Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Satisfying the 10 Cravings of a New Generation of Consumers

Lisa Johnson and Cheri Hanson have a 2 part article that describes our culture:
Satisfying the 10 Cravings of a New Generation of Consumers
Part 1, Part 2.
Regardless of your career description or geography, it's a safe bet you've heard these headlines:
  • MySpace—the highly addictive online social networking venue dominated by teens and young adults—will soon give iTunes a run for its (considerable) money by selling digital songs from approximately 3 million independent bands.
  • The Chicago band OK Go ascended from relative anonymity to international fame at lighting speed and recently performed its song, "Here It Goes Again," at the MTV Video Music Awards. The group's funny, low-budget treadmill dance routine became one of the most popular videos on the YouTube Web site.
  • Women in dressing rooms nationwide are wriggling into skinny jeans this fall and asking themselves, "do these make my hips look big?" Previously the uniform of rockers and avant-garde artists, drainpipe denims have now hit suburban shopping malls from coast to coast.
It would be easy to dismiss these tidbits as random pieces of pop culture—merely passing trends, business moves, and marketing plans. But there's a very real code at work behind the headlines. There's a new group of renegade, passionate consumers who are changing the rules of the marketplace: Meet the Connected Generation.

A Brave New Market
Baby Boomers may still hold the purse strings, but these savvy 18-40-year-olds are changing the way all of us do business. It doesn't matter whether you're a rock band, a fashion designer, a nonprofit organization, or a sporting goods outlet, you and your team need to understand what makes the Connected Generation tick.

Why the Connected Generation? They're connected to technology and their social networks around the clock. They're all but immune to traditional advertising and will only pull in the products and services that they want. In fact, this group of primarily Gen X and Y consumers has 10 highly specific cravings that drive their behavior.

The news tidbits from the beginning of this story provide evidence of just a few of those cravings—underground information, brilliant design, loose community ties, and in-the-know editors and filters—at work in the marketplace....

1. Shine the spotlight: Extreme personalization gives marketing a new face
The Connected Generation is clamoring for personal recognition. They're itching to stand out, stand up, and be celebrated with their names in lights (or print or pixels). Brands that tap into this powerful need with highly creative efforts will get not only great buzz, but a whole new level of loyalty and brand ownership to match.

2. Raise my pulse: Adventure takes its place as the new social currency
There is a new premium placed on venturing into the world, collecting exotic adventures and memories, and pushing personal limits. Customers are seeking highly interactive encounters that teach and challenge and in the process, give them personal insight, and explore who they are. Today, more brands are responding to this craving for adventure by offering fresh, unique, and easy-to-access experiences. From classes on stiletto-shoe to test-driving new careers, it has never been easier to raise your pulse.

3. Make loose connections: The new shape of "families" and social networks
The Connected Generation has embraced technology to build social and professional networks with a brave new structure. This generation is rejecting traditional associations and club-style memberships in favor of loose connections that more accurately reflect their interests, lifestyles, and busy days. Brands need to understand how to interact with these powerful new social structures if they want to stay hot and stay in the loop.

4. Give me brand candy: Everyday objects get sharp, delicious, intuitive design
Design has emerged as a sign of the good life. The look and feel of objects, places, and things is becoming increasingly important. Design is shifting paradigms and spurring people everywhere to rethink established products and industries. Design, along with its strategic twin innovation, has become a vital tool to stand out and stay strong in an increasingly competitive market.

5. Filter out the clutter: Editors and filters step into a new role of prominence
In a world that's inundated with choices, editing is a critical market phenomenon and an important process in our daily lives. Consumers rely on editors to sift through the raw data and identify the top picks. As a result, many savvy brands are learning to build editing mechanisms into their brands, products, and Web sites. In today's globalized world, it feels good to be "in the know" and to avoid costly and frustrating purchases....

...Before we move on to the last five, there are two critical principles to understand about the Connected Generation.

