Three Ways to Grab the Attention of Generation Y


The Generation Y Gap

Source: Flikr Artist: Bill Porter (

Not long ago, the only way to find an apartment home was to flip through a printed guide located on a rack in the grocery store. My, how times have changed! Today, any type of apartment search can be conducted 24/7, provided there is a connection to the Internet. Who is making the most use of this powerful search tool? You guessed it – GENERATION Y!

Generation Y (Gen Y) is plugged-in like no one else, raised with a computer, a cell phone, and an iPod. Having grown up with more media than any other generation, their consumption of media is different, posing quite a challenge for marketers. Do you want to be a marketer who overcomes the challenge and gets their attention? Connecting with Gen Y is simpler than you think!

1. Seek First to Understand

Before you launch your next marketing campaign to Gen Y, STOP! Instead of marketing to them, experience life with them. Find an opportunity to hang out. Listen to what they have to say. Spending time in their world will allow you to see how they think. For instance, I wanted to answer the question, “How does Gen Y search for an apartment?”, so I spent some time in their virtual world.

A couple unedited responses from forums and threads I visited:

  • Ask people. Go to quiet bars and strike up a conversation. Meet people in a Starbucks. Ask the people you are visiting. Ask family and friends if they know people who live there and get advice. Post your question on FB.
  • Talking with people who know the area is one of the best things anyone can do. I recently talked with a friend who thought she’d found an ideal place on Craigslist. I was able to tell her it was in one of the few parts of this city that she definitely did not want to move into. It is not a safe area!

This small preview of online discourse reveals a lot. Want to read more? Visit their world! Check out a few of the following:

More Food For Thought: EPMS (Ellis Partners in Mystery Shopping) recently sent out a survey to existing apartment shoppers asking the question, “In beginning the search for your apartment home, how did you conduct your initial research?” The responses were grouped by generation. An overwhelming 64 percent of Gen Y confirmed using the Internet, while only 39 percent of Baby Boomers confirmed the same.

2. Be Real

To a degree, Gen Y listens to businesses, but they highly regard their social networks. Unless you’ve been endorsed by their friends, they probably do not care about what you have to say. Why? If their friends recommended you, then they know you are the “real deal.” If not, how can they trust you? They are more likely to be attracted to a friend’s YouTube advertisement than a pretty community website. Why? They know their friend’s YouTube video is real. For all they know, the pretty community website could be a bunch of fluff.

If you want to reach Gen Y, craft presentations that are realistic. Gen Y knows “real” when they see it, and they don’t waste time on people or companies that waffle, stall, or are indirect. Cool, hip, truthful advertising will appeal to this generation.

3. Communicate with Them

Apple spoke directly to Gen Y and asked: What do YOU want? They hit the nail on the head when they created the 99-cent download that took eight seconds to transact.

What do they want?

  • A Good Deal – they like to spend, but have little to spend
  • A Quality Product – one that will last
  • Quick Responsive Service – don’t waste their time
  • An Experience – make it memorable so they talk about it

Gen Y is an “experience” culture. They don’t want to be told what to like. They want to pass their own judgment. They want to experience the world for themselves. They love to be in the trenches of life with friends. Here is where you have to meet them.

These steps are simpler than you think, and they pay off!

As this huge new group paves its way into the marketplace, its members are making it clear that if you want to win their hearts and wallets you will have to learn to think like they do—and not like the Baby Boomers who preceded them.

Stop marketing to them and start listening to them. Stop talking at them and start talking with them. Seek to understand them by spending time in their environment. Appeal to them through direct, honest, “real” advertising. Learn to communicate effectively with them. Only when you begin to build a relationship with Gen Y will you get their attention. Then, you’ll find an audience willing to listen.

The Monday Morning Meeting with Joanna Ellis is a monthly series examining the impact of Generation Y on the multifamily industry and discussing how to successfully do business with them.

Part 1: The Future Renter…What’s Next?


President and Owner, Ellis Partners in Mystery Shopping

author photo two

Joanna Ellis is CEO and Owner of Ellis Partners in Management Solutions (EPMS) and Co-owner of Renter’s Voice. Under her direction, Ellis has established itself as the premier apartment mystery shopping company in the nation, as well as a respected provider of multi-touch point resident surveys, as part of their retention-focused customer experience program. Current clients include most major apartment developers, management companies, and REITs. Through Renter’s Voice, Ellis helps clients promote and respond to authentic and objective apartment reviews. Having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business from Texas A&M, Ms. Ellis has spent more than 25 years in the multifamily industry, and she now holds both the Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) and Certified Apartment Property Supervisor (CAPS). She is also a licensed Texas Real Estate Agent. In honor of EPMS’ reputation for integrity, the Dallas Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals awarded Joanna, on behalf of the company, the 2008 Greater Dallas Business Ethics Award for mid-size companies.

One response to “Three Ways to Grab the Attention of Generation Y”

  1. […] how to successfully do business with them. Part 1: The Future Renter…What’s Next? Part 2: Three Ways to Grab the Attention of Generation YShare Property ManagementApartment Marketing, Generation shift, Generation Y, market data, […]

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