N-Gen as Consumers
The term N-Gen was first used to describe this wave of youth in an article by Don Tapscott in Advertising Age. At that time there was a lot of debate about whether or not the Internet was an effective place to advertise. Don's conclusions were affirmative, but cautionary. On the Net, one has to advertise differently. N-Geners using new media have a new set of expectations. Among the themes of these expectations are:
- N-Geners Want Options
Availability of choice is a deeply held value in N-Gen culture. Having grown up in a free and interactive world, nothing is more foreign to them than limits and monopolies.
- N-Gen Customization
N-Geners are entering a world of highly customized products and services which will be shaped by them, not just as a market, but as individuals. This is causing changes in learning and the relationship between working, learning, and daily life as a consumer. Brand names may be able to overcome this obstacle as they have done so many times, however the future may lead to a change in the way products are marketed, and already in the way products are bought.
- They want to Change Their Minds
Video games and the Net are an environment where mistakes can immediately be corrected and situations can be re-created. N-Geners, however, also expect to be able to change their minds, not just to correct their mistakes. They want to be able to "change their minds a thousand times", as country singer Shania Twain says. Marketers should pay attention to this fact.
- Try Before They Buy
N-Geners are not viewers or listeners or readers. They are users. They reject the notion of expertise as they shift through information at the speed of light by themselves, for themselves. It is difficult to convince them that they must have anything. Other industries can learn what the software and video game industries have already adopted - make your product free to use for a limited time. If it's use becomes integrated into the N-Gen routine, making activities faster, brighter, and easier, then the product becomes indispensable and the companies can begin to charge.
- The Ethics of Advertising to N-Gen
Given the growing influence of the N-Gen in adult purchasing, we can expect that advertisers will launch massive campaigns to deliver their messages to N-Geners - on packaging, billboards, print media, television, and increasingly, the Net. But there are ethical problems that arise when advertisers target children, and those questions are becoming harder to answer.
With the Internet, advertisers have new ways to introduce messages into content. A maker of children's cereals was recently criticized for its site on which children could play with its promotional cartoon characters. This seems harmless enough. A bigger problem, however, arises when such sites use cartoon characters to promote products that can be harmful to children, such as cigarettes, or alcohol.
The problem is that if a site is designed to be accessed freely, it cannot restrict its users to a specific age group. This problem of demographic verification has plagued Web site content providers since the advent of World Wide Web. The only way for a site to find out what their user profile is, is to ask their users.
Should this kind of data be collected from children? The Centre for Media Education says no. They are seeking to end the practice of collecting any personal data about children unless they can verify that they have received parental permission to do so. In contrast, the advertising industry itself, Council of Better Business Bureaus, and the National Advertising Review Council, have proposed guidelines that suggest advertisers simply make reasonable efforts to convince children to ask their parents for permission before they divulge personal information.
Growing Up Digital
is available in bookstores everywhere.
To order a copy online, just click on the Amazon.com icon below.