Why Millenials, Coachella and Daycare are roadsigns for business
I've been pondering lately. Not the random pondering that normally occupies my overly busy mind, but a more focused pondering, and a focus that is a sure sign that I am a geek and should really get out more. But given I'm not out, I thought I would share the gathered outcome of this weeks ponders.
It began when I was sent an article about Swedish House Mafia at Coachella. It was a review, not so much of the music but of the effect that it had on the masses of people who filled the 'tent' and writhed around to the beat. Then I caught a snippet from a One Direction Concert in Australia where all that could be heard really were the screams of a million tweens and the occassional harmonised warble from the coiffed gathering of young men on stage. Both these events got me thinking, not about the music, but about the audience. These large masses of Y-gen and Millenials, all screaming or moving to the same thing at the same time, who they were, why there were like they were, and what that meant for geeks like me.
This is the sum result of my observations;
We are in a massive time of change, which isn't news, in fact its old news. What strikes me is that if we stopped and took a step back, it would be easier to see how to work through this change for the better. So this is my attempt at stopping, and the beginning of step back to have a wee look.
Lets start with the audience, or market, because I'm about to get my econ 101 geek on. The Gen-Y and the Millenials are now at an age where they are making choices about what they 'consume'. The what is unlikely to change from the past to any massive degree in that it will be food, clothes, music, cars, movies, technology, etc. I think its most important to recognise the HOW - How they consume and their motivation for consuming.
The HOW is increasingly driven by the technology available to us - again that's not news, but I will take a moment to reflect on it because my econ 101 geek thinks its interesting. Take Swedish House Mafia as an example. No formal album as such, but massive distribution using the internet via social networking, online distribution like iTune, band camp and the streaming services. I'm taking a relatively educated guess that he made his music in his room or shed, not a big label owned studio. He started showing his mates and fans in small clubs, and that group shared it with their mates, and so on and so on. Nek Minit!! He's at Coachella several thousand of his 'mates'.
I used the the term 'mates' for a reason, and its a nice segway into my next point. Motivation. For us GenX it was all about achieving as an individual, working your way up the ladder and you admire those you believe have made it to the top. For Gen-Y and even more so for Millenials, that ladder hardly exists. For them is about be part of the group and participating. Its about hanging with your mates. Now to a Gen-X'er that's just weird, but when I stopped to think about it it made total sense. Gen-X grew up in their nuclear family, Mum, Dad, siblings. You went to school and you came home at 3pm, back to your small family. Friends were people you hung with for periods of time, or to do something specific, and then you came home. I'll jump to Millenials, because I think Gen-Y are kind of inbetween. Millenials are the first generation really who have grown up in childcare. The economic situation is such that both parents need to work just to fund a normal everyday lifestyle. So the kids are at creche, preschool or daycare, and often in afterschool care when they get older. Socially that means that kids are growing up in groups, where being part of the group and participating in the group is important. Home and Mum and Dad are where you sleep, eat, and spend a small amount of time, the majority of their day is spent with their peers. Take also the traditional family model, its changed. When I went to school divorce, solo parents, and blended families were rare. Today, a Mum and Dad who have been married for years and are still together is becoming rarer. So again a Millienials definition of family through their experience is different. So it makes total sense that they will grow into consumers who want to be part of a group, and to participate. That's what they have known since they were old enough to know anything!
But these kids are not part of a one big mass, unless they're in front of a stage at Coachella. Rather they are part of a number of groups participating in a range of different things, that together make every single person an individual. Every person participating in their own range of niche groups. As a result the mass produced, everyone is the same, fastfood approach to business is become less successful. We can see that massive corporations who have traditionally relied on mass production and mass marketing are starting to fall over and downsize. Slight generalisation I know but I generalise to make a point. We are makers of stuff, providers of service, not matter how creative it is need to understand who our market is and how they consume and why they consume, because without consumerrs you have no business.
We need to recognise that while the baby boomers and Gen-Xer's are still around, we now also have Gen-Y and Millenials making choices on consumption, and economic choices. They are the future for now and so we need to understand them a little more. I've not finished stepping back to really see everything I need to see, but what I have noticed that is influencing the decisions I make in business are these. Everyone wants to be an individual who participates in the groups they choose to participate in and in the way they want to participate. So for business that means we need to be flexible in how we present and provide what we make. We need to provide choice in what and how people use what we provide. I'll also add that you need to be authentic. Today's consumer can smell when they are being 'sold' something a mile off. So for me its about saying to my market, this is who I am, this is what I'm offering, I think it can help you, but its totally your choice. Come on in, but if you choose not too, have a fabulous day in what ever you happen to choose to do. There's not pressure, there's full transparency, and the market have a choice. What I'm hoping to generate through that is word of mouth, which forever has been the best form of marketing. However today word of mouth has taken on a whole new slant with social networking. Now, rather than coffee shop conversation spreading the word slowly over months, the word can be spread around the globe in a nano second. Back to Coachella to make my point, the Tupac hologram performance was around the world in a flash, and we have youtube to thank for the rise of Justin Bieber. There are companies that have recognised the power of the people and Posse, an online platform for bands to use their fans to sell tickets to shows, music and merch is a great example, and its why facebook is becoming a major commercial tool.
My final observation is of all generations, and I think is as a result of technology. We are more and more interested in an authentic experience. Those products and services that provide an amazing or memorable experience will be the ones that are talked about the most. So consider that in everything you do. Your business is now not just the music you create, the painting you paint, the design you do for your client. Your 'product' starts the moment someone makes contact with you. From the first phone answer to the final goodbye. Its with you personally, and its with everything about you. So make it a fabulous experience ... this is a whole other weeks worth of pondering that I will save for another time.
Posted: Saturday 21 April 2012