Thursday, February 26, 2009

Gen-Y Marketing: Do Something Foolish

That's it; no citations tonight.  No more caring about who sues me.  Blogs were made for people to rant, and gee golly whiz, I want to rant.

Since Josh and I started this blog, we really have become amazed at the generic application of "marketing" can magically become "Gen Y marketing."  Statements that the Hyundai Assurance program is a Gen Y marketing campaign is about the same as me saying I have a girlfriend; sure, I take her out and we spend hours alone, but I'm really just talking about my bicycle I ride 200+ miles per month.

Marketers want to get all slick and try to sell us...well, novelty.  Usually, they fail.  They try to sugarcoat their marketing or take generic marketing and say it's now "Gen Y" because it might indirectly apply to our demographic.  

Even if trends do change in Gen Y, marketing your product or creating brand recognition for a product is simple; do something obscene, funny, or make something blow up.

Need proof?  Say no more:
  • Obscene:  Andy Samberg dropped his latest hit "Jizz in My Pants" on SNL two months ago.  The following Monday, I had two different people come up and mention that skit, and the lyrics circulated among my Gen Y coworkers.  I had a friend come home from LA and one of her first questions to me; "Have you seen Jizz in My Pants?"  I was the 28,516,564th person to watch that video last night on Youtube (and the 28,516,655th...if you count replaying it at least once more).  You can't buy that kind of exposure.  More importantly, anybody over the age of 26 hates that kind of exposure.  This is perfectly Gen Y.
  • Funny: had a great ad over the Super Bowl about changing jobs.  The funniest part?  The fact that the obviously fake koala wearing glasses with a British accent gets punched in the face.  Twice.  Humor is a very base thing for us.  Yeah...we're real complicated.
  • Make something blow up: Nothing more here.  If you need proof a generation raised on Halo, Transporter 2, Goldeneye, and action movies full of kung-fu free violence, just read the news.  Or realize that the hype generated by the movie "Wanted" and the fact they made bullets bend around people's head just demonstrates how willing we are to fall for absolute gimmicks that have no basis whatsoever in reality.  Especially if it involves Angelina Jolie.  Rawr.
At the end of the day, it's really not about how slick you can make your ad, the dollars in your media budget, or what you promise us, or.  If you want buzz and/or you want hype, just do one of the three things mentioned above decently and you'll probably get yourself a nice little following.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

5 Car Ad Campaigns That Successfully Target Gen-Y

I’m beginning to wonder just how much people understand Gen-Y.

Exhibit A: John Austin wrote an article this week titled: Automakers pursue the elusive Gen Y customer

I was more than excited to read his take on how the auto industry plans on pursuing Gen-Y as marketing shifts into new channels, but found the actual content as disappointing as Chris Brown’s credibility.

There were the token stereotypes of Gen-Y, which were provided by University of Notre Dame prof Carol Phillips: "They're cynical. They believe all advertisers lie." More interesting were the three examples of new marketing campaigns that target Gen-Y...let’s just say that if Gen-Y was an apple on my head, and each example were an arrow, I’d be bleeding out right now - although the new piercings might look cool in some parts of town.

Example 1: BMW’s The Hire campaign (...arrow pierced my clavicle)
Example 2: Hyundai’s Assurance Campaign (...arrow through my big toe)

Example 3: Mercedes’ Social Network (...I give up, and throw the apple at you instead)

My interpretation of the “New Marketing Strategies”

Example 1: The Hire launched online in 2001. Deloitte pegs Gen-Y at those born between ’82 and ’95; Howe & Strauss pegs Gen-Y at ’82 - ’01. Either way this example is 8 years old, and at the point of The Hire’s launch, the oldest Millennials were just beginning college and most likely not in the market for a Beemer.

Example 2: Hyundai’s Assurance campaign is targeted at fearful consumers who are skeptical at purchasing a new car in the middle of a recession. Yes, Millennials are fearful too, but this campaign is broadly target at anyone wanting an inexpensive car with an awesome return policy. This is NOT Gen-Y specific.

Example 3: The oldest Millennials are 27. Few are probably in a financial position to even think about dropping $50K on a car. Most, still have college debt they’re paying off. Making a social network that only allows people under a certain age when most of the demographic cannot afford your product is not the best use of resources. However, it is at least an effort to utilize a new marketing channel.

Here are five GOOD examples of car campaigns that target Millennials:

Good Ex 1: Volkswagen “Unpimp Your Ride” by ad legends Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Successfully launched the GTI’s new body type, while featuring a hot blonde, a goofy German engineer, and tricked-out cars being launched by catapults. 20M+ youtube views before the ads were pulled, and catapulted not just cars, but both sales and reputation for VW.

Good Ex 2: EVERYTHING Toyota did with Scion. Fully customizable cars, easy to use website, sponsorships of huge concerts, and flashy animated tv spots. Epic win for Toyota.

Good Ex 3: The sleeper pick: Hyundai’s 2010 Genesis Coup. The entire ad spot is of a 300hp beast of a sport car drifting around a race track. Tag team that with the Assurance program and a $22K price point, and now you have a campaign that targets Gen-Y.

