Guest post by Matt Cheuvront, founder of MATTCHEVY and part of Gen Y

What is the first thing you think of when you hear “Gen Y”? Almost unanimously, the first adjective that comes to mind is “entitled.” Yep, Generation Y is arrogant, conceited, ungrateful, and demands instant gratification. We know more than you, we’re better than you, so if you could just accept that, we’d all be a lot better off, and working together would be so much easier.

That arrogance is an exaggeration, but let’s face it, those of us born in the ‘80s get a pretty bad rep. To many, we’re almost seen as an entirely different species.

There’s no denying the stereotypes. They’re out there, and they’re there for a reason. Gen Y includes about 77 million people and, like it or not, we are the future of the economy, we are the future of society, we are husbands, wives, parents, CEOs…

So instead of resisting and denying, why not use Gen Y stereotypes to your advantage?

We’re over-entitled, but it’s your fault!

“Entitled” is synonymous with Gen Y, but did you ever stop and think that YOU made us this way?

For my slightly older audience, do you remember that “Baby on board” sticker you slapped on the back of yourminivan? That baby on board was me, it was the new account manager you just hired at your ad agency. Back “in the day,” our parents thought we were SO special that they told the entire world to stop, slow down, and be careful around their vehicle because there was such a special Gen Y baby on board.

Now for the Gen Y crowd. Remember those fun races on Field Day back in middle school? I have at least 10 blue Field Day ribbons and, folks, I was not fast, at all (sore subject).

The point is, from a very early age we’ve been made to feel very (very) special. We’ve been rewarded for effort instead of results. And that has carried over to the way we live and work today.

The key in dealing with and targeting Gen Y isn’t to say “You’re not special,” but rather to encourage Millennials in saying, “Yes, you ARE special, and we expect very special things from you”.

We roam in packs

The definition of community is much different to folks like me than it used to be. Community very much exists online nowadays – and within our communities, we tend to roam in packs (ehem, flocks). Go ahead and call us sheep. We’re in tune with what others are doing around us and are quick to follow.

Your task is to find the true thought leaders, those people (online and off) who can be your biggest advocates and evangelize your brand. Get something in the hands of these people. Send a sample of your product, develop an incentive or referral program that encourages your greatest customers to actively promote for you.

We’re selfish philanthropists

Gen Y puts an emphasis on doing good and supporting companies and brands that are genuinely serving an added bottom line. Cause marketing is real and it’s only going to continue to develop as an important marketing medium in today’s economy.

But we’re not as quick to help if there isn’t a return on investment. Selfish though it may be, we want people to know when we’ve done something good. And we’ll tell them through our blogs, on Twitter, you name it.

Use this to your advantage. Make it easy for your customers to share via social media when they’ve made a purchase. Develop an incentive-based word-of-mouth marketing program. Rewarding your most loyal supporters a little will pay big dividends.

So maybe we’re not so bad, after all? Then again, maybe we are. Either way, we’re not going anywhere, we do have a lot to offer, so, yeah, use Gen Y stereotypes to your advantage.

Matt Cheuvront is an avid blogger, entrepreneur, and founder of MATTCHEVY – a Chicago-based online marketing consultancy and web design firm. Check out his personal blog, Life Without Pants, and swing by to say hello on Twitter.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich