Weekly Comment: From the Y Generation to the ‘Y Not’ Generation

Weekly Comment: From the Y Generation to the ‘Y Not’ Generation

The latest Hard to Measure Roundtable this week (on ‘Embracing Change’) threw up an interesting point (brought up by attendee Cliff Fluet) — when sharing your experience and life becomes automatic, as is true for the generation growing up now, when do brands start seeing their customer relationships as important as the transactions that follow?

This shift, from the ‘Y generation’ to the ‘Y Not generation’, is a critical change for where the value of brand relationships lie. When a customer is willing to give up privacy, share  more information in exchange for a closer relationship (with benefits of course) with a brand, the 60 second perspective of “one facebook like is worth £X to us” has to shift to more of a focus on CLV (customer lifetime value).

Consider these trends:

  • Increasing prominence of young role models as entrepreneurs, ‘geek-ocracy’ and startup success stories (coupled with free to access web technology) lowers the psychological and practical barriers to start new businesses and ‘do your own thing’
  • Higher education is getting more and more expensive and out of reach for many, yet…
  • Crowdfunding and new mobile payment platforms, social networking and distance learning technologies lower, if not remove, the necessity for ‘institutional’ support to get the skills, people and resources to get started
  • In the next year there will be one billion new smartphones, with access to worldwide networks for the first time, a small computer with the processing power of a 8 year old PC
  • This new generation is used to the idea of sharing for mutual benefit and connection, and to create meaning and context for their actions from this
  • There is no ‘job for life’ but a rather more fluid ‘experience path’ enabled by technology, and their network

What this means is there are fewer barriers, less certainties and more opportunities than ever in modern history for the generation growing up into adults now. More than that, these trends will increase in speed and impact in future generations. Add to the mix the environmental, political and economic challenges we will face in the coming decades, a ‘Why Not’ innovative attitude is not only likely, it is necessary to solve some really difficult problems.

Brands of course must react accordingly if they want to be relevant, which means finding value, and returning value, at the point of interaction with customers, so they are part of the conversation about the choices this ‘Why Not’ generation will make, and what they are prepared to give in exchange for knowing these customers better.

How many brands today think in this way? With sales data still driving strategy at the highest level of big organisations, few have the ability or awareness to refocus their marketing, R&D, CRM systems or operations to even start to engage on this level.

It is not enough to ask ‘Why’ customers do what they do, for a next generation strategy brands need to ask ‘Why Not’ come and talk with us?


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