Good Ex 4: Crispin Porter + Bogusky strapping BMW Minis to the roofs of SUVs and driving them around NYC to launch the Mini brand.

Good Ex 5: BMW’s 65,000 square foot billboard in Russia that dangle real cars with fully functional lights that makes it look like a sideways freeway o’ BMW. It may not have been in the US, but it generated an obscene amount of buzz online.

What are some of your favorite car ads/campaigns that targeted Gen-Y?

-Josh Groth

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How do We Motivate Gen Y?

I stumbled across an article today on CIO's advice section by Carolyn Douglas titled Motivating Gen Y. As a Gen X startup guru and manager of Gen Y employees, Douglas' column highlighted key points from a recent panel discussion on recruiting and retaining Gen Y.

In her post, Douglas states:

"For Gen Y, studies indicate their top wish list includes:
  • Work/life balance
  • To be heard and valued
  • Regular recognition
  • Work in a fun atmosphere
  • Motivated by challenge and a collaborative environment"

Although Douglas' advice is valuable and has nuggets of truth, I'm always surprised at the ambiguity in the advice for managing Gen Y.

What I mean is this; show me someone who likes to work 18-hour days, to be ignored and unvalued, to receive little or no recognition, work in a boring atmosphere, or work in an unchallenging and back-stabbing environment. Can you think of anyone? Implicitly, management gurus and hiring managers seem to think that Gen Y demands these things, but Gen X or the Baby Boomer really doesn't value these attributes.  Even if a hiring manager does all these things, will this really make us happy?

I don't think Gen Y management is about the five things Douglas mentions.  Sure, they help, but they're as applicable to Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y.  What makes Gen Y special, and how do you leverage the human capital inside this demographic?

In reality, it boils down to a few things:

  1. Taking time to know our goals and dreams: This is probably the single most important thing to understand when hiring or managing a Gen Y employee.  We were born with the belief we can do everything, and every management book out there tells us how talented, good looking, and fashionable we are.  However, it doesn't matter how great a company is; if Gen Y does not find value in a position, they will most likely burn out and managers will lose valuable human capital.  Take the time to know what we want to do and where we want to go.  Better yet; show us how what we're doing today will get us where we want to be tomorrow.
  2. Recognizing all Gen Y are different: Please, people; stop thinking we're all the same.  I have friends who enjoy collecting state unemployment and friends who consistently work 14-hour days.  Do not stereotype us that we are supposed to only want to work 35 hours a week, we want to volunteer for Green Peace on Friday, or we want (or don't want) money.  Understand each Gen Y is different; know us and what we want, and we will make you successful.
  3. Understanding the pace of Gen Y life: For the longest time, if we wanted something, we could have it instantly.  From microwave dinners to broadband downloads, we get what we want in three minutes or less. However, we now work in a world with boundaries, deadlines, and scarcity.  Make sure managers communicate career path timelines and the pace of corporate America's promotions, job changes, etc. before hiring a Gen Y employee.

Monday, February 23, 2009

SmartyPig Co-Founder Responds to Social Networking Article

Last week I wrote an article about Australia’s largest bank, ANZ, and their strategy to encourage Gen-Y to save money rather than spend it. They teamed up with US-based SmartyPig to develop a web app for social networking sites that can track your savings from your MySpace or Facebook page.

My two arguments were:
-Most people’s “friends” on their social networking sites aren’t really friends but sometimes acquaintances, and would not want their financials broadcast to these people they barely know.
-ANZ said the “new venture is targeting Generation-Y in an attempt to teach financial responsibility and promote savings.” However they offer incentives for their customers to convert their savings and/or interest earned into gift cards; which appears entirely contradictory to ANZ’s mission.

Shortly after posting, SmartyPig’s co-founder, Michael Ferrari responded with the following:


Thanks for the post. My name is Michael Ferrari and I'm one of the co-founders of SmartyPig. Saw your post come across my alerts. I spend a great deal of my time each and every day listening to customer feedback, thoughts and suggestions. And jump in whenever I can.

I started SmartyPig as a way to help people save money for specific goals in their life. Be it a down payment on a house or apartment, an emergency fund, a Wii, a MacBook Pro or a family vacation. And in doing so I thought it would be great to let people make these goals "public" allowing friends and family to contribute. And in making them "public" give users the opportunity to share their gals on their social networking site of choice (if they choose) like Facebook, MySpace, their personal blog or their desktop. Our widget platform is built on the Clearspring technology In doing so, it provides an opportunity to let others know what you are saving and allows friends and family the chance to contribute to your interest-bearing goals. Don't want that "sweater" for your birthday, perfect, please contribute to my "Trip to Honduras" goal instead.

Again, the social side of SmartyPig is optional. Our goal is to help change the mindset of "buy now, pay later". And in doing so, should you choose, SmartyPig has some great features to help you get the word out to friends and family be it moral support or financial support.

