Thursday, October 12, 2006

Generation @

I was recently asked to write a "thought piece" for mobile phones and the youth market. I used this "Youth of Today" document from ChangeThis and a Business Week article "The MySpace Generation" as part of my inspiration.

The next generation does not see a difference between on and offline. For them digital technology is not a channel, but an intrinsic part of life. It’s how they organise themselves, interact with friends and express themselves. However it still remains a tool – it is a means to an end.

The universal driver is to feel belonging, to be able to identify with a scene, an attitude or group. The children of “Generation @” are Skaters, Riders, Townies, Technos, Goths and Geeks. Finding a sense of identity is paramount. And technology is the key to finding it. Marketers speak to the youth audience as a homogenous mass, yet they see themselves in clearly segmented groups that have strict attitudinal and behavioural demarcations.

Their attention is divided and reactive to the myriad incoming communications they receive via their handsets and computers, so they’re hyper-distractible. As a result they’ve become a generation highly adept at dodging messages, not listening long enough to hear and also filtering out what’s not important to what they’re doing. They’ve evolved a 6th sense for spotting fakes – obvious ploys to infiltrate their world for commercial purposes rarely work (Google will need to handle YouTube very delicately if it wishes to continue to see exponential growth).

The next stage of connection for this youth audience is predictable – as accessing the internet and digital content via mobile handsets becomes a more and more plausible option, “Generation @” will be conducting the vast majority of their inter-human connections via their handset. This will correspond to a significant revenue opportunity for whomever is providing the handsets & network services.

Retail trends away from ‘price’ to ‘authenticity’ are highly relevant to this audience – they want to buy into a genuine story, something they can identify with and believe in. When they shop they’re seeking an experience. They want to be able to try products, get some proper advice and be treated with respect – witness the success of Nike Town and the ever-burgeoning Apple Store retail experience.

In summary, there is huge potential with “Generation @” to be the provider of choice for the identity-giving technology they crave. Delivering an authentic experience is the key to this, playing on their terms – creating a virtual store in Second Life will get a conversation started with the right audience, but if it is not delivering something exceptional, then the conversation won’t go quite as you planned.

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