Book Review October 2006
Reviewed by Glenn Townes
Seeking new and innovative strategies to market products and sell services is always at the top of the agenda of any true marketing and sales professional. The happy consumer, these professionals reason, is the one who will buy, and constant innovations in marketing will yield ways to make that consumer happy.
A new book by marketing guru and entrepreneur Lisa Johnson, CEO of ReachWomen L.L.C., espouses selling strategies targeted toward the biggest block of consumers in America, the Generation Xers, the 18- to 40-year-olds. Mind Your X’s and Y’s: Satisfying the 10 Cravings of a New Generation of Consumers outlines cogent and salient marketing strategies for anyone, from a Fortune 500 sales force to the small business owner. Johnson suggests that businesses begin by planning for the future and specifically targeting the Gen X market.
These young consumers, she believes, are smart, savvy and sophisticated. They are not swayed by traditional advertising methods and they’re turned off by the hard sell. They are always “on,” connected through cell phones, text messaging, Blackberries, MySpace.com and blogging. Because they are inundated by a constant flow of information, they are continuously multitasking, upgrading and filtering out what doesn’t interest them. Linked by a worldview that embraces a spirit of communication, cooperation, self-expression, creativity, do-it-yourself empowerment and limitless possibility, this “connected generation” is not content to watch from the sidelines. They are actively reinventing today’s marketplace.
Johnson, who has devoted the last two decades to studying this generation, writes, “In the next ten years, most members of Generation X will turn forty. Historically, these are the peak earning and spending years. This generation, joined by members of Gen Y (people born between 1980 and 1997), will soon be filling higher executive positions as boomers retire, while Gen X’s overall numbers will catapult even younger workers high up the promotion chain.”
She explains that marketers should keep these facts in mind when designing new campaigns and slogans for both existing and new products and services. In addition, Johnson recommends specific niche-marketing techniques that will highlight a product and perhaps appeal to the audience at the same time. For example, something as simple as promoting the color of a new product can appeal to a particular audience and boost revenues. “While colored phones such as the hot pink Razr have created a fashion stir, designers at Motorola are also exploring color as a communication. The idea of a color vocabulary may even shape how we use cell phones,” Johnson writes.
There could be, for example, a technique that would allow recipients to identify callers by the color generated by specific ring tones. Callers would respond to a call based on the color flashing on the cell phone.
While much of the information contained in Mind Your X’s and Y’s is a bit too much ensconced in technology, surprisingly most of it is not new. Some of Johnson’s suggestions are recasts of old notions with new spins. For example, in the chapter entitled “Sift Through the Clutter,” the author reiterates the age-old adage that the customer is always right, with a slightly extended explanation. She implores marketers and business owners alike to “have a clear understanding of the customers’ experiences and motivation behind the use of the products. … provide a carefully edited inventory.”
The book is both proactive and practical. However, at times the author may overwhelm readers with a seemingly endless litany of numbers, including demographics and sales and revenue statistics from various organizations and extensive research studies. While the data are informative and support some of her theories, for readers seeking a relatively simple marketing strategy, this barrage of numbers may be confusing.
The author sums up all of her theories in a “Top Ten” list of how entrepreneurs and business gurus can ultimately satisfy the voracious cravings of the new generation of consumers. The list coincides with the titles of some of the chapters of the book and neatly wraps Johnson’s long-winded suggestions into a succinct, easy-to-read conclusion.
Mind Your X’s and Y’s is a solidly written business book that will inform and offer niche-marketing advice. However, the text is periodically dull and the information becomes somewhat redundant. In the end, the best sales person is one who can appeal to the masses. Therefore, any well-executed plan that assists a business in achieving this goal is a good thing.