Just who, or what is Gen C? This question, posed by Mr. Dan Pankraz, Planning Director/Youth Strategist, DDB Sydney, speaking at Nielsen’s inaugural Consumer 360 Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, drew curious looks and blank faces among participants. Mr. Pankraz highlighted the need for companies to understand and engage Generation C, a group he believes to be the most highly influential in the world due to their need to share their lives via social media platforms.
Unlike Gen Y or Gen Z, Gen C is not an age cohort. “Gen C are teens and 20-somethings that have been “hatched’ out of social media. What ‘C’ stands for has been widely debated. A few years ago it was about Generation ‘Content’ – now it’s about a multitude of things; constant connectivity, collaboration, change, co-creation, chameleons, cyborgs, curiosity. But most of all, Gen C is the ‘Connected Collective’ consumer,” Mr. Pankraz explained.
Gen C is not a target audience but a community of digital natives that will partner with brands. To successfully market to Gen C consumers, brands must create fresh, cultural capital for Gen C to talk about– a process which also gives them “status” within their cohorts or “tribes” and social networks.
What makes Gen C “tick”:
- Tribal behavior: Like many youths, Gen C form their identities by belonging and expressing themselves within “tribes” reflecting the desire to “connect” around interesting ideas, cultural objects, causes and movements. Brands need to get into conversations that are happening within and across tribes. This will give their messages more credibility and attention compared to external sources.
- Social status derived by what you share: Gen C gains credibility in their friends’ worlds by expressing opinions, sharing ideas, observations and thoughts. Their influence depends on what they share and how often they share it.
- Bee-like swarm behavior: Powered by social media platforms, Gen C members mobilize as one with their tribes like bees around topics that interest them. When it comes to buying decisions, 85 percent of youths rely on peer approvals. Everything is reviewed and rated, making decision-making a team sport. Marketers must talk to “we”, not “me”. Marketing successfully becomes all about “talking to the community, not the individual”, and creating a conversation for the swarm to run with.
- Social oxygen: Gen C thrives on constant connectivity via social media platforms. Mobile devices have become “social oxygen”, enabling them to connect, create and share opinions and thoughts with their tribes. The mobile phone acts as a lifeline to the world, connecting not only with people they want to talk with, but also shielding them from those they do not.
- Continuous partial attention: Teens today consume 13 hours of content daily and have constant exposure to new ‘news’. As experts at managing content and information, they engage in never-ending conversations, constantly “livestreaming” their experiences to the world.
- Chameleons: Gen C consumers are “chameleons”, constantly changing and morphing their identities to simultaneously belong to as many different tribes as possible. One-dimensionality is not an option for Gen C.
- Co-creators: The social web has brought out Gen C’s creativity, leading to what Mr. Pankraz calls the “democratization of creativity”. They no longer consume ideas, but actively participate, play and collaborate. They demand to be part of the brand story.
Five Tips For Creating Content For Generation C:
- Keep it relevant, useful and entertaining
- Enhance social status within tribes
- Ask for a reaction and have a fun social interface
- Connect Gen C members with each other, not just with a brand
- Enable Gen C to participate in, play with or produce themselves and pass on