Generational Influences
Does your sales plan consider generational marketing? Here's why it should-they're all friends.
"Some kids in my grade know about and care about auto recycling,” said Cole Reinert, son of ARA’s Immediate Past President Doug Reinert. “But most kids only know about recycling paper, plastic, and glass. Kids come up to me and say, ‘Doesn’t your dad own the junkyard?’ I try to explain to them that it’s an auto salvage facility and it helps the earth and people in many ways, but it’s hard because I never have enough time for them to get the point.”

With this in mind, Cole, age 11, decided to take action on Earth Day this year and help his Dad get the word out about their environmentally-friendly business, Chuck’s Auto Salvage in Douglassville, PA. Cole took it upon himself to set up interactive games targeting kids from five to eighteen years old (in fact, the games appealed to kids of all ages).

Cole’s Story

For one game, Cole labeled eleven different kinds of fluids and two solids (mercury switches and catalytic converter) and labeled them with flip up cards. The person playing the game tried to identify them.

In addition to these fun and informative games, Chuck’s Auto Salvage hosted a recycle day where the community dropped off items to be recycled such as tires, anti-freeze, and other materials. According to Doug Reinert, over 112 families took part in the event and it served as a successful way to educate the public about auto recycling.

“I think that the games on Earth Day were a good idea so kids can learn about the importance of recycling car parts and the way members of ARA do it, while having some fun,” said Cole. “They can interact with hands-on guessing games and when they’re finished they know a little bit more about how many things are recycled.”

Not only did it prove effective in educating the public about the role a automotive recycling takes in preserving the earth, it also attracted media attention. The local television station, WFMZ, covered the story, further raising public awareness about the auto recycling industry.

Evan’s Initiative

Not too far away in Stoystown, PA, another eleven-year-old student, Evan Barron (son of Trish Barron, an employee at Stoystown Auto Wreckers), decided to educate his class by using material from ARA’s Green Recycled Parts Program (

“The recycling presentation was a real eye opener for the 5th grade students and teachers,” said Evan. “They didn’t know much about the auto recycling industry; most thought wrecked cars equaled a junkyard. The presentation showed the wrecks and the recycling of them to be a very interesting, organized, and earth-friendly process. They were also impressed that used motor oil could heat a building. 

“I’m interested in recycling autos. Being raised in a recycling family, I was able to get pictures, information, and to talk to the workers. I wanted to show my classmates about the family business and how there is a lot more to recycling than just aluminum cans and plastic bottles. There are so many every-day things that we can reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

XYZs of Marketing

Interestingly, the passion to get their peers to understand and take part in saving the environment that these two students exhibited, along with their initiative to take action, corresponds with recent research on reaching Generation Y (also called Millennials, born between 1977 and 1998) and Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2010). Much data is now available to help with branding and marketing to these preteen to teen age groups.

Harris Interactive online magazine research states that the number of preteens and teens using a social media site has increased, with one in four between ages 8 and 21 visiting a site at least once per week (44%, Harris Interactive Youth Pulse 2007 study). They also found that six out of ten 13 to 21 year olds worry about the environment and that the world is getting polluted. It appears that the environment is a major focus for Gen Y – not just on Earth Day and America Recycles Day, but all year round.

According to Harris Interactive research, they worry more about pollution than they do about AIDS, poverty, or equal rights. Interestingly though, 30% of them say they do not recycle which is higher than previous generations: Gen X (20%) and Baby Boomers (23%). When asked why not, they stated that they don’t believe it makes an impact or difference.

Alloy Media + Marketing’s 2006 College Explorer study conducted by Harris Interactive found that 33% of college students prefer brands that give back to the community and are environmentally safe or that are connected to a cause.

UK-based digital agency Amaze, conducted a study that showed that 69% of teens say they could be persuaded to engage with brands via social networking if done in the right way. The top ways they said to get their attention include offers and coupons (44%), competitions (37.5%), discounts on future purchases (25%), and access to new products before launch (25%).

Why Should You Care About This Right Now?

There are a number of reasons to start paying attention to this demographic, and the first number to pay attention to is 80 million. There are approximately 80 million Gen Y consumers; that number exceeds Baby Boomers. Furthermore, this generation – sometimes called the Net Generation or “digital natives” –  is the most technology-savvy group of Americans, a noteworthy trait for all automotive recyclers who rely heavily on Internet sales and social media promotions.

While the Generation Z (Cole and Evan’s group) is somewhat smaller at approximately 30 million, they typically reject “badge brands” which means name-brand is not their first choice, great news for those selling green recycled parts. The product itself is what is important, regardless of marketing campaigns. The Harris study also showed that the 10-15 age group is looking to be engaged.

“I helped to conduct teen focus groups and research on behalf of The Center for Disease Control (CDC) two years ago,” said Jeff Caporizzo, Creative Director, Bates Creative Group. “What we found is that in order to reach this generation you have to respect their voice and be very sensitive to ‘talking down’ or lecturing them.

“We found that they respond to informality and being genuine. You can’t try to adopt their ‘lingo’ because they see right through it. Also, there has to be something in it more than just to make money. If they think it’s just about making money, they turn off,” says Caporizzo. The green recycled parts’ environmental benefits plus the ability to save money will surely appeal to this generation.

“Generation Z wants to be part of a community and, as far as social media, there’s something exciting about using it for a ‘call to action’ – like let’s go clean up the park and see if we can do it in thirty minutes.”

