Skip to main content

A Roadster Sport on the floor of the Tesla Motors first South Florida showroom, on December 17, 2009 in Dania Beach, Fla.

Joe Raedle/Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The following is an excerpt from The Secrets of Advertising to Gen Y Consumers, by Aiden Livingston.

"This book," he writes in the introduction, "is a means to bridging the gap between generations. I explain the different values and perceptions so that people can more accurately construct advertising campaigns that reach Gen Y consumers in the most effective and efficient way possible."

This is the first of three parts that will run Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It's part of Chapter 5, entitled "Small is the new big: Gen Y's role in the rise of niche markets." Mr. Livingston joined us for an online discussion. Go to the Your Business home page to view an archive.

Story continues below advertisement

Small Is the New Big is the title of the bestselling book by Seth Godin.

It is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it. The premise is essentially that although at one time huge conglomerates dominated every market with smaller companies left to fight over the proverbial table scraps, now it is the small businesses that have the advantage. It is a profound concept currently confronting many businesses of all sizes. It is so important that many authors have written books on the topic; for example, The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. The somewhat confusing title actually refers to the statistical curve that shows that the number of customers falls precipitously in relation to decreasing business size. The "long tail" is in reference to the growing significance of niche businesses in relation to overall customers. ...

In previous generations, large conglomerates were preferred over smaller unknown companies. Consumers felt they could take reassurance from a large company's reputation and were ensured a product or service of superior quality. However, by comparison Gen Y has shifted back to a pre-industrial revolution mind-set of enjoying the work of artisans and not mass-produced, soulless products. It is important to understand the thought process and values behind this niche market revolution, in order to better explain where the trend will be headed in the future and how best to capitalize on it.


Gen Y feels that corporations are slow to adapt to developing trends, they are often stuck in the past, they value profit more than people, they don't take the same pride in their work, and they are just too common. For a small business it is important to understand these principles and to define your brand in a way that shows how you differ from your behemoth competition. As a large business it is important because all these complaints can be addressed in how you present your company to Gen Y and you can make these consumers identify with you in spite of your size. After all, no one would consider Apple to be a fringe company, and yet it has managed to enjoy the same benefits as a much smaller company.

Firstly, Gen Y feels that most big companies are slow to adapt to developing trends, and the reason they feel this way is because it is absolutely true. ...

If you would like to see exactly why GM almost went bankrupt, simply go to its website and look through its line of vehicles, and try to find even a handful you would be willing to buy. Most of the cars have all the youthful appeal of an adult diaper! Whereas a new small auto manufacturer such as Tesla Motors, from California, has waiting lists over a year long for its amazingly sexy full-electric sports cars. I want to have one of those cars! They are futuristic looking, fast, and fully electric. The only thing that keeps me from running out to join the huge waiting list is the high price tag, which is a result of the limited production capacity of a small producer. However, if a major manufacturer were to produce the same vehicle en masse, the price could be reduced substantially and put these amazing roadsters within most of Gen Y's price range.

Story continues below advertisement

Ultimately, large companies are slow to adjust, and as a result most are very out of touch with their customers' wants, especially their young Gen Y customers. Most are still catering to the wants of the Baby Boomers and just hoping Gen Y has the same needs.


The next big Gen Y complaint is that big companies are stuck in the past. ...

Most large businesses' core business model is obviously many decades old, with innovations added ornamentally to the outdated model, instead of actually incorporating and changing the structure. Much like putting a hat on a cow and claiming it is now something else, at the end of the day it is still just a cow. It feels equally absurd when a big company does just that with its marketing in an attempt to appeal to Gen Y.

For example, at one point Washington Mutual decided to change its name to WaMu. It is this kind of shallow attempt of being new and different without actually changing anything that feels embarrassing and silly; it's like listening to your parents trying to use new slang!

WEDNESDAY: Profits Over People.

Story continues below advertisement

Excerpt from The Secrets of Advertising to Gen Y Consumers reprinted by permission. Copyright 2010 by International Self-Counsel Press Ltd.

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to