20 March 2008

Generation Next loyalty

“Globally, 18-34 year-olds are more likely to rely on technology not only to communicate and shop, but also to enhance their social lives. One-third agree that their social lives would suffer without technology, and that technology has helped them to overcome their shyness.”

[Quote from It’s A Family Affair: The Media Evolution of the Global Family in a Digital Age research report. Research commissioned by Yahoo! and OMD. Project Directors: Mike Hess (OMD) and Michele Madansky (Yahoo! Inc).]

It’s heartening to read research findings which help me make sense of the digital age. Gives me hope that this digital lure is not just another bubble which will burst any day now, but will show us – marketers and social animals alike – a way to plan our future.

Honestly, I am intrigued by what’s happening around me. Particularly, by the lead the 18-34 year-olds have taken to set the direction for the rest of us as far as day-to-day use of digital technology goes.

I realise that, at 48 years of age, I’ve missed the bus. Being digitally connected means spending hours on end with computers, the Internet, mobilephones or iPods – a habit I’m yet to develop. Sadly, I’m from a generation that prefers reading books, listening to music on a large stereo system and meeting friends in person. And even more sadly, I’m still loyal to this lifestyle.

Sure, I have my share of computers, the Internet, mobilephones and online social networks, but it’s never the same as a Generation Next lifestyle. In fact, I was reading an article on the Internet last week that kind of woke me up. The article, called Is Loyalty At Risk? by John Gaffney, explained why – and how – my life is different from Generation Next’s. You’ll understand when you read this extract:

Kids talk on cell phones while they IM, and do all this while they watch TV with 90 percent of the screen, a crawler at the bottom, and promotional messages flashing in the corners.

“Attention,” says Umair Haque, a strategy consultant with Bubblegeneration, “is becoming the scarcest — and so most strategically vital — resource in the value chain. Attention scarcity is fundamentally reshaping the economics of most industries.”

The generation that will control the purse strings of the future is being raised to expect even more from companies while hearing less from them. What the Pew Internet project calls Generation Next (ages 18–26) doesn’t seem to be loyal even to some of the Web sites whose success it has been most responsible for. More than 40 percent of customers who have a profile on MySpace have profiles on Friendster, Facebook, and other sites.

According to Terry Dry, cofounder of teen-focused online promotional firm Fanscape, loyalty is an allegiance to the next big thing and the next cool brand. “Kids don’t feel like they owe you anything,” he says. “They want what they want and they want something for their loyalty even if it’s temporary. Keep delivering value and you have a shot.”

[Citation: Is Loyalty At Risk? by John Gaffney, September 2007, 1to1 Magazine.]

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