It seems like sidestepping sensitive gender, culture and even race stereotypes, a strategy that marketers had adopted for many years, isn't the same approach that they should be taking with this growing group of young consumers.
The "Shit People Say" viral videos that occupied most of my news feed page on Facebook last week is the perfect example.
One of the first things I noticed was that people were sharing videos that were making fun of groups or communities that they were a part of. Girls were sharing the "Shit Girls Say" videos, DC residents were sharing the "shit people in dc say" videos, my web designer friends were sharing the "shit web designers say" videos, etc…
Gen Y isn't afraid to poke fun at themselves. In fact, I think that Gen Y actually enjoy self-depreciating humor and are even happy to pass the joke on.
In fact, some organizations have recognized this phenomenon and have used it to reach their desired audience. Going back to the “Shit People Say” viral videos, one would easily notice that some of the videos were created by organizations, featuring content that poked fun at the exact group of people that they are trying to attract. For instance, the “shit cyclists say” video was created by peopleforbikes, an organization that aims to unite cyclists to champion the cause of “improving the future of bicycling”. As of today, the video has more than 548,000 views. Not surprisingly, a quick scan through the comments section showed that a significant number of viewers of the video were cyclists, suggesting that the organization was successful in its attempt to reach out to cyclists.
However, I strongly believe that it is essential for marketers to realize that this genre of humor that seem to resonate with Gen Y straddles a very fine line between being humorous and offensive. Extensive research on what is and isn't offensive should never be neglected because while being open to self-depreciation, Gen Y isn't particularly forgiving toward marketing boo-boos. One misstep and organizations might find their video being circulated for the wrong reasons.