Some quick stats:

-66% of our customers in the U.S. are under the age of 35
-1 out of every 3 goals created on SmartyPig are public

...Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts. Really appreciate it.Mike Ferrari, SmartyPig co-founder @mferrari

First off I want to thank Michael Ferrari for taking the time to comment. I think that he helped to help paint a clearer picture of SmartyPig's intentions. I think it’s also important to note that the article originally quoted, neglected to mention that the widget has a privacy setting and doesn’t have to be broadcast to everyone (for those of us who don’t want to share our financials). While I personally cannot see myself sharing my financials on Facebook, I can see the value of SmartyPig’s widget if I could change my privacy setting.

However, I must still push back – but not at SmartyPig, but at ANZ. As stated in the beginning of this post, I have two gripes: privacy, and hypocrisy. Michael addressed the issue of privacy, but what still rubs me the wrong way is that ANZ is promoting and what almost seems like encouraging customers to convert their savings and interest earned to gift cards. If their goal was to “attempt to teach financial responsibility and promote savings” to Echo Boomers, then why are they trying to get us spend our savings on gift cards?

I don’t think this is just an issue with ANZ, but with banks at large. All the “perk” that go along with savings programs, credit cards, etc. encourage more spending, not saving. It’s the same irresponsible spending habits that got us into this financial crisis in the first place. If we’re to progress out of the recession and truly learn from our mistakes, we need to change our spending/saving habits moving forward. Having our “savings institutions” encourage more irresponsible spending habits is only furthering the process.

What is your take on the saving habits of Gen-Y? Will the current recession help change our notoriously bad savings habits, or do you think we'll see more of the same?

A sincere thank you again to SmartyPig’s co-founder Michael Ferrari.

-Josh Groth

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Graying (and Staying) of the American Workforce

I recently posted about managing Gen Y in a recession. A week later and the Dow down 6.2%, I’m starting to think that post may be obsolete. A more relevant post this week may be something closer to Surviving Your College-Educated Child Living at Home. It’s not that I don’t believe in in Gen Y’s ability to get entry-level positions; recent college graduates will always find jobs. However, with entry level-jobs disappearing from company budgets and experienced middle-management applying for junior positions, Gen Y will face a difficult job market as they compete for fewer jobs against more experienced candidates.

Unfortunately, I fear the delayed arrival of Gen Y in the American workplace will go far beyond the end of this economic morass. In a recent Tech Ticker post, Howard Davidowitz, of Davidowitz & Associates, highlighted a few effects of the economic downturn and deathly-ill economy, including:

  • An $8 trillion negative wealth effect from declining home values
  • A $10 trillion negative wealth effect from weakened capital markets
  • A $14 trillion consumer debt load amid "exploding unemployment", leading to "exploding bankruptcies"
These enormous financial losses, which no doubt affects the Baby Boomer generation and their retirement accounts, will cause significant shifts in workplace demographics for years to come. With so much net worth lost, Baby Boomers will need to push off retirement and continue working in the jobs Gen Y would have otherwise employed or moved into as the Baby Boomers exited the workplace. The increased graying (and staying) of the Baby Boomers in the American workforce will cause:
  1. An increase in college-educated Gen Y taking minimum wage jobs: Employers can capture untold amounts of human capital and drive during this economic downturn by leveraging Gen Y’s skills to improve operational performance in their roles. Any Gen Y worth their weight will recognize the opportunity for a resume-building experience and jump at opportunities for experience and application of their abilities.
  2. An increase in Gen Y moving back in with their parents: Sorry, apartments and property managers; you may have serious struggles soon. Parents; I hope you didn’t convert Sonny’s bed into an office or sewing room. Minimum wage jobs can’t pay the rent, utilities, cable, iPhone, and student loan payment.
  3. A decrease in employer ability to leverage staff to work longer hours: Entry-level positions are typically dominated by young professionals who are single with the energy, time, and freedom to work longer hours. With the commitments Baby Boomers face, including aging parents, financial commitments, and other responsibilities, we may see Baby Boomers in demanding positions struggle to balance commitments to their family, profession, and finances.

Would You Want Your Financial Info Broadcast On Facebook?

Photo Property of

Australian mega-bank ANZ has combined finance with web 2.0. They’ve partnered with US-based SmartyPig to develop a widget that can display your savings goals and track your progress towards the goal, then display it on your MySpace or Facebook page. And they developed this why?

Before I drop my two cents in, here’s the specs:

  • Developed to reach Gen-Y
  • App displays your financial goals/progress on Facebook for your friends to see
  • SmartyPig was founded with the goal of trying to thwart Gen-Y’s “spend now” attitude
  • Users can choose to save cash plus interest or convert money into a gift card (for some reason I feel like this contradicts the prior bullet)
  • ANZ claims the goal is to teach financial responsibility and promote savings, rather than sustain a reliance to credit (again, appears to contradict the above bullet)

I commend ANZ for making an attempt to embrace the direction that both technology and communication are heading. And they’re correct, Generation Y communicates differently than other generations, and saves money differently – in that they really don’t. I honestly do not know too many individuals my age that are saving, and are instead choosing to life for today. So I want to make it extremely clear, that any effort to change the savings habits of Gen-Y is excellent.

