In an earlier post I wrote about the two most frequently asked marketing questions—having a Facebook presence, and good citizenship in advertising. While many might argue otherwise, the very fact that those two questions are plausibly presented as the most frequent marketing concerns suggests a substantial shift in the corporate marketing landscape.
What is driving this shift? The generation that created Facebook and Twitter are referred to by social scientists as the Millennials. Don Tapscott prefers to call them the Net Generation, placing more emphasis on their “growing up digital” than on a collective psyche response to being born near the millenium. I used to work with Tapscott, and I used to agree with that point of view. But the last two years have shifted my view 180 degrees. In my new view the collective psyche of the Millennials is totally driven by their arrival at adulthood at the cusp of a millennial change that portended promise but arrived with a heavy mix of disappointment and disillusionment.
Despite the fact that this is the first generation that actually likes their parents (according to generation experts Strauss and Howe), they also see how badly their parents’ generation screwed things up. They understand that they are the ones who will be stepping up to fix the problems, to turn things around.
So whether you are trying to garner their votes or get them to pay attention to your products, you’d better understand that their view of corporate responsibility far exceeds anything you could imagine from your executive level purview. This is a call to pay attention in a completely different way.
The reason it is hard to answer the Facebook and citizenship in advertising questions is because the rules are being set by people with an obsession for authenticity. As Millennials create the venues you most need to use to promulgate your products, they also are requiring authentic action to participate. A good example is the ease with which inauthentic environmental “press speak” was greeted by disdain and labeled greenwashing by social activists who could prove that it in fact it was just that–a white washing of the truth.
As we progress through the next century, the pervasive impact of these Millennial-driven inventions and interventions will redefine every sector, from marketing to talent development, from social enterprises to politics.