3) The Connected Consumer
Brian has been talking about his theory for Generation C, or “The Connected Generation” for a while now. This group is comprised of individuals from nearly all other Western defined generations like Gen-Me, Gen-X, Gen-Y and even the Baby Boomers. Connected Consumers are always “on”, and sometimes similarly coined the “Always On Generation” by other researchers. This hyper-connectedness is the result of mass social and mobile technology adoption, as well as a learned or an innate technological affluence.
Brian asserts that these consumers have reach to their audience (friends, followers, and family) at any given time, from any given location. These individuals have significantly more opportunity to influence others through the use of check-ins, ratings, and media shares, among other things. It is these customers that businesses will need to start focusing on strategically and tactically, with the allocation of considerable budgeted dollars, if they want to stay relevant in the future.
These customers act as beacons of information to their audience, and businesses need to adapt agile approaches to sales, service, product information, and other business functions and content areas that make frictionless sharing a seamless reality. Brian also again clarified something that brands today still have a hard time grasping: A brand’s identify is as much a result of the businesses work, as it is of customer and consumer opinions. Put simply; consumers, customers, and the mass public have as much say about “who” your brand is, as you do. And if you’re not managing the customer experience from Awareness to Loyalist, your brand’s value is likely detrimented.
I drew this first “slide” to illustrate my take on this topic. I know Brian talked to three buckets of consumers; traditional (entirely offline), digital (online), connected (online+mobile+social+…). Personally, I’m not a fan of buckets. I know that there’s actually a spectrum of these kinds of consumers sitting out there interested in products. Thus, I tried to apply some visualization to the scale of these consumers. What I assume (without proof or research, albeit) is that most consumers fall in the green circles, somewhere between each of the buckets. The impact to business planning, is that by trying to appease each of these three personas specifically, could mean to don’t hit anyone with a truly salient message or experience.
My last thought is that I’m not sure The Connected Consumer belongs on the same scale as a Traditional and Digital Consumer. The basis for this, is that Traditional individuals can be just as connected through analog systems as Digital individuals are through technology systems. For me, it feels like connectedness should live on a perpendicular axis, and give additional scale to the elements of traditional or digital consumers. Connected Consumers can then live across both Traditional and Digital personas, with the top right quadrant being the most likely for mass diffusion to the largest audience possible. You could also assume that the top left quadrant would be a slower diffusion, but that traditional “word of mouth” diffusion could be just as (if not more) effective of a persuasion method.
I don’t know what’s right. I just know that this is actually pretty fun to think about. In the end, knowing that consumers have the ability to control your brand as much as you, and that connectedness as a customer attribute must now be planned for, are pretty valuable takeaways from Brian Solis’s keynote.