However, I think this is a classic case where a company attempts to align themselves with a younger generation by utilizing a technology that does not fit with its product offering. works – it’s not social networking, but it’s a service that tracks and categorizes your personal expenses so that consumers are aware of their spending habits. Best of all, you can utilize from a convenient, FREE, iPhone app. The reason it works, is because it utilizes technology Gen-Y embraces, it’s free, and it easy to use. More importantly, it keeps your expenses private.

ANZ’s new app does not work. Yes, Echo Boomers use social networking. Yes, Echo Boomers bank. But this does not mean that A + B = C. “This therefore that” logic does not apply in this situation. As an Echo Boomer, I want to use Facebook, but that does not mean that I want all of my “friends” to know my current financial situation. Especially, since a lot of my “friends” really aren’t friends – they’re people I’ve met at parties, met while backpacking Europe, or met at a conference. And in a few situations, I confirmed their friend request out of feeling obligated to do so. Yes, most are my friends, but a good portion are just contacts – and in no way do I want my far reaching contacts to have access to my financials.

Excellent effort; well intentioned; poorly thought through.

Can any of you think of other examples of products/services/apps that were targeted at Gen-Y that totally missed the boat?

-Josh Groth

Monday, February 16, 2009

Microsoft to Open Retail Outlets: Fatal Error?

I'd like to give a Darwin award out to one of my new favorite non-awesome companies. Hooray, Microsoft! Yes, pesky Apple is stealing away valuable Gen Y college students and young professionals. However, does this mean that you really want to open brick and mortar retail outlets? I have a prediction for you; fail.

In case you haven't heard, the AP reported Microsoft plans to open its own stores to improve the PC-buying experience. I don't really want to describe any more of the article because it almost makes me angry, but you can click on the link to read more if you'd like.

The fact I'm angry isn't because someone wants to invest in retail. So many companies, including Apple, LaCoste, Nike, and countless other companies have recognized the value of retail stores and controlling your product at the final stage of consumer interaction and purchase. However, the fact is that Microsoft is doing it all wrong. As much as I laugh at Apple's ads mocking a faux-Bill Gates, I am starting to believe Microsoft and their senior board may actually be as unintelligent as Apple shows them to be.

There are three fatal erros that Microsoft already made...and they haven't opened any stores yet! I'm going to outline them below, but feel free to add your own; I'm pretty sure there are plenty more to discuss.
  1. Illogical choice in retail leadership: Hiring David Porter as the corporate VP of retail stores does not do the trick. As a 25-year veteran of Wal-Mart and most recently with Dreamworks as the head of worldwide product distribution, this is fatal error #1. What does a man who produces big-box stores or distributes DVDs know about improving the PC buying experience? What experience does he have with small boutique retail spaces compared to big box stores? What on Earth made them think a man with experience in distribution and supply chain knows anything about pimping the retail world with cool boutiques that improve shopping experiences? Then again, maybe Wal-Mart shouts original and creative store design and improved customer experience over its competition to everyone but me and my friends who refuse to shop there. Seriously, Microsoft, what were you thinking?
  2. Poor timing: Microsoft spent its time as a wholesaler pushing its operating systems and products to retailers. They operated a low overhead and low operating expense business (comparatively). Now, Microsoft wants to enter the high overhead and high operating expense game of retail during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Really, Microsoft...let me know when you have your bake sale with $10,000,000 cookies to compensate for your recession-affected retail stores.

  3. Confusing brand image: Microsoft is an operating system. Their OS support business, creative media, and games. How do you put this into one retail space? What do you have your associates wear? What trend do you follow? Business attire certainly doesn't reflect the gaming side of Windows, and black tee-shirt wearing Apple clones won't give respect to the business functionality of Windows. Microsoft is so broad in its application and functionality, it will be difficult to capture this into one cohesive theme for its stores.
Long live Apple; at the rate Microsoft is going, it won't be too hard for Apple to continue its growing streak and take market share from the big boys. With the decisions Microsoft is making, I think they deserve to lose it to a more intelligent competitor.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I (We) Want It That Way

Yes...Backstreet Boys.  They speak the anthem of our generation.  Who knew employers could learn lessons managing Gen Y in a recession from 90's pop songs like I Want it That Way, Semi-Charmed Life, or Bye Bye Bye (hey, given the recession, it's appropriate)? 

Sadly, this post isn't about the Backstreet Boys OR 90's pop songs; however, there are real-life lessons about managing Gen Y during a downturn.  Just because jobs are hard to come by and we need to hit up Mom and Dad for rent doesn't mean we don't keep our ridiculously high standards for work-life balance, mentorship, or promotion-worthy year-end reviews. We may be stuck working for your organization and be unable to hop to the next company willing to buy us a company iPhone, but that doesn't mean we have to like it.  

Ultimately, we can make your life miserable...or absolutely awesome (our parents were practice; you're the real test and application of our skills).  Keeping us happy, especially as your lackeys and entry-level professionals, will make your lives easier by creating more positive employees who aren't just showing up to work every day and hating their jobs like some Office Space reality show.

Three key things will make or break your professional manager-managee relationship with Gen Y.  These things include:
  1.   Letting us have fun: We realize the top-shelf, open-bar, all-expenses paid trip to Vegas (or even downtown) are now gone.  However, that doesn't mean we don't want to and can't have fun.  Maybe it means organizing extracurricular trips downtown, happy hour on a weeknight, or having goofy office challenges.  Just because sales are down and the company may reduce headcount, that doesn't remove the desire for Gen Y to have fun in our jobs.
  2. Recognizing us for our work: Listen...we know we don't make six figures.  However, would it kill for a compliment every once in awhile?  Knowing someone's proud of you or appreciates what you do is one of the simplest and most meaningful things a manager can do.  Best of all; it's free.  However, how many managers really thank their people on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis for their efforts?  Recognizing us for our work is a free and great way to keep us enjoying our jobs because we know our pointless data entry brings you value and makes us look good.
  3. Interacting with us: No man is an island...unless his manager is never there.  Then things get awfully lonely.  As Gen Y, we're used to having attention, receiving constant feedback, and being told exactly how to succeed.  However, when sales go down the tubes and the economy is in a recession, we know you get busy.  However, we still would like to have you talk to us, buy us a cup of coffee, and tell us jokes.  
Ultimately, managing Gen Y in a downturn isn't overly complicated; however, it takes more time than some managers and organizations are willing to give.  However, the importance of this is obvious; if you ignore your entry-level knowledge professionals, eventually they'll burn out and become uninterested (and ineffective) in their positions.

Mama said knock you out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stimulate This - How to Create More Jobs for Gen-Y With the Economic Stimulus Plan

My friend over at Entry Level Living wrote an excellent article on how certain line items in the stimulus plan will effect Gen-Y. Some of the key take-aways I felt were from job training and higher education:

Job Training: the goal of the stimulus is to create jobs, this job training will help ensure Echo Boomers will have the required skill sets to get some of those jobs. $4 billion for job training including :

  • $1.2 billion to create up to one million summer jobs for youth
  • $50 million to expand Youth Build (provides jobs for low-income youths in constructing low-income housing)

Higher Education:

  • Pell Grants: $15.6 billion to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500, from $4,850 to $5,350.
  • College Work-Study: $490 million to support undergraduate and graduate students who work.
  • $6 billion for higher education modernization
  • Student Loan Limit Increase: Increases limits on unsubsidized Stafford loans by $2,000.
  • Student Aid Administration: $50 million to help the Department of Education administer surging student aid programs while navigating the changing student loan environment.
Read the executive summary of the stimulus plan here or read the full document here

Here’s where I get on my soapbox…

The purpose that the stimulus plan serves is to create jobs, unfreeze the loan market, and instill consumer trust and get them buying again – all as quickly as possible. Therefore I do not believe that $15.6B for Pell Grants belongs in the stimulus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making higher education more accessible, shoot I hate having college loans. However, an increase of $500/grant/person is drop in the bucket when students are facing mounting student loans of $100K+. Moreover, this increase has no immediate fallout. It will help individuals get a four year degree, but we’re in a recession NOW.

Here’s what that $15.6B should be put towards, because it would be far more effective. Instead of giving that $15.6B away in federal Pell Grants, add it to the $6B set aside for higher education modernization, and then make that $21.6B total now available ONLY to students in the form of work-study compensation. Pay students to renovate their campuses with government money. This creates IMMEDIATE jobs for Gen-Y as they struggle to pay for school, it effectively helps modernize our state universities, and it makes higher education more accessible to those who are willing to participate in the work-study program. Granted, some of the workers would have to be more experienced workers who could train Gen-Y to give them the necessary skill sets required for the labor, but you get the gist of it.

Problem solved.


-Josh Groth

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Video Game Wars: Gen-Y's Non-Choice

Finally...a subject so dear to my heart.  Honestly, I don't know why society rejects video games.  Desensitizing violence some claim; others say your eyes go bad.  Let's look at things in a positive light; aside from the in-car DVD player, very few devices in the history of mankind that can entertain a child (or husband) for extended periods of time.  I think we own Atari and the people who invented the first game systems a huge thanks.

There's a lot going out in the press about the game wars between Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox360, and the Sony PlayStation3.  So far, Nintendo Wii has overcome weak graphics and a limited game selection with original games and unique controller.  A darling of the Nintendo line, the Wii is a supposed statement of the resurgence of Nintendo as a brand and the ability of a lower-performing system with original controls and game play to win over game systems with better graphics and more diverse game selections.

