Reaching the continually connected: Marketing to Gen C

We’ve seen endless articles about how to market to Millennials. But how about the younger cohort right behind them, Gen C, the “connected generation”? This is the group (those born after 1998) that won’t be able to comprehend life before the Internet and won’t even remember life before the smartphone or tablet. Email will be for “old people,” and touch screens will be the norm.

This generation will push even farther the principles we are just starting to master to connect with Millennials. This group turns 18 in just 4 years.  Will you be ready to reach them? Some things to consider:

Forget Facebook. Well maybe not completely, time will tell. But one thing’s for sure: To reach this audience, you’ll need to go beyond the “social staples”. The social landscape is fracturing (again), and now that Mom is there “friending” them, teens will look to other platforms to connect. Tumbler. Pinterest. Path. These may or may not be the right ones for your target; the key is to do your homework to find where they are most active — and continue to monitor because it will change and evolve.

Prepare for the 4th and 5th screens. Thanks to evolving telematics, the 4th screen will be in the car. Already, manufacturers like Audi and Ford are far along in developing in-car platforms that will deliver personalized information to enhance the ride for both the passenger and the driver. Wondering what retail stores may suit your taste on the street you are driving down? Want to find the best pizza in the vicinity? Need to know the fastest rush-hour route to your destination based on current traffic patterns? In the not-too-distant future, it may be your car making recommendations. It will be incumbent on brands to figure out how they can add value to the in-car experience without jeopardizing the safety (or sanity) of the driver.

The 5th screen will be in retail.  Many retailers are already experimenting with interactive screens in-store to deliver personalized recommendations, “virtual try-on” options, or an “endless aisle.”  The “5th screen” space will not likely be limited to just touch screen kiosks, but will need to include augmented reality to show off inventory that may not physically be in the store, recommend products that may best fit personal style and body type, or provide basic way-finding through a store.

Think 360°. Forget marketing matching luggage. Or specialty silos. We’ll be challenged to design campaigns that work across multiple platforms in a way that truly leverages the strengths of each channel. Those who master “multiplex marketing” that encourages iPad/tablet use while watching TV (or other streaming video), feeds off social interaction, and contains mobile elements that users can activate via screens outdoors or in retail will be the ones who capture the ADD attention of Gen C. In addition, Gen C uses technology as a tool to explore its desires, wants, and needs, so as marketers we need to be there and not just with a traditional search strategy. A move to a 360° perspective also means a move away from the traditional “pulse” campaign approach to the philosophy of being “always-on”.

Keep in mind this is a generation with an expectation of immediate interactivity; flat TV ads will be lost on them. Use all the marketing channels and hooks at your disposal — multiple screens, mobile, social, location-based — to capture and allow Gen C to participate as well as share. Which leads to the next point …

Put their creativity to work for you. Gen C’ers are often adept at making and editing their own video before they are even out of middle school. By the time they become adults, Forrester’s famous Social Technographics Ladder will be turned on its head. Gen C thrives on creative expression and the feedback it generates. No topic or concept is too personal for Gen C to explore. Figure out how to harness this creative energy in a way that values and respects this young talent. Create the right parameters, then put them in the driver’s seat. The opportunity will drive greater interest and participation than traditional “lean back” marketing.

Hyper-personalize it. Personalization doesn’t mean sticking a name in the first line of an email that Gen C will never read. The generation that expects immediate interactivity will also demand the ultimate personalization. Jaded by marketing, they will need to be convinced of why what you are selling is relevant to their particular areas of interest. To succeed, you’ll need to figure out how to allow Gen C’ers to customize product offerings or bundles to suit their needs.

These are just a few ways marketers will need to rethink reaching the next generation. Most importantly, we’ll need to break our own silos between traditional and digital, social and mobile, CRM and mass to effectively reach this target.

Anna Banks leads strategy for digital marketing agency Organic. She has more than 20 years experience designing and developing consumer experiences across both traditional and digital channels. Her specialty is balancing consumer insight and business goals to design unique strategies that span the various forms, formats, and functions that make up the digital landscape. Her teams’ clients include blue chip companies like Kimberly-Clark, Intel, Visa, Hilton and Wal-Mart.

[Top image credit: Anatoliy Samara/Shutterstock]