The N-Gen Agenda
By Michael McEnaney
Why not, I guess. I'm from a generation that is best remembered for
either buying or burning disco records so I can't really kick
Madison Avenue around too much.
There was a memorable "Disco Demolition Night" promotion scheduled between games of a Chicago White Sox double-header back in the 70's where they actually let people onto the field to blow up a huge pile of disco albums. It ultimately started a huge fire and riot, complete with hot, melted plastic landing all over the field (not to mention a few people's faces) with the White Sox eventually forfeiting the second game of the twin bill.
Ahh yes, growing up at the tail end of the Baby Boom and just before the Me Generation took root was bliss. I think they sometimes refer to us as "Tweeners."
Maybe this explains my fascination with wanting to understand different generations...which leads me to explain why I am filling this space this month.
In the last half dozen years or so we've all been subjected to how important targeting a message to Gen X was...this was the demographic you had to pay attention to. Well, forget it. The commerce spotlight has dimmed on this crew and is now shining brightly on the N-Gen'ers or Net Generation...eighty-one million of 'em. Prior to hearing this term folks tossed around Generation Y for a while.
I am moved to chat about this due to the fact that this generation, quite simply, is the first to be suckled on all things digital and even more things cyberspace.
The rest of us were pulled (some kicking and screaming) into the digital/Internet world. This group knows nothing else...it's part of their everyday, like television and the Ice Capades were for us. This group embraces technology instinctively, minus the unfortunate discomfort most of the rest of us experienced. They are growing up bathed in bits and bytes, pixels and programs, URLs and UPS.
We dug up a few interesting numbers you may or may not already be aware of. The folks at Forrester Research tell us that more than one third of online high school students have their own credit cards. Half of that number pay their own credit card bills. This already obvious economic clout is only going to gain steam in the years ahead.
So then, what's the big deal? You say you already have a Website and you think it's fairly hip. Think again. N-Gen'ers want content they can participate in, they want to express their opinions. This group truly cares about what technology will do, not about technology itself. That's good news for the photo industry, a place where technology really is doing something...something young people care about...developing new ways to communicate and express one's self. Talk about a home run, with N-Gen'ers this is a grand slam.
Net-behavior trackers Jupiter Communications explain that targeting N-Gen'ers is a gender game as well. The online interests of young men and women differ greatly and should be addressed as such. A recent survey they conducted suggests that males surf the Web more actively than females and focus their time more on technology and time diversions such as downloading and gaming. The female set is apparently using the Net more for things like online e-greetings and chatting and/or networking about issues that are important to them...like music, fashion and entertainment.
Regardless of what your Web plans may be, to ignore this group is to ignore the future. The N-Gen'ers constitute a rather large group with great buying power potential. They're a little angry, and I haven't quite figured that out yet, but they hold the future of e-commerce and digital technology in the palms of their hands. The difference between them and the rest of us...the Internet and digital technology is to them what yo-yos and hoola hoops were to (some of) us.
We will certainly be revisiting this subject in future issues, or perhaps it will be revisiting us.
Moderately Psychedelic Editor