Passing The Friend Test

In dating, the friend test -- how well you mesh with your new flame's friends -- is critical to the future of your relationship.

For marketers targeting Generation Y, the friend test may be just as significant.

Here's why: Adult Millennials are more likely than older generations to say their friends influence their decisions. Not only that, Adult Millennials report their friends wield influence at high levels, similar to Teen Millennials (aged 15-17) and Post-Millennials (aged 8-14).

To utilize this information, marketers need to first understand this influence extends far beyond the obvious fact that Millennials are younger than Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Historical Perspective

Throughout history, friends have always been an important part of human existence, especially to young people. In that sense, Millennials are not unique. However, the connection they feel to their friends, a/k/a their personal network, is unique. Gen Y's connection to their friends could be considered more intense than the historical affinity because it has been ingrained in them since their childhood.



Planning play dates for their Gen Y children was a top priority for Baby Boomer parents. Whether going to Gymboree or meeting neighborhood children at the park, Millennials grew up with a strong sense of the importance of friendship.

As teens and young adults, Millennials caught the social networking bug (and the rest of us eventually got it, too), drawn to the ability to connect with their friends and make new ones, whenever they wanted. Now, consider texting and how Millennials are pretty much always within arm's reach of their cell phones.

It all adds up to this: Gen Y's impassioned relationship with their friends, their cohort perspective, isn't going away. If anything, it's strengthening.

Friend Influence

It is only logical that the Millennial cohort perspective carries over to their consumer behaviors. What their friends think matters to them. Not that Generation Y is comprised of all followers and no leaders; it's really more that they are open to ideas and insights from their personal network.

In our research, we found that about one in five Millennials say their friends are very involved with decisions they make about:

• Movies they watch in theatres

• Their own personal consumer electronics

• TV shows they watch in their home.

In addition, Magid Generational Strategies found that friends are also likely to influence Adult Millennials on vacation destinations, major consumer electronic purchases for the home, home media services, cell phones and cell phone service providers.

The Test Results

The primary ramification of passing the friend test in the dating world is pretty obvious. Their approval means lots of double dates on your calendar. That's actually not all that different from passing the marketing friend test.

If you're targeting Millennials, passing the friend test means there's a lot more customers in your future.

This is welcome news in today's frenzied world of marketing-to-one (behavioral targeting, texting, social media presence and apps). Suddenly, your painstakingly planned market-to-one campaigns are multiplied. Because Millennials routinely influence their friends' decisions, you are once again marketing-to-many.

Another reassuring note -- friend is a relatively broad term for Generation Y. Friends don't have to be people they see every day or even know in real life. Through social media Millennials are continuously creating new friendships and adding to their personal network. All of these non-traditional friends in their large personal networks are also potential influencers, or ambassadors, for your brand.

Marketers are wise to seek to pass this friend test because their calendars will be booked solid with double dates they'll never want to cancel.

2 comments about "Passing The Friend Test ".
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  1. Paul Myers from 540 Productions, August 27, 2011 at 4:56 p.m.

    Would not the "Friend Test" often also be referred to as "Buzz" or "Viral" marketing?

  2. Sharalyn Hartwell from Frank N Magid Associates, Inc., August 27, 2011 at 6:53 p.m.

    @Paul, yes. Essentially that is what the friend test is--buzz. I was just a) trying to be clever and b) trying to illustrate how it's a very real thing with Millennials. Thanks for your comment!

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