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. Below are the first five of the 10 cravings outlined in our new book, Mind Your X's and Y's: Satisfying the 10 Cravings of a New Generation of Consumers, from Simon & Schuster's Free Press. Watch for the next five in an upcoming article.
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.