Gen C’ers Lower the Boom, Reshape the Consumer Paradigm

Gen Cers Lower the Boom, Reshape the Consumer Paradigm image generation C lowers the boom reshapes consumer paradigmGen Cers Lower the Boom, Reshape the Consumer ParadigmBig news – YouTube just hit one billion unique monthly visitors. By Google’s own reckoning, nearly one out of every two people on the internet visits YouTube; if YouTube was a country, it would be the 3rd largest in the world behind China and India. In other words, YouTube is huge. So is its core demographic, Generation Y, (aka the Milliennials, or now, Generation C, for “connected”). At 87-million strong, these YouTube-crazy Gen C-ers represent the largest consumer demographic in US history, eclipsing Baby Boomers by over 11 million. And they’re highly mobile. According to a recent post in Mashable, Gen C’ers view as much YouTube content on smartphones as they do on PCs, with 67% of them watching YouTube on two devices or more. Like it or not, the inherent “techie-ism” of these digital natives will continue to dramatically reshape the existing consumer paradigm for years to come.

WARNING: EDITORIAL SIDEBAR. NOT NECESSARY TO READ: {By the way, what happened to the demographers? Did they just get lazy after the Boomer generation? Was a copywriter position eliminated? After a series of subtle, artistic turns of phrase that seemed to aptly capture L’esprit du temps – epitaphs such as the Lost Generation, The Silent Generation, The Greatest Generation and The Baby Boomers – the living essence of the last three generations has been reduced to the back end of the Roman alphabet, namely, Generations X, Y, and Z.}

FEEL FREE TO CONTINUE HERE: Setting aside the fascinating subject of generational entymology, to better understand how Gen C is impacting the existing consumer paradigm, a brief review of US generational demographics may be instructive.

How We Got Here

Trying to pinpoint generational timelines is a muddy business; in fact, there doesn’t seem to be any universally-accepted timeline in existence. Having said that, here is my very own un-authoritative timeline, based on an unscientific mashup of information culled from the internet over lunch; it seems to represent a generally accepted, though admittedly squishy, semi-consensus:

  • Baby Boomers: 1946-mid 60’s
  • Generation X: mid-60’s to late 70’s/early 80’s
  • Generation Y (aka Millennials, or Generation C): late 70’s/early 80’s- early 2000s
  • Generation Z: early 2000s-present

Borrowing heavily from a blog on Gen Z written by Claire Raines, here is a quick generational summary of the last 100 years or so. Between 1932 and 1946, US birthrates remained fairly steady, hovering around 2.5 million births per year. In the years following WWII, however, birthrates skyrocketed, reaching an average of 4 million births per year during the peak boom years of 1954-1964. Things tapered off considerably after that, dropping below 4 million annually for the next 23 years. Starting in about 1980, birth rates began to steadily rise once again, bolstered by a surge of children immigrating to the US (nearly 8% of new immigrants were children, nearly twice that of the two previous generations).

This boost in immigration helped propel Gen C past the Boomers to become the largest generational demographic in US history. By 2000, they totaled over 87 million, making them larger than Baby Boomers by 11 million and Gen X by 31 million.

The demographic surge came to an end with Generation Z. Thanks to changes in immigration policy and a prolonged economic downturn, Gen Z, like Gen X, is on track to be dramatically smaller than its immediate predecessor

In a nutshell, even though today’s consumer paradigm includes four generations, it is increasingly being shaped by one, namely, Gen C.

Characteristics of the Gen C- Driven Model

The defining characteristic of Generation Connected is, not surprisingly, digital connectivity. They see the world through a digital lens, relying on devices to consume media, socialize, and share experiences.

Taken from the aforementioned post in Mashable, Nielsen and NM Incite’s U.S. Digital Consumer Report includes the following observations about Gen C:

“Their ownership and use of connected devices makes them incredibly unique consumers, representing both a challenge and opportunity for marketers and content providers alike…Generation C is engaging in new ways and there are more touch points for marketers to reach them.”

According to YouTube, Gen C’ers have grown up consuming content “where and when they want.” They’re deeply engaged with online video, and they’re deeply connected to the idea of online community.

Take the term “digital.” For many Gen C’ers, digital is not a set of things, objects, or technological tools; digital is more organic, inherent, innate.

It’s a lifestyle, a perspective, a way of life.

Some statistics from a new survey by Pew Research on technology use among 12-17 year-olds (technically at the tail-end of Gen C) may help explain this phenomenon:

  • 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones.
  • 95% of teens use the internet.
  • 93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home.

Unlike generations before them, for Gen C’ers, digital is in their blood.

C’ers Serving Boomers

An interesting sub-plot within this evolving consumer paradigm is the developing relationship dynamics between the upstart Gen C’ers and the aging Baby Boomers. As the original mega-generation continues its diaspora out of the workforce and into retirement, today’s C’ers will be largely responsible for producing the very products and services the Baby Boomers will consume. I see plenty of inter-generational conflict here, especially as time slowly swings the consumer pendulum away from the Boomers and toward the Millennials.

Gen X: Torn Between Two Demographics

As the Boomers and C’ers fight a pitched battle over the future of US consumerism, Gen X-the unlikely demographic group caught in a generational squeeze – is left holding the bag. In this reality, the discarded and disdainful X’ers are the demographic equivalent of the forgotten middle child sandwiched between two domineering siblings, the bossy and bold Boomer and the cheeky and confident C’er.

An unenviable position. After all, nobody wants to part of the glossed-over consumer demographic.

Gen Z: Living in the Shadows

Following in the wake of Gen C, Gen Z will have their hands full navigating the challenges of living in a highly-competitive, technologically advanced, and truly globalized world. It’s impossible to know how these forces will shape them, other than to say that they will likely be living in a state of practical dependency vis a vis the Millennials, forced to live in the shadows of a world largely molded by their numerous Gen C forbearers.

The New Model

Digital technologies, ranging from the internet to social media and mobile devices, have shifted the balance of power from the producer to the consumer. Operating in their natural ecosystem, Generation C’ers are poised to dominate this digital-centric business environment, reshaping the consumer paradigm to reflect a world characterized by inescapable transparency, virtual communalism, ceaseless integration, continual advancement, and constant disruption.

A world fully connected.

Follow @chrshorton

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Gen Cers Lower the Boom, Reshape the Consumer Paradigm image d85d9f95 1979 4e5a a7bd 3e9c78e407b428Gen Cers Lower the Boom, Reshape the Consumer Paradigm

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