How the next generation is shaping its digital future: the implication for brands

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

An Amaze study followed a group of 10-15 year olds over the past five years, looking at their changing use of technology and social media. What marketing implications does this have for brands and businesses?

There is a sense of being at the start of an exciting journey or phase in their lives and they hold the view that the digital world already does, and will continue to, enable them to progress

The next generation is one of the first to have grown up in a world where every aspect of their communication, entertainment, social activity, private and school lives are entwined with technology.

Ever changing technology is having a huge impact on how these digital natives interact and build relationships with brands, and the way this generation is adapting to and shaping technology is in turn presenting brands with challenges and opportunities.

In 2011, the Amaze Generation Project – the first of its kind – set out to track how ever-changing technology has influenced the lives of a group of 10 – 15 year olds and observe how five years’ immersion in a digital landscape has shaped their behaviours and attitudes as they move into further education, work and relationships.

As the participants have matured, they have developed processes and strategies to deal with the digital world around them.

The original hypothesis concentrated on the idea that the rapid evolution of technology could make this the first generation to find its behaviour shaped by digital.

The key findings, outlined below, show that in reality, the Amaze Generation are the ones shaping digital in their own image, something which has key implications for brands.

Building relationships with multiple personae:

This generation is not a group of selfie-obsessed digital conformists. Digital is not shaping their world. They are shaping it. They manage it and mould it, developing strategies to get the most out of every platform while minimising the risk of negative feedback. They are the ones in the digital driving seat.

As such, they have become adept at fragmenting their identities, cultivating multiple digital selves depending on the platforms used and the result they want to elicit from sharing their content.

Brands need to understand what the multiple personae of this generation mean. They should respect privacy settings and address this generation as it wants to be addressed, using data to draw accurate behavioural portraits.

Brands also need to recognise that ‘rawness’ and ‘realness’ trump slick production values and be careful not to ‘force’ messages onto platforms – this generation will reject them if they are not in the right place at the right time.

Challenging perceived notions:

This is also a generation of digital strategists and content editors – even if they don’t know it. While they may be actively seeking more real experiences online, they have learned to be extremely calculated in how they present their personal brand, creating strict strategies around how, when and where they are seen.

Aware of the tension between their current social media presence (a reflection of the present) and their digital footprint (a reflection of the past), they edit timelines and delete online histories to create better, up-to-date impressions.

A Guest Editorial