Alas, I fear Wii's day in the sun is near done, particularly for Gen Y.  The success of Wii comes from a few key factors; it's downfall will come from a few more.  I highlight a few key points below:
  1. Wii is a party system...not a true game system: Wii is a novelty for parties and group hangouts.  I know few people in Gen Y who have logged the countless hours gaming on the Wii compared to the weeks they spent playing Halo, Call of Duty, Rainbow Six Las Vegas, or Grand Theft Auto on traditional gaming systems.  Personally, I just think they just get tired waving around the controller; however, there is a reality that eventually you will run out of people looking for a party system because, well...there just aren't enough parties.
  2. Wii supplements traditional gaming systems...not replaces them: The one great benefit of the Wii is I see many of my friends own a Xbox360 or PlayStation3 and a Wii.  However, you see very few people in Gen Y owning just a Wii because it does not meet their needs as a gaming system.  The inability to stand alone as a gaming system will lead to inadequacy and eventual loss of market share as people upgrade or replace the Wii with other systems.
  3.  Wii is designed for families...not for Gen Y: I know some of you may disagree with this point, but I like to think of the Wii like Shrek or Finding Nemo.  They have plenty of sophisticated humor to keep adults entertained, but I can't remember the last time an animated movie where adults left their children at home to go watch the movie.  It's the same way for Wii; we all like it, but in reality, it's not for us.  The games don't have the violence, complexity, or speed that Gen Y and serious gamers need in a gaming platform.
  4. Wii's experience is in the control of the game...not in the game itself:  Although Wii's control is revolutionary, it's uniqueness is in the control of the game itself and not in the game.  People get all giggly over waving their arms around and balancing on boards.  However, Wii's fundamental failure is the lack of advanced and original games.  The graphics lack the necessary pop to keep up with the Xbox360 or PlayStation3, the games lack the addictive nature of games on other systems, and the controls (to their failure) lack the crispness and control of a dual-joystick controller.  Aside from Wii Fit, you see very few titles that are exclusively associated with the Wii or that can drive people to purchase the system for that game (or games).
As a final note, I remember when I told my Dad I wanted to buy a Xbox360 and a violent video game, this was his counter; "Why don't you buy one of those Wii things?  I'd help out with that."  With that statement in mind, Nintendo is obviously pointed towards someone other than Gen Y...and I'm off to buy an Xbox360.

Monday, February 9, 2009

When Going Green is Going too Far

(Photo source)
Dear Motorola,

Your R&D team needs to be fired. Introducing a
“green” cell phone 1.0 model when BOTH supply and demand have shifted towards smart phones which dominate the cell phone 2.0 movement, makes as much sense trying to sell pagers to Tweens. Face it, it’s a dying technology. If I was in your shoes, I would ask for your developer’s resignation, and ship all of your remaining inventory to Al Gore, because I’m pretty sure he represents 100% of your customer base.

Why? Honestly Motorola, why? Do you think that because I’m a eco-friendly, carbon-conscious Echo Boomer I’ll drop some serious coin for a “Green” cell phone? You have extremely over-estimated the greenness of Gen-Y.

I’m all for sustainability. I’m all for preserving the environment. I think that America has an addiction to oil, and that Obama is taking excellent strides in helping our economy move towards alternative energy sources. I also think the Prius is a great car, not that I’d ever buy one because it would instantaneously promote me to tree-hugger status, but because it paved the road for hybrids and brought attention to environmental issues at large. However, I’m not going to ditch my iPhone for a carbon-neutral, prehistoric looking phone that lacks as much functionality as the Bush Administration.

Here’s four quick reasons why your green phone is a horrible idea (which I’m surprised you couldn’t come up with on your own in the product development stage):

1. Your unique product offering is wrong for the product category. Being successful in the cell phone market means cramming as much new tech features into the smallest possible device, not sacrificing functionality for being eco-friendly.

2. Your technology is out of date. It’s the analog to the smart phone’s digital. Your phone has maybe an inch of screen real estate, no apps, it cannot seamlessly sync my gmail calendar with my Microsoft calendar at work, if it has a mp3 player built in it most likely doesn’t have the memory to make it at all worthwhile, and I guarantee that it doesn’t have an intelligent web browser. What at all does this phone have to offer me?

3. Boasting that the phone is made from recycled water bottles does not excite me, but instead gives me serious reservations as to the reliability of the phone.

4. Zero sex appeal. Let’s be honest, being green is sexy because it’s the IT thing right now. Your SIGG water bottle is durable and prevents you from polluting the environment with plastic bottles. Riding your bike to work reduces your carbon footprint and gives you killer legs. Organic food has less preservatives, pesticides, and other awesome cancer-causing things…and it makes you sound cool when you say you shop at Whole Foods. People like being green because it’s sexy right now. The iPhone and the Storm are sexy; your phone is a chartreuse eyesore that would have been great 7 years ago.

Motorola, if you want to successfully build and market a product that targets Generation-Y, drop $30K on some market research and attempt to understand what your target demographic wants. Don’t simply try and build something you think we’ll like then cram it down our throats. That $30K in research could have saved you the $5M+ it probably took to build the darn thing. But look on the bright side, they will work as great paperweights that you can give to all your employees.

