Recent research by Scarborough, among others, confirms that consumers who make up Generation Y (aka Millennials, those born between early to mid-1980s and early to mid-1990s) are indeed still buying, but they are also more selective than other generations. Aside from deep discounts, what grab their attention are the tried-and-true and the status-saving must-haves.

So it's time to figure out how to become one or the other—either trusted staple or the next fly thizzle—because deep discounts, as you know, are only temporary.

Rather than attempt to propose the secret to the hearts and minds of Gen Y, let's look at why some of your efforts to reach this demographic might be going amiss.

We had a chat with Josh Shipp, aka Hey Josh, the youth speaker who has taken on a role that is part older brother, part "Dear Abby," and who is all abuzz among teens and young adults. He's figured out what it takes to really connect with this demographic and how to earn its attention and trust.

He shared with us a few tactics that could be killing your game.

1. You're speaking to them as if they're teenagers and not twenty-somethings

Nobody likes being spoken down to, but to really connect with this group, you need to take it a step further—actually talk above their age levels. If they're 15, think of them as 25, and if they're 25, make it 30.

"They don't get a lot of that, so when people do treat them as if they're older, there's usually a good response," Shipp explained. "I like to be sarcastic and play to subtleties, and it works well. It shows that I respect them and think they're intelligent enough to hang and get what I say."

Similarly, a lack of authenticity is viewed as an attempt to undermine their intelligence. This group, for the most part, has been taught to believe in and think for themselves. When someone like Bristol Palin gets up to publicly promote abstinence, the message not only won't stick, it will be mocked because it assumes members of this group are less than capable of discerning the contradiction or connecting the dots.

The same goes for infomercial-like shenanigans; they've seen it before, been there and done that, and they have better things to do than deal with your ruse. That's not to say that dry corporate-speak will work, either. Quite the contrary, they still want to be entertained, but that presentation has to feel real and true to your brand. The same Nobody who doesn't like being underestimated doesn't exactly like to be associated with wannabes, either. This group's got reputations to maintain, after all...

2. You're using text—and not even SMS text

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that the average American 18-year-old has already spent a good 25,000 hours in front of the tube. Is it any wonder, then, that young people today are so visually oriented? Present them with a block of text, and their attention tends to quickly wander elsewhere before much of that message has a chance to seep in.

TV remains the most effective channel for connecting with Gen Y. A recent study commissioned by OTX Europe found that 60% of 12-24-year-olds in five markets (US, UK, Germany, India, and Japan) say their brand purchasing decisions are influenced by television ads and that TV appearances actually elevate a brand's status.

Online, it's video that takes precedence among this demographic. "Any of my posts that include video get ten times more traffic than my wittiest text articles," said Shipp, who also noted that engagement is further boosted anytime he allows comments and feedback or input on future videos.

Mobile marketing is also yielding impressive results. InsightExpress has found that mobile campaigns can push purchase intent among 18-24-year-olds nine times more than online campaigns can.

3. You're not giving them something to be passionate about

With plenty of energy to expend and a network of friends to impress, teens and young adults are constantly in search of the next cool thing to become fervent about. If your brand isn't one of the lucky few that effortlessly fills that niche, you might try one or more of the following tactics:

  • Offer up a good story: "Kids don't relate to companies or brands," said Shipp, "they relate to stories." This penchant stems partly from their desire to be entertained but also from a need to identify with and understand where a company is coming from. The OTX Europe study also found that the majority of 18-24-year-olds are well concerned with a brand's history, and 51% find a brand more desirable if it has been "good for a long time."

    Providing this group with an intriguing, meaningful—and yes, authentic—story that they can associate with and recount to their friends is one key to sparking that connection.
  • Connect with a good cause: Don't have a great story to tell? Align your brand with a nonprofit or social movement that does. Young people prefer and buy into brands that support the causes they believe in, including the environmental, "green" movement. The key here, however, is to not expect a premium for doing so. Advocacy and goodwill can take your brand a long way, but price still prevails in the end.
  • Foster a group mentality: Creating your own cultural movement can also light that fire. We're not talking about a branded customer community or Facebook group, but rather the notion of a tribe with a collective outlook or goal that feeds the need to belong or take part in something larger than oneself.

    Think of Obama and his campaign for change: He gave young people a principle to latch onto and justify their fight. Another recent example is Kraft's "We are Miracle Whip" campaign, which aims to instill a sense of self-respect and even smugness among those who bypass the aioli for old-school mayo, using expressions such as "we will not blend in" and "we will not tone it down."

    To make it even more official, you might also try offering up themed gear (did we mention that free stuff rocks with this group?) such as T-shirts and hats, stickers, or banners for their blogs—anything that signifies a badge of identity to build the alliance and give them something tangible to show off to their friends.
  • Let them strut their stuff: Face it, these kids might have better ideas for promoting your wares than you do. So why not give them the opportunity to show off and build their resumes, for a prize, of course? Not only might you engage them personally, but because they'll also want to flaunt their skills you'll give them reason to broadcast your brand and summon others to your site in order to view their creations.

    Several organizations, including Pepsi and Tourism Queensland, have held contests calling for video submissions, which are then displayed on YouTube and elsewhere for, in some cases, millions to see. Another example: the "his and hers" undies design contest that sexual-health-advocate ISIS Inc. used to engage young adults and get them to open up about sex.

4. You're overestimating the culture shift

Sure, this generation may have characteristics different from those of other groups, but at the end of the day basic truths still hold true: Whether they're 14 or 24, they seek love, friendship, acceptance, and respect. They want to look good, feel cool, and have a fun time socializing with friends. And if you can give them that, or any piece of that, and do it well, they will respond.

So rather than spend your time dreaming up the next big publicity stunt, why not get back to the fundamentals—communicating the real value you can provide—and demonstrate that you've got them covered in a way that no one else can even come close to.

Want to learn how the Obama campaign successfully used these principles? Check out The Obama Playbook: How Digital Marketing and Social Media Won the Election. As a Premium Member, you have free access to hundreds of Premium articles, case studies, templates, tools, research, and "how-to" guides to help you rapidly build effective marketing programs.

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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via