Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

Successfully Marketing to Generation Y

Gen Y is the free-spending generation made up of the individuals between the ages of 8 and 25. Gen Y’ers are 72 million strong and therefore represent a large part of consumer spending. Unlike their predecessors of Gen X, who purchased out of need, Gen Y’ers are conditioned to spend their cash as soon as they receive their paychecks. This means great things for marketers everywhere – if they understand how to cater to this group, that is. So here are a couple key pointers to hook Gen Y on your brand and secure the billions of dollars they represent in spendable cash:

Cater to Gen Y in Their Own Environment

Jones Soda has the right idea: they sell their products where they know Gen Y already goes.

By catching Gen Y’ers in their natural habitat, you have a much better chance of this group giving your band a warm reception. Take Jones Soda, which has been extremely effective in hitting Generation Y. Instead of saturating the market like other soft drink brands, Jones Soda sells its products where Gen Y’ers are hanging out – side by side with surfboards, snowboards and skateboards. Strategically placing their products alongside what Gen Y’ers love to do (surf, snowboard, skate) Jones Soda is subliminally delivering a positive to Generation Y. The target audience is able to draw a correlation between the Jones Soda brand and the positive emotions they experience while hanging out at their favorite board shop.

Enlist a Group of Brand Ambassadors

Red Bull

Want to get Generation Y excited? Give them free Red Bull!

Big brands such as Redbull and Mountain Dew are hiring groups of outgoing individuals to promote their products and hand out free branded swag. How many times have you seen the Red Bull trucks driving through a college campus? When spotted, these trucks attract swarms of college students anxious to get their hands on free cans of Red Bull or free promotional t-shirts. Promotions like this are pure marketing genius. Red Bull allows consumers to equate their brand with the exhilarating rush they get when handed free Red Bull items. Similarly, Mountain Dew creates a strong parallel between their brand and Gen Y’s favorite things to do. The brand can often be seen passing out free samples at snowboarding and surfing tournaments. This has worked wonders for the brand because Gen Y members express how “doing the Dew” isn’t a rush just because of the caffeine and sugar in the beverage itself, but also because of the hip places where the product is first consumed.

Bottom line, Generation Y wants YOU to come to them. Gone are the days that consumers will seek your brand out on their own. Now it takes going that extra mile to sway consumers to become loyal followers. This means INTERACTING with the consumers on their level – whether it is handing out free samples or providing branded merchandise to keep your brand in the back of your mind. It’s not about mass marketing anymore, folks. Today the successful marketers are reaching their target audience on an individual level, incorporating consumers directly into their brand. Jones Soda mastered this by hosting a contest for its users to submit their best photo and guess what the winner received – their photo printed on the Jones Soda label! Pretty much blows the old-school cereal box toys out of the water if you ask me!

What other creative examples have you seen that have effectively captured Generation Y?

Image Credits


Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. QLP Jill

    “Today the successful marketers are reaching their target audience on an individual level, incorporating consumers directly into their brand.”

    This is SO true! You can’t be passive with your advertising, especially with younger audiences. The Red Bull, Mountain Dew, and Jones Soda campaigns are effective because they’re making Gen Y loyal to them – and all because they boldly go to their favorite places and give them free stuff! This reminds me of the Rock Band promotions; when the game first came out, they toured all over the country in a band tour bus and set up the game so that college kids could try it before they bought it. They gave away personalized shirts, baseball caps, bumper stickers, and even drum sticks with their logo on them…and people were lined up to snag something.

    Venom Energy Drink does a lot of direct marketing to Gen Y as well. They’ve been present at every comic book convention I’ve attended. And if you know anything about geeks, you know that we LOVE our energy drinks – especially when they’re free! 🙂

    Awesome post!

  2. Crack Addict

    I wonder what would happen if Red Bull and Mountain Dew combined forces or got drunk one night only conceive a blended beverage of their own…

    I mean; how awesome would THAT be1 🙂

    I’d call it Red Dew… A few cans of that sh*t and you’d never be able to sleep at night – JK.

    Good luck making that drink sugar free thought!

    Also, why do they always call ages groups “Generation + [INSERT LETTER HERE”]. I’ve never understood that…

  3. Angel Smith

    Being a Gen Y’er myself, I can agree with this article. It’s not that I’m lazy and I need people to come and find me, it’s that I find more value in brands that go out of their way to find me! Is that playing hard to get? Maybe, but it’s a reality. Red Bull’s samples take the guesswork out of the decision making process and make it easier for me to shop for it on my own. I’m not going to buy something just because I saw a flashing ad or a commercial about it, but I would buy something if I got to try it first! 9 times out of 10 I will go with the product that I’ve tried before and know I like. I don’t want to waste money on something new that I end up hating, you know?

    Anyways, that is just my opinion. Thanks for writing this and for reading my comment!

  4. Scooby DOO!

    Why is it that Gen Y spends before they have and expects everything to be at their feet? Did we all have bad parents, did Clinton, Bush, or Obama not lead by example… I am puzzled.

  5. QLP Kid

    I <3 Energy Drinks!

    -The QLP Kid

    "It's How the Midwest was won…"

  6. branchenbuch

    Lovely sharp post. Never thought that it was this easy.

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  8. quinny kinderwagen

    Wow! Thank you!

  9. Su Frediani

    There is obviously a whole lot to know about this, but I think you have some very good points!

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