-Josh Groth

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Reality Check: No More Credit


First off; I hope you got the pun about the reality "check" in the method of payment and the act of recognizing reality.  Seriously.  I love puns.  Maybe Josh and I can create a "Top 10 Puns on Echodemic" list since people like lists so much.  I'm going to say that's at least in the top three.

The great thing about the recession is people realize they cannot live outside their means.  We can no longer outspend our paycheck, use stated income loan applications, and ignore savings as part of our budget.  Unfortunately, the recession is a lot like puberty; good for us in the long run (thank goodness I filled out since high school), but horribly painful as we deal with pimples, realizing women are attractive, and high school dances.  Yes, Josh is white; yes, he can dance better than me.  Odd.

As a general rule, Gen Y have rarely heard or applied the concept of savings to their lifestyles.  More importantly, if we've heard it, we rarely apply it.  Saving money is somewhere below an iPhone, far below not living with your parents, definitely below an education in English at a private university (great career path there), and probably below Friday night's bar tab at the newest club in town. 

However, this recession is the puberty of Gen Y.  Nobody likes to talk savings.  Everybody likes their iPhone, private university education, new clothes every week, and financial indifference to the credit cards, interest rates, and latest American Apparel sale items (I hear the neon green leg warmers are the next big thing).  Too bad for us, reality arrived in September.  Kids who never worked before are now taking part-time jobs to help pay for school.  Parents aren't handing out the money that grew on the lending tree; they're tightening their budgets too.  We're now realizing that a glamorous lifestyle isn't automatic, money does get tight, and you can't live the dream without working for it (and paying for it) as well.

The question Gen Y faces is its response to this new era of financial responsibility.  Will Gen Y correct the mistakes of its parents and live within its means?  Or is our generation headed towards another time in history with overspending, easy credit, and unmanageable credit card debt?  Although our generation feels the effect of this recession, I seriously doubt we will change our ways unless this recession becomes much worse.  We cannot ignore our upbringings; we watched our parents give us everything.  That will be a hard habit and reality to change.

As a generation used to having everything and working for practically nothing (many of us never held jobs before we graduated from college), we now need to face a new reality; cash or check.  Credit's not accepted.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Weed: The Only Way Phelps Can Eat 12,000 Calories/Day and Why it Doesn’t Matter

(Photo property of ESPN...if you couldn't figure that one out on your own)

For the most part, Echo Boomers have grown out of the typical definition of the term “role model.” The word simply does not apply to us in the way that it use to. We no longer look to actors, athletes, and astronauts to set a precedent for us - we look to them to set the bar.

As high schoolers are hitting the pool, they aren’t looking to be like Phelps - they’re looking to be better. They aren’t looking at his bong; they’re looking at the pounds of Beijing gold hanging from his neck - and they want it. They are looking at his $100M in endorsements and thinking to themselves that they too want to be paid to prance around in a Speedo and eat PowerBars.

I don’t think of Phelps any less for smoking - it's not my place to judge. In fact, it almost makes the fact that he won 14 golds just that more impressive, considering how much smoking anything affects your lungs. The only possible way for it to have helped him, is if it aided in his insane, 12,000 calorie/day intake in order to have enough energy to burn in the pool.

The whole situation reminds me of a quote from Robin Williams:

“The poor Canadian snowboarder, in the 1998 Olympics, they took away his medal because he tested positive for marijuana, which is kinda redundant number one, number two, they said that marijuana was a "performance-enhancing drug.” [buzzer sound] Marijuana enhances many things, colors, flavors, sensations, but you are certainly not f****** empowered. When you're stoned, you're lucky if you can find your own god**** feet. The only way it's a performance-enhancing drug is if there's a big f****** Hershey bar at the end of the run.”

The whole thing comes down to Phelps setting the bar in business and life. He set out to be the best, and he is. He is the top in his sport and commands one of the most lucrative endorsement contracts in the world. Gen-Y will not look at him and think “stoner,” they’ll think of his accomplishments - and then try and be better.

I’m curious to hear other people’s opinions on the subject!

-Josh Groth

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The ObamaBerry

Obama: Research in Motion as...
  1. Rick Astley:The 80's
  2. Hot Tubs:Water
  3. Michael Jordan:Nike
  4. Peanut Butter:Jelly
Correct answer: #3

No, sports fans, this isn't about Obama and his ability to shoot the J.  This is about Research in Motion missing out on one of the biggest opportunities of its corporate lifespan.

To give some background on why C is the correct answer to this multiple choice, one has to look back to 1984 and the Air Jordan 1.  After Michael Jordan signed with Nike, the company created a pair of red and black basketball shoes that became known as the Air Jordan I.  A significant departure from the traditional white basketball shoe, the NBA fined Michael Jordan up to $5,000 per game for the shoe's non-conforming colors.  Nike gladly paid the NBA fines, and the amount of buzz, media attention, and controversy surrounding the shoe created the beginning of one of the strongest brands and shoe lines in the history of footwear.

