Your brand's future may depend on connecting with Gen Y

They’re 16 to 24 years old. They’re brash, mature in life experience, and difficult to shock. Collectively, this coming-of-age group within Generation Y is millions of consumers strong, and if your brand doesn’t speak their language, it may fall behind with this group as its spending power grows.

Packaging profoundly impacts which brands Gen Yers select, as they’re ignoring many of the traditional marketing messages that inundate them. Michelle Lawton is senior vice president, design planning, at Sterling Brands (, which has conducted recent market research on Gen Y. She believes marketers and package designers who understand individual differences in people making up this much-sought-after group can create packaging that sells brands by connecting with their lifestyles. Lawton describes seven archetypes that define Gen Y:

Earth. Gen Yers who fit this category are straightshooters and to the point.

Eclectic. They’re in touch seemingly with everyone online. They’re random shoppers who like to mix brands.

Carefree. These young people love fun and seek adventure. Their visual language is casual, happy, and light.

Glam. Young women who fit this archetype are consumed with luxury and aspiration.

Bling. This is the Glam’s male counterpart. He, too, craves luxury and boldly communicates his success in life.

Wild. These are nonconformists who favor products outside the mainstream.

Drive. Achievers and strivers, challenge-seekers, and independent thinkers define this group.

Packaging for the leading energy drinks and brands, such as SoBe and Ethos bottled water, are examples where marketers "get it" with Gen Y. Intrigued? E-mail Michelle Lawton at and ask about her presentation "Boogy Woogy: Understanding Gen Y."

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