Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Crossing The Generational Chasm

Mark Federman has a theory. He believes that people who are 22 and younger are substantially different than the rest of us because they are the first generation didn't know anything but the networked way. As opposed to say the rest of us who were impacted by digital and had to change and adapt to this new cultural reality. We might live in it, but we don't breath it in an invisible manner as they do - (technology for them being biology and all that sort of stuff)...

If Mark is correct (And I will leave it to him to do a much better job at pointing you to references for his thesis), this is a very important insight that we should all pay a great deal of attention to.

Traditionally marketers look at behaviour linearly. We do X when we are young, then we start to grow up and our patterns start to change to look more and more like the generation older than us. Sure there are some differences but generally speaking, we all follow the same path.

If 22 year olds (who, for any product marketers out there, are going to be 27 in five years) truly have a different cultural reality than the rest of us, what are the chances they will follow this same linear path? If they don't use email and they don't watch primetime TV on the TV or in Primetime, what are the chances that those habits will start to form later on? If they are networked by nature, how is this going to change the way they live and work?

Just some thoughts and questions I've been thinking about for a sunny Tuesday morning....


Mark said...

Yes, these were the questions that a room full of marketing/advertising/PR/branding CEOs were asking me when I spoke to them about the Generation Gap of literally historic proportions that we are now in the midst of.

As it turns out, these and related questions in several fields have been coming up in requests for my time and attention lately - business management, education system reform, research paradigms, as well as consumer marketing. If I may quote McLuhan, "The medium, or process, of our time — electric technology — is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life. It is forcing us to reconsider and re-evaluate practically every thought, every action, and every institution formerly taken for granted. Everything is changing — you, your family, your neighbourhood, your education, your job, your government, your relation to “the others.” And they’re changing dramatically.” (from The Medium is the Massage)

The basic rule of thumb is, if whatever institution, practice, or way-of-doing-things was conceived before the 1990s (and especially if it was conceived before the 1950s, or even 1900s - like our education system), then it is already obsolete relative to the way the world actually is.

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