Reconstructing the Market
When a band goes from dancing on treadmills in a low-budget video clip to performing for the MTV Video Music Awards in a matter of weeks, you know there's a change in the air. Clearly, underground trends and finds have always filtered their way from the fringes into the mainstream—especially if you're talking fashion or music. What's different today is that the Connected Generation is completely sidestepping the mainstream. Thanks to tightly knit peer networks and online technology, indie bands, for example, don't need to sign record deals. They can build a fan base on MySpace, pack their local shows, and post pay-per-download digital files. No middleman, no loss of control.

The new marketplace favors connected brands with three essential components — community, content, and commerce. Think about MySpace again. This popular networking portal has content (teens and young adults posting their profiles, uploading photos, writing blogs, and sharing messages), community (a dedicated group of users who visit multiple times each day and conduct vast portions of their lives online), and now, with its music sales, commerce. The brand is unstoppable.

Breakaway Brands
To crack this new market code and understand the 10 cravings, we studied hundreds of brands that are experiencing runaway success. From Toyota's Scion to Jones Soda to Wikipedia and beyond, these are the products, services, and organizations that are attracting an unprecedented degree of buzz and customer loyalty.

We found that the most successful brands not only complete the three-part business model—community, content, and commerce—but also have implemented a "pull" philosophy in their sales and marketing efforts.

The "go big, go loud, go often" approach just doesn't cut it with the Connected Generation, which is all but immune to traditional advertising. If the technology to block out unwanted marketing messages does not already exist (such as TiVo and podcasts), they will create it. But, they will pull in anything that is fun or interesting and adds value to their busy lives.

The Connected Generation desires peer-like relationships with the brands they love. Treat them with respect, satisfy their cravings, and they will respond with unmatched enthusiasm and spread the word faster and farther than ever before.

Here are the last five cravings that drive this powerful new consumer group:

6. Keep it underground: The rejection of push advertising and the rising influence of peer-to-peer networks
The Connected Generation has grown up feeling saturated with advertising and marketing. They are suspicious of ordinary "push" campaigns and gravitate toward integrated, contextual offerings from trusted friends and members of their networks.

A select group of people discovers something new, from shoes to bands to politics to neighborhoods, and translates it to satisfy a much wider audience. This is the way of the underground.

7. Build it together: Connected citizens explore their creative power and influence change
There are currently one billion people connected online around the world. With so many people conducting large portions of their lives online, we've only just begun to tap into the power of Web-based networks.

The Connected Generation is becoming intoxicated by its growing ability to spark change—both as consumer groups and as end users. This awareness is spurring mass creativity and launching a power shift away from companies and into the hands of consumers.

8. Bring it to life: Everyday activities are orchestrated to deliver a dramatic sense of theater
From beverages to designer fashions to dinnertime solutions, brand theater is popping up in virtually every industry as savvy companies deliver compelling and entertaining new experiences.

Brand theater allows companies of all kinds to create emotional connections with their customers. It takes typical experiences a few steps forward by engaging the senses, the imagination, and the spirit, and transforms routine experiences into riveting entertainment.

9. Go inward: Spiritual hunger and modern media find common ground
Increasingly, the meaningful life is defined as the spiritual life, and spirituality has become a dominant value among today's consumers. Companies and media channels are introducing new products, services, and forums to support this spiritually hungry generation. The Connected Generation has embraced modern media and blurred the lines between secular and sacred, finding spirituality in all aspects of their lives.

10. Give back: Redefining volunteerism and the meaning of contribution
There's a new spirit of volunteerism in the air, led by a young Connected Generation that has new ideas about how to give back. Today's volunteers want to give their time and talent instead of simply writing a check. Modern volunteer associations combine fresh structures with fun people and a chance to make direct, meaningful connections with the community. These new giving models are igniting a generation and making their volunteer efforts convenient, high impact, and more emotionally satisfying.

Lisa Johnson and Cheri Hanson are cofounders of the Reach Group (, a boutique consultancy that provides fresh insights and clear thinking about the Connected Generation. With three divisions—ReachWomen, Reach X and Y, and Content Strategy—the Reach Group provide tools for engaging the modern marketplace.

No comments: