the grass is greener on the internet

Employer branding: does Gen Y want CSR?
July 15, 2009, 3:36 pm
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PR is lovely. It allows companies to make newsflashes of ‘insight’ into topics ‘we have little to no understanding of’ (ie. Gen Y**) and promote themselves in the process.

Recent example: Morgan Stanley’s report by a 15 year old intern on why teenagers don’t use Twitter.

Let’s just ignore the fact that I’ve seen umpteen posts saying exactly the same thing from ‘Gen Y’ blogs. I think a more sensational headline might have been ’15 year old interns handling affairs of global financial management company’.

Like I said, PR is lovely.

This brings me to my original question: does Gen Y really look for CSR when choosing an employer?

…because according to headlines from several large companies, this is a key requirement tabled by ‘Gen Y’ in interviews.

Is this really true or just a marketing stunt?

  1. It allows the company to grab a headline
  2. It makes students think that if everyone else is aware of it maybe they should be too
  3. A further 250 words can be devoted to the company’s CSR efforts

[Let us note at this point that just because a story has been used for marketing purposes, it is not necessarily made up – the Morgan Stanley case demonstrates this.]

However, as a blanket statement, I don’t think you can say that ‘Gen Y’ feels CSR is important in an employer.

Rants on the general nature of the term ‘Gen Y’ aside, at the moment those just graduating or in junior roles are mostly just glad to GET a job. Many will not have the option to ‘choose’ their employer, and they will rank pay and job description higher than CSR in importance. It only comes into play where all else is equal. (Not that it’s so black and white – it’s usually that we like the brand more from the impression we get.)

This is something we’ve seen from before the GFC, though. Unethical corporate behaviour can be a disincentive, but proactive CSR strategies mostly only aid HR in forming company culture.

Not to say that CSR is not important – as a generation we are more aware of environmental issues hearing about a brand doing ‘good things’ can leave us with a better feeling.

But from talking to a variety of people, there is only a select group to whom CSR is very important. They’re generally highly educated, grew up with volunteer work or come from a religious educational background. Caring about issues like sustainability or human rights often coincides with a dedication to studies and long-term results. If they form part of your target market for candidates then your employer brand will benefit from an extensive CSR program.

Me personally? I wouldn’t feel comfortable working for an unethical employer and would much prefer to go for a job where I have the opportunity to continue making an impact on causes I believe in. Quite a few friends are the same. But I know we’re definitely not the majority.

**Irony fully intended.


Are you being hunted down and targeted?

Why yes, you might be.

Just watched AdAge’s video segment on Emily Riley from Forrester Research’s recent speech addressing Gen Y and behavioural targeting.

They propose:

  • forming an op-out database for those who do not want to be behaviourally targeted – ie. they want their healthcare data to be ignored but are okay with their retail data being studied
  • creating a website where ‘Gen Y’ can post their wants (ie. a car) and receive advertising for those wants based on their information (ie. they’re a fan of BMW on Facebook)

I have number of objections:

  1. STOP taking ‘Gen Y’ as a singular marketing demographic. Generally young people are more switched-on technologically, but that doesn’t mean everyone has the same preferences about how they interact with that technology – that’s like saying all adults buy the same food because they’re more kitchen-savvy.
    (I will admit I have a bias against the term but ‘Gen Y’ is used FAR too much these days.)
  2. When it comes to consumers being able to ‘opt-out’ of having their info in a database, it’s a bit like communism: it might work in someone’s head as an idea, but it will never work in practice.
    People are less likely to bother to opt-out, or may not even know how – it’s a phenomenon they propose to exploit.
    I suspect the FTC will object to it because of this.
    Previously, people ‘opting out’ of telemarketing databases – ‘no telemarketing’ or ‘do not call’ lists – have found themselves part of a new database for all those organisations not bound by the ‘do not call’ list. Someone will try to find a way to get hold of their information, because technically a whole behavioural segment would be excluded if you didn’t have it.
    Of course, the speech brushes over this to talk about behavioural targeting.
  3. …and behavioural targeting will be controversial. But let’s look purely at effectiveness.
    It actually limits the consumer to their previous choices.
    You’re trying to predict the next point on the graph by extrapolating the previous ones.
    Well, if you want to talk about Gen Y traits…youth throughout the ages have demonstrated higher risk-taking traits. They want something new, something off the radar – not something served up to them.
    To implement this assumes that all brands would be able to advertise.
    To have a limited choice would be too generic and take away the joy of search – half the fun is the feeling that you’ve discovered something before everyone else has. (That’s contributed to the success of a little company you might know called Google.)
    Sure, they can still search on their own, but the more they find something they prefer by looking outside of your behaviourally-targeted advertising the less they’ll see value in using the service in the future.

Trading on information is probably Facebook’s best chance at actually making money since the realisation that the most successful advertising involving Facebook has been through apps, which are free to create.

But most people will feel a slight discomfort about having someone else own their information. It’s one thing to post it to share with your friends and another thing to have it being sold to corporations.

Take a leaf from Google’s philosophy… Don’t be evil.

Good design makes choices clear
September 5, 2008, 11:30 pm
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Loving AIGA’s ‘Get out the vote’ campaign, where designers were invited to create posters motivating Americans to vote.

In particular I liked this one, targeted at the apathetic Gen Y segment. Unfortunately I can’t get a jpg that does it justice, but it’s very clever, and has a message for you whether you’re close up or far away. Mostly it appeals to my cynical Gen Y sense of humour.

Social advertising is one of the toughest as nobody likes being told what’s good for them, so this collection is worth checking out!

Generalisation:: why?
August 16, 2008, 8:04 am
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You were born between [year x] and [year y]. Your perception of marriage and sex is different to that of your parents. Due to your economic experiences, your purchase decisions are motivated by [price/feelings] and your job preferences are based on not [working conditions/pay] but [pay/working conditions].

Sound familiar? That’s you being put in your place. Your place in time, that is. Hi, I’m in Generation Y:: and I want to know why.

To look at the reasons behind a name, you need its history. Ironically, Generation Y’s origin comes from the creation of Generation X. Preceded by the Baby Boomers and the War Generation (apparently there is only one generation which has been affected by war), it was deemed that a new term was needed which was more acceptable than ‘young people these days’.

But does that warrant making the year you were born in comparable to a disease? Why do we need to generalise across age groups? After all, as one marketing magazine pointed out, ’18 to 36 is no longer a target market, it’s a family reunion’.

It’s an extension of the horoscopes phenomenon, that somehow you can account for deficiencies or quirks of your personality by analysing one thing you can’t change:: when you were born. True enough, unless you’re a diehard for the nature side, you would expect that the social and economic environments prevailent within a culture will have significant effects on the behaviours of its members. And increasingly, with the greater sophistication of ICTs, ‘youth culture’ originating mostly from the US is spreading across the world and transcending cultures – a British band touring Australia recently sang the theme song of a popular children’s show (Postman Pat) in Norwegian, with great acclaim.

Still the concept strikes me as being very white/western – like most marketing concepts it assumes that you live in a developed nation, grew up with the same influences, in an age of lengthened prosperity. Having spent some time in countries like China, the young people there are clearly not the stereotypical Y-genners. Take jobs, for example – where generation Y is meant to make choices mostly motivated by short-term benefits, flexibility and benefits outside of pay, many Chinese youth are still looking for respect, security and income (which for many, in short, means medicine). It’s partly that they haven’t had the same stability in politics and economics that their ‘Western’ peers have enjoyed, but also there is a greater emphasis within the Chinese culture of respecting elders and their wishes. Where the Y generation is meant to be notorious for its individualistic streak, China’s youth have become known for the only-child syndrome (where as there are very few grandchildren, one child can be singularly doted on by as many as six of their elders).

Then again, this is just another part of the big marketing game they call ‘life’: we need to segment, target how we present ourselves to others based on distinct characteristics we identify. At the most basic level it’s demographics, but most of the time it’s just a generalised stereotype that we use because it’s just so much easier (and more politically correct).

So for anyone who lauds generation generalisations as the ultimate truth, I have this… To the mass media, you are the perfect believer of their wiki-truth amongst the modern market of info-consumers. Or maybe, in true Generation Y style, I just don’t want to be put in a box…