Talking to the next generation

No, the one after that. John St.'s Nellie Kim and Chris Hirsch check out the post-millennials.

By Chris Hirsch and Nellie Kim

We’ve all heard and read a ton about millennials, their “entitlement,” their demands and how to communicate with them. They’ve texted, tweeted and posted their way into the lives of anyone who’s read a headline these days. Highly connected and digitally savvy, this generation has spent most of their young adult lives adopting new technology. With social media a permanent fixture and necessity in their day-to-day lives, their demands have created the on-demand culture – consuming what they want, where they want and when they want it.

But we instead want to focus our attention on something we find even more fascinating, if not slightly terrifying. And that’s the business of talking to the generation that comes after them. If you thought communicating with millennials was a complex riddle of advertising ecosystems, imagine what it’s going to be like for marketers to try to talk to a generation that was literally born with an iPad in their hands?

This post-millennial generation (or Generation Z, as the futurists and psychics like to call it) will inherit an entire field of abbreviated culture. From 140 characters to six-second videos, delivering a message to the generation after Snapchat will pose an entirely new set of challenges for marketers. Remember, this generation will already be highly acclimated to immediate, online customer-service responses and brand messaging in the most non-disruptive forms. So the next evolutionary stage in marketing is going to demand brands offer even more to this evolving consumer than simply being nimble and responsive. And with even fewer “traditional” channels to target these consumers with the messages, and more importantly, the reach they want to deliver, we believe a brand’s culture, beliefs and values will become even more relevant.

We’ve already seen how brands like McDonald’s (with its “Our Food. Your Questions.” campaign) have become more transparent in the way they talk to today’s consumer. But for post-millennials, transparency will be the price of entry when it comes to the brands with which they choose to associate. In fact, it’s not far-fetched to think the concept of brand transparency may evolve into something far more integrated between brand and consumer – like consumer control and involvement, or at least the illusion of it, throughout brand development and product-marketing cycles. Long gone will be the days of enlisting brand ambassadors, social influencers and celebrity creative directors. Generation Z, through deep involvement, could instead essentially be considered extended employees of a brand.

And with brands offering up even more of everything in order to keep up with the inherent expectations post-millennials will have of them, the challenge becomes how marketers will do this without relinquishing too much control over their brands. More transparency with more consumer involvement will need to be balanced with what brands could also gain from this sort of interaction. From the way things are going now, benefits could presumably be in the form of data and deeper insights into their target’s behaviour.

So as millennials continue to rewrite the e-book on creativity and innovation at a lightning-fast pace, it’s exciting and somewhat scary to know we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what is possible for communicating with the generation after them. Either way, post-millennials will be the ones writing the next chapter, or swiping their multi-touch, 3D-interface screens to it, whichever comes first.

CHRIS_NELLIENellie Kim and Chris Hirsch are CDs at John St.

Interested in more? Read Kim and Hirsch’s thoughts on finding a human voice in a digital era. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock