Innovators wanted: marketing to generation live

Although many digital marketers are still wrapping their heads around the Millennial Generation, there’s already a new cohort on the rise. Kids born between 1996 and 2010 are sometimes called Gen Z, the post-Millennials, or Generation C (for connected). I prefer to call them Generation Live – the generation that will be always on. And I don’t mean that they’re “always on” some kind of technology – a tablet or the Internet, for example – although that’s part of it. It’s a little more complex for this cohort. Unlike earlier generations, who could turn off their public persona whenever they closed the door of their home, this generation will be public-facing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 a year. They’ll give new meaning to the phrase “all the world’s a stage.”

Seriously: 3 little kids with tablet computers...
Photo credit: MikeMonello

Digital marketers would be wise to start studying this generation now. In fact, if you don’t already have a plan in place to market to them, it may be too late. Common Sense Media released two astounding facts in its recent report, Zero to Eight, Children’s Media Use in America.
  • 38% of children under 2 have used a mobile device for media – compared to 10% two years ago.
  • The percent of children who use mobile devices on a daily basis – at least once a day or more – has more than doubled, to 17% from 8%.

Such rapid change in a short window of time creates an incredible opportunity for mobile advertising and the development of games and apps for children under 2. It’s no wonder that Mashable called Gen Z the most disruptive generation in modern history.

Gen Y and Gen Live Personas

I’m a careful observer of my children – as all parents are – and I’ve noticed subtle differences between my 21-year-old – a Millennial — and my 16-year-old — a member of Generation Live.

The oldest has a substantial offline lifestyle. He prefers a “dumb” phone, which he primarily uses to call and talk to his friends. He’s frugal and hard-working. A combination of traditional and digital media marketing would influence his buying decisions.

My 16-year-old has a substantial online life. He prefers massively open online games to social networks. He prefers sending text messages to phone calls. He’s also frugal, but skilled at purchasing online with a credit card (mine). He gets great grades, but works harder at gaming. It’s not uncommon to find him watching TV, playing a game and doing homework all at once. He’s Generation Live.

What Makes Gen Live Different

Unlike my oldest son, my youngest has no memory of life without the Internet, and thus makes no distinction between his real and virtual worlds. Like the rest of Generation Live, he is comfortable with (over) sharing and expects instant access to games, information, media, and friends. And he doesn’t have to be in front of a computer to be “live.” Most of his “real” (non-gaming) relationships are based in SMS.

A Generation Live kid is conditioned to being a public persona all day and all night. With parents who post birth photos on social networks and advertisers who track their search history, this is likely to be the most exposed generation in history.

As a result, we’re seeing a new set of behaviors and expectations that is quite different from earlier generations. Since Generation Live is accustomed to being watched, their expectations for privacy are likely to be much lower than their Millennial counterparts. While that means more data for marketers, we’ll have to be careful to put it to good use. Gen Live’s expectations for highly relevant and personalized content will rise.

According to the Forrester Research report, “How to Build Your Brand with Generation Z,” they are the first generation to consume more online than offline. In fact, they don’t make a distinction between the online and offline worlds. They expect to “connect anytime, anywhere, and to anyone.” Some other attributes of Generation Live, according to Forrester:

  • 84% multitask in front of the TV with an internet connected device – an average of 1.5 devices;
  • They also trust brands online more than previous generations, but only if those brands are authentic.

This may sound bad to parents, but there are silver linings. The Intelligence Group, in the Cassandra Report, calls Gen Z “a generation of self-starters, multi-thinkers, and pioneers, who will want to carve their own individual paths to success.” The fact that Gen Live will be more entrepreneurial fits with the prediction that freelancers will account for the majority of workers by 2020.

As they become adults, “always on” will take new meaning as technology becomes embedded in everyday things. Mobile phones will be replaced by wearable technology (think Google Glass). And driverless cars might make this the last generation to take driving lessons. I suspect that this generation will approach college differently, too. Rather than have the traditional four-year campus experience, many students will build unique learning environments by cherry-picking the best of massively open online courses and physical classroom experiences.

Innovative Marketing to Gen Live

This has broad implications for digital marketing, which will need to develop new, more innovative methods of reaching buyers. For example:

  • Highly personalized, integrated marketing experiences across several platform (SMS, games, apps, wearables, etc.);
  • A blending of buyer personas – Gen Live will approach work-life purchases as a single objective, creating a fuzzy boundary between B2C and B2B marketing;
  • Experience and relationship marketing over slogans and soundbites;
  • More opportunities to connect, through clothing, cars and appliances.

And of course, we don’t know what new technology will bring. Who could have predicted the impact of Facebook 10 years ago? There’s only so far we can look ahead.

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