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Dialing into Generation Y

Posted By Natalia A. Gromov, Monday, April 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 9, 2012

It is impossible to envision the future of quitlines without thinking about emerging technologies. To lead us wisely into a couple of blog conversations focused on technology’s influence on the future of quitlines NAQC asked Jack Boomer, Director of QuitNow Services for the British Columbia Lung Association, to answer our 6th question: What strategies can we use to engage Generation Y in quit coaching? Here is what Jack had to say…

When we speak of Generation Y or Millennials, we’re talking about those born somewhere between 1981 and 1999 (13 to 31 year olds).

Having come of age in the computer and Internet era, this generation grew up in a culture where the defining theme is "velocity," both in terms of the rate of change and the pace of information. They’re the best educated generation in history, have an incredible amount of tech resources at their disposal and are potentially your next biggest customer.

Today, Generation Y constitutes more than a quarter of Canada’s population. They’re bigger than the Baby Boomer generation (1943 to1961) and six times the size of Generation X (1962 to 1981). They’re also the generation amongst which we find the highest rate of smokers. According to Canadian surveys, more than one in four twenty-something smoke, and the stats are a bit higher in the USA according to the US Surgeon General’s recent report.

Interestingly, our Canadian surveys suggest Generation Y smokes fewer cigarettes than older smokers. And while they try to quit more often than others, they do so with less success. Sounds like Generation Y could use our help, but how do we get through to them?

First, hang out where they do
Social media is where they live. They communicate via Facebook, Twitter and many other social media sites and sleep next to their cell phones. They surf the Web for everything, watch more YouTube than TV, and are used to having a world of answers at their fingertips. If your quit service doesn’t offer multiple service delivery options, especially online, you can forget about having a big impact on reaching this generation.

Second, don’t market to them, engage with them in conversation
Generation Y loves a collaborative environment and thrives when working in groups. Before they buy into anything they do their research. They read online reviews, browse websites, ask questions, and find out the pros and cons of any service. They look first to peers for help and guidance (friends, family, online communities, social networks and chat rooms), not so-called experts. If you want them to choose you for advice and guidance, you better keep an eye on what the world is saying about you online.

Third, provide regular recognition and rewards
Sometimes referred to as the "everybody gets a trophy” generation, Generation Y grew up being rewarded as much for participating as winning. They like regular feedback and are motivated by rewards. In fact, market research confirms this generation rates organizations with loyalty reward programs as the top incentive looked for in exchange for personal information. It also confirms many are happy to promote your service in exchange for rewards. If you’re looking to invest in an awareness-building campaign, make it interactive and reward people for participating and helping spread the word.

Finally, offer multiple service options
To reach Generation Y, I believe the way we deliver our services must mirror the way that Generation Y seeks information and support. We need to expand our definition of quit coaching to include text messaging support, mobile applications, online video chat counselling (using Skype for example) and live chat (see the National Cancer Institute’s version

We need to get out of our comfort zone and meet the tech savvy Generation Y where they live if we are going to make a difference and help them quit smoking.

The BC Lung Association is up to the challenge through the use of QuitNow Services ( – are you?

Tags:  Canada  emerging technologies  Jack Boomer  QuitNow Services  youth 

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