When it comes to advertising, Millennials mean money and Generation Xers mean extra cash.

Today’s teens and young adults have a wealth of spending potential. But to capture that younger market, companies are having to reach out in unconventional ways. “Xers’ and Millennials’ heads are turned by the pop and sizzle of the message and by the medium by which that message comes,” said Chuck Underwood, president of the Generational Imperative, which counsels companies on managing age differences.

Advertisers – if they want to make a sale – must learn how to relate to and speak the language of young consumers, he said.

That means shoving traditional marketing methods to the side and using mobile messaging, podcasting and online video to reach Millennials (Gen Yers, ages 24 and younger) and some Gen Xers (ages 25-39).

“Using technology works, but it can backfire,” Underwood said. “These generations have just become too sophisticated of consumers to be tricked into buying any old product.”

Marketers know there’s money to be made among the baby boomer population (77 million people, ages 41-59), but they’re learning that it’s best to catch consumers while they’re young.

Americans under 40 represent 57 percent the population, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. They’ll account for 54 percent by 2020, a time when today’s older Millennials start to hit their 40s.

“It’s a hard market to reach. These are people to whom technology has turned into instinct,” said Todd Copilevitz, director of communication strategy at Dallas-based advertising agency TracyLocke. “We can’t ignore them, but this is real tricky stuff, and advertisers are trying to figure it out.”

That’s not to say that older generations don’t embrace technology. They do, just in different ways.

Plus, many Millennials still pay attention to traditional advertising – billboards, television commercials and print ads. They find them helpful when deciding what to buy, and they share their parents’ cynicism about the messages they see and hear.

“Traditional marketing still has young consumers’ attention but not their trust,” said Chris Charron, vice president at Forrester Research, a market research firm.

In fact, only 7 percent of youth believe that companies tell the truth in advertising, a recent Forrester study found.

So how do you reach a 20-year-old college student who walks across campus with a cell phone and an iPod in hand and uses his computer to study with the television on in the background?

“Very strategically,” laughed Generational Imperative’s Underwood. “They can smell B.S. from several miles away. Don’t try to fool them. If you do, they will eat you for lunch.”

One way to overcome that cynicism is to invite young consumers to provide opinions on how products should be pitched.

“The smart organizations realize that it’s the Gen Xers and not the boomers who should be in the driver’s seat,” said Edward Cotton, account planning director for California ad agency Butler, Shine, Stern and Partners.

Cotton’s firm asked consumers to make video ads for Converse footwear.

Not that the nearly century-old company needed to reinvent itself. Its signature shoe, the high-top canvas sneaker popularized by (and named after) 1920s basketball star Chuck Taylor, has been a youth-culture staple for decades.

They just wanted to try something different, Cotton said.

“Converse is about creativity,” he said. “The idea was that everybody had their own interpretation of what Converse meant to them.”

So far, so good. With nearly 100 videos aired on television and online (www.conversegallery.com), Converse’s Web traffic has gone up, and so have its sales.

“I think there’s a whole idea of self-expression and originality and creativity that is inherent in the brand,” Cotton said.

When it comes to brand loyalty, consumers are less faithful today than they have been in the past. They are more price-sensitive, in part because they have more options.

“Gen Y is a very hands-on, interactive generation – again, thanks to technology – so they expect their brands to deliver in a different way than older people might,” said Beth Thompson, co-author of “Kidfluence.”

No longer does it work to demonstrate how your product is superior to another.

Instead, this generation wants to know how the product fits into their lifestyle and how it can help facilitate their busy lives.

“The definition of a brand is moving from an identification with a message to much more of an identification with an experience,” said Bob Chimbel, president of brand development at TracyLocke. “They want to decide if a product is right for them themselves. They don’t like to be told stuff.”

They are also easily offended by unwanted marketers.

The rise of technology has made it easy to get messages out fast. But too many messages – especially at the wrong times – can prove detrimental.

Take text messaging, for example.

It’s a preferred form of communication for younger groups, and you don’t want to disrupt that, said Chimbel, who is also responsible for Uproar, a marketing agency specializing in kids and teens.

“Just because we can reach these people in a method that they are comfortable with doesn’t mean they will want to accept those messages from an uninvited guest,” he said.

So, what’s more important, the method or the message?

“The message is more important,” Chimbel said. “You can reach me on my cell phone, but if I feel it doesn’t pertain to me, I’ll turn it off.”

The challenge, then, for advertisers is how to use technology in ways that young people want – and will respond to.

It’s too early to know if any new methods actually work.

“This is uncharted waters for companies,” said TracyLocke’s Copilevitz. “They all need to do something, but no one wants to jump in and make a mistake.

“With this age group, we have to take chances.”

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