goodness these are some hateful words. While I agree that the generational stereotypes need to cease, it’s not necessary to use this post as a forum for that banter. These sound like personal attacks that should be left to e-mail or offline discussion.

    What came first the act or the stereotype? They’re not true of absolutely everyone. No stereotype can be. We all have unique traits that serve as outliers. If I as a GenY’er can understand that, I would hope GenX’ers and Boomers could understand the same.

  17. AvatarScott Span, MSOD says

    As an organizational development practitioner who does work in the areas of cross generational engagement and communication, and as a Gen Y, I do think that some of what is in the post is off base. That said, I see many comments about stereotypes and generalizations. Let’s be realistic, we all use those, it is a matter of knowing when to toss them aside. One question I have is if Gen Y is born between 1983-1997, then where do those fit that are born from 1978-1983, the end of Gen X? I’ve always seen (give or take a year) that Gen Y is from 1978-Present and are also known as Millennials. Though some break out Millennials starting in 2000, data is hard to come by as true Millennials have yet to enter the workforce.

  18. AvatarJacob E. says

    As a person that actually worked closely with Blake, I can personally verify that he did in fact create and implement the social media presence that NSU has today. Any social presence that NSU had before Blake began his work was quickly overshadowed by the campaigns that Blake launched by both skill and innovation. As for the “Go Green” campaign, Blake did indeed champion the project which landed him in the NSU Hall of Fame, a fact which cannot be denied nor shared with anyone else.

  19. AvatarAlleM says

    Well-done – witty and brilliant.

    Additionally – to previous posters,we are in a technology driven age wherein Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets are the growing marketing tool, and the people to first experience this phenomenon (Facebook was first permitted use by college students, if you can remember back to 2005, and other media outlets have swiftly followed.)

    Additionally, Y is the new X, with X trying to get with the program. Yes, there are several technologically proficient individuals and groups from the other classified generations, but it is Gen Y and the soon to be Y2K generations who grew up with the cell phone becoming a need vs. a want, and where a first response to taking a photograph is “I gotta put this on Facebook”.

    Thus we circle back to the point that Blake is making – and that is that because times and people are changing they have to adapt their marketing strategies to those who are taking over for the Boomers and other retirees, which involves the use of Gen Y’s second language, i.e. Twitter, the generation who would rather follow youtube users to get impartial reviews on products before we purchase than watch an informercial with a has-been musician/artist/etc.

    And, considering Gen Y is the product of the Me Generation, you can’t blame us for being particular and choosy.

    And remember, Gen Y is clearly becoming a mindset – therefor don’t take it personally when someone commends you for being older and having a Twitter account – congratulations, you are with the program.

  20. AvatarKinsey Durham says

    As a Gen-Yer myself, I completely agree with you. T.V. is my background noise and I do value my friends opinions over ads. I also would like to say that I am socially conscious. Great blog!

    Kinsey Durham
    Beyond Credentials Intern Colorado


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