The demographic that initially adopted social media, the 18 to 35 age group, made it popular yet once it lost its cutting edge and became part of the establishment (where grandparents and parents use it), its appeal waned – a key characteristic of this generation. However, the trend indicates that in order to reach the future generations we will have to become more individualized and that’s where niche magazines and newsletters (such as Automotive Recycling magazine) will gain voice in that age group.

Caporizzo cites Dominos Pizza’s current feedback policy that offers an opportunity for customers to provide immediate feedback, which is promptly posted in Times Square as an example of gaining immediate voice.

Another key factor to consider, according to Caporrizo, is that for the 10 to 15 year old age group, their parents’ influence is huge in their lives – even if they don’t show it.“

We did research for the CDC before they launched their safe driving campaign and found that this group, while on the cusp of getting great freedom to drive themselves wherever they wanted, still say their biggest influence comes from their parents – not their peers,” said Caporrizo. “Parents still provide the greatest role model and carry tremendous influence on their choices. Therefore, if you are trying to sell a brand to that age group you have to include the parents in your approach. Ask yourself what part is targeting the parents?”

Its Good to Be Green

These research findings confirm that the auto recycling industry is in a good position to be relevant and matter to the future generations. Statistically speaking, having a presence on the social media sites would be imperative, although to reach the younger generations carries unique considerations through this medium.

Educating future generations is vital to the future of the industry. Targeted brand awareness starts before the need arises, so one might make the argument that the time to coach a future-gen customer to buy a recycled auto part is before they acquire their first car.

One suggestion is to have a Facebook, Twitter, or Web page for your company that targets these generations, and feeds them information that they might find interesting. Get input from the children of your employees on what to post.

It does make a difference to take the time to visit schools and get involved in your local community with Earth Day or America Recycles events, and/or other times of the year.

The ARA Educational Foundation is creating ways to reach children in elementary and secondary schools. They have been working on Web pages for “Go Kids Green Car,” a segment of the ARA University which will feature tools for teaching resources and games for auto recycling. A digital version of the ARA Coloring Book that is used by auto recyclers for Kindergarten through third grade is under construction. Children will be able to color online and be able to print the pages when they are finished. The site will host a gallery of the children’s work. There will be a prepared resource piece to go with the coloring pages so it can be used in the schools.

Also in the works are plans to develop secondary education resources. All resources will be available through ARA University so that recyclers can offer them at local schools for career day or Earth Day events, or as the need arises.

“We are looking for ways to make automotive recycling a viable career choice for students,” said Ginny Whelan.

We currently are taking part in a joint project with the Collision Repair Foundation where we’re setting a goal to pledge $100,000 in parts. The Collision Repair Foundation uses the parts for extreme school makeovers for technical training.” 

Whelan says she is always open to ideas from younger generations. Therefore, she is interested to hear what our “own” young generation representatives have to say about how to reach them.

Evan Barron feels that the best way to reach his age group is by doing a presentation like he did for his class or “maybe even a field trip.”

Cole Reinert says apart from regularly communication with his fellow students about recycling, he gets them involved personally, which draws on their desire for hands-on involvement in activities that involve a small community of people.

“A way that I have taught other kids my age about recycling is by bringing my scout group to the business,” said Cole. “We were working toward a recycling badge and I had the idea to bring them here. Now, lots of scout dens come to Chuck’s to tour and learn about auto recycling. The parents really like it, too. We also have ‘Crusher Parties’ where our friends or the local mom’s club can watch cars being crushed. They love it and we give them the ARA coloring books to learn more.”

His solution is perfect to reach his generation because it involves the parents, who are the main influencers of this demographic.

“I also think kids would be more excited to learn with a video game,” Cole suggests. “They could go into the office and receive a mission and then go out into the salvage yard on an adventure. They could purchase things to help them along the way and so on. I will be working on this for a school project this year.”

Paying attention to social media statistics and trends, and the suggestions of the age group you are trying to reach should help auto recyclers to educate and raise public awareness. It also puts tools in your hand to promote and preserve the auto recycling industry as the green industry it is. All of this helps you not only with future customers but in attracting future employees as well.

Stay tuned for more information on reaching the future generations when we look at the differences between Gen Y and its previous generations, as well as how each generation acts on their beliefs about the green movement in the next issue of Automotive Recycling magazine.

Michelle Keadle-Taylor is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia.

Social Network – Quick Facts

A recent study called the Pew Internet and American Life Project, conducted by the Pew Research Center, looked at the demographics of U.S. social media users and the effect social media had on their life. 

• Overall usage of social media has almost doubled in the last two years. In 2008, 26% of adults were social network users. Two years later, in 2010, that number jumped to 47%.

• The biggest increase was seen in those over 35 years of age, which grew nearly two times as fast as the 18-35 year old group. This makes the average age of social network users 38 as opposed
to 33 two years ago. My Space still attracts the youngest crowd, with the average age being 32.

• The study also puts Facebook as the favorite site, with 92% of all users compared to 29% on My Space, 18% on Linkedln, and 13% on Twitter .

• The most active Facebook users tend to be women.

• 96% of 18-35 year-olds are on a social network. (Kissmetrics)

• 1 in 5 Americans in that age group use Twitter. Eight percent of those users, use Twitter on mobile
devices. (Kissmetrics)

• Facebook usage is up since last year by 40%. (Kissmetrics)

• 65 million Facebook users access the site via their cell phone. (Kissmetrics)

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