The results of this marketing effort is seen today.  The Air Jordan I led to the creation of a Nike subsidiary, twenty-four year line of high price point shoes, and a global phenomenon.  Certainly the designers at Nike and the pure ability and talent of Michael Jordan played a strong role in the development of this brand, but one cannot neglect the role of the Air Jordan I, the controversy the shoe created, and Nike using the controversy as a marketing tool to develop the Jordan brand.

Today, Research in Motion has an amazing opportunity to do the same with Barack Obama.  I'm sure there's a clause that forbids the president from signing endorsement deals; however, why doesn't Research in Motion market this?  Everyone else seems to be capitalizing on Barack Obama's election, and Research in Motion should do the same.  Heck, at least Research in Motion's product offering is better than the mail-order Barack Obama plates I saw on TV yesterday.

Sadly, Research in Motion seems to be letting this opportunity fall by the wayside.  No news releases came out about Research in Motion developing an ultra-safe BlackBerry for the president.  There were no Gen Y targeted ads or viral marketing efforts to increase the brand image that the leader of the free world will fight the Secret Service for his BlackBerry.  

I'm still waiting for the ObamaBerry Storm complete with a Shephard Fairey Hope poster and pre-registration to Barack Obama's weekly webinar and RSS feed.

Get on it, Research in Motion; don't let this one pass you by.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Living the High Life in Low Times - 10 Awesome Money Saving Tips

The idea of cost-cutting is no fun. The idea of a global recession is worse. Therefore, a reduction in expenses is not only a good idea, but an imperative - even for Echo Boomers.

The idea of a Top 10 list for managing expenses is nothing new. In fact, in the last few months I’ve seen an overabundance of these lists. However, they all have one thing in common – they are no fun. They almost all involve removing everything fun in life, because let’s be honest, a lot of the fun things in life cost money. Herein lies the differentiator between my list and theirs, I chose the route of moderation instead of elimination – life needs a balance of work and play.

1. Hop on your parent’s family plan for your cell phone – This is a gimmie, family plans are a bargain compared to being on your own. Hop on a family plan with your parents or significant other and just share the cost.

-- Savings ($150/mth for unlimited everything on an iPhone - $50 family plan = $100/mth)

2. Ditch Starbucks – trade in that $4/day latte for a pound of a gourmet beans and roast your own cup before you head to your cube in the morning. Gourmet, fair-trade beans are also a cool source of convo by the water cooler (more so than a generic Starbucks cup). A good 1lb bag of java should run you around $12 and last 2 weeks.

-- Savings ($4/cup x 5 days - $6/half lb = $14/wk)

3. Make your own lunch – Impress your colleagues with a gourmet lunch you prepare, not a calorie-filled burrito from down the street. Not only a convo starter, like the java, but it’s easier to manage your nutrition if you prepare the food yourself.

-- Savings ($7/take out x 5 day - $3/brown bag x 5days = $20/wk)

4. Bike vs. drive to work – This is an easy one (if possible). It’s healthy, it’s eco-friendly, and the cardio wakes you up in the morning.

-- Savings ($10 parking x 5 days + 1 tank of gas @ $25 = $75/wk)

5. Beer vs. wells - The weekend is for fun, axing the bars entirely means axing your social life. Quick fix, order beer instead of a mixed drink, it’s almost always cheaper.

-- Savings ($7/mixed drink x 3 drinks - $4/beer x 3 drinks = $9/wk)

6. Bars with no cover – The best bars aren’t always where you pay a cover – and if you’re going in a group, it doesn’t really matter where you go. You don’t even have to ax bars that charge covers all together, you can simply alternate weekends.

-- Savings $10-$20/bar

7. Bargain theater vs. multiplex – In my opinion, the best theaters are the ones that show movies that have been out for 3 months and serve beer instead of a Coke. It adds novelty and creativity to a date/hang out. And tickets are less expensive and you get beer instead of a Coke (oh, did I just repeat that).

-- Savings $4/movie

8. eBay your threads – When shopping, try on the clothes you like, and if you want to buy them, take down the item number and size, then eBay it and get it new with tags, or used if you don’t mind. If you’re smart, the savings can be awesome – I recently got a brand new pair of Rock & Republic jeans for $50 instead of the $250 MSRP.

-- Savings vary, but if you’re savvy on eBay, you can save a grip

9. Nordstrom Rack instead of Nordstrom – For those that need their Nordstrom fix, the Nordstrom Rack is a God-send. The savings are awesome, and it’s on all your favorite brands.

-- Savings vary, but markdowns are typically 50% off MSRP

10. Ditch the gym membership if you don’t use it – I, like many of my friends, utilize my gym membership 6 days per week. I’m a huge proponent of a healthy lifestyle that involves regular exercise. However, I can’t even count how many of my friends have gym memberships that they never use – something about having a gym membership makes people feel better about themselves even if they don’t go. Ditch it if you don’t use it, it’s just a waste of money.

-- Savings $30-$100/mth

Your wallet thanks me.
-Josh Groth