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Published: February 22, 2011
 / Spring 2011 / Issue 62

 
 

The Rise of Generation C

How to prepare for the Connected Generation’s transformation of the consumer and business landscape.

Colin is a 20-year-old computer science student living in London with two other students in the year 2020. He enjoys backpacking, sports, music, and gaming. He has a primary digital device (PDD) that keeps him connected 24 hours a day — at home, in transit, at school. He uses it to download and record music, video, and other content, and to keep in touch with his family, friends, and an ever-widening circle of acquaintances. His apartment is equipped with the latest wireless home technology, giving him superfast download speeds of up to 100 Mbps.

Colin’s parents are divorced and live in different cities, and he has one sister, who lives abroad. He is close to his family, but his physical contact with them is minimal. Instead, he prefers to stay in touch virtually through his PDD, which allows him to communicate through multiple channels via voice, text, video, data — either separately or all at once. His parents would prefer that he visit more often, of course, but they are finally beginning to get used to being a part of his digital life. Still, sometimes Colin feels he is too digitally connected. A recent surprise visit to his mother was ruined because she knew he was in town — he had forgotten to disable the location feature on his PDD. Colin’s social life is also arranged via his PDD. He always knows the location of his friends — even what they are doing — and can communicate with them instantly.

Much of Colin’s experience at school is mediated by his PDD. He can attend lectures, browse reading material, do research, compare notes with classmates, and take exams — all from the comfort of his apartment. When he goes to campus, his PDD automatically connects to the school’s network and downloads relevant content, notices, and bills for fees, for which he can authorize payment later, at his leisure. Although he prefers to shop online, when he visits a retail store, his PDD automatically connects to the store’s network, guiding him through product choices, offering peer reviews, and automatically checking out and paying for items he purchases.

Colin’s real passion is traveling, preferably with a backpack. On his recent trip to Australia, his PDD kept him occupied throughout the long plane ride with music, video, and Internet access, and helped him through customs by automatically connecting to the Australian government’s network. Then he used it to pinpoint the location of the Australian friends he was planning to travel with (he had met them online through one of several social networks he uses). Once they met up, they used their PDDs to plan their route, a relatively easy task, given that with all of Australia (and most of the civilized world) mapped and modeled on the Web in 3-D, they could see every twist and turn on their path.

What Makes Gen C Special

Who is Colin? He is a member of a new generation that will be coming into its own over the next decade. Its members are typically realists and materialists. They are culturally liberal, though not necessarily politically progressive. They are upwardly mobile, yet they live with their parents longer than earlier generations ever did. Many of their social interactions take place on the Internet, where they feel free to express their opinions and attitudes. They’ve grown up under the influence of Harry Potter, Barack Obama, and iEverything — iPods, iTunes, iPhones. Technology is so intimately woven into their lives that the baby boom–era concept of “early adopters” is essentially meaningless.

We call them Generation C — connected, communicating, content-centric, computerized, community-oriented, always clicking. As a rule, they were born after 1990 and lived their adolescent years after 2000. In the developed world, Generation C encompasses everyone in this age group; in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), they are primarily urban and suburban. By 2020, they will make up 40 percent of the population in the U.S., Europe, and the BRIC countries, and 10 percent of the rest of the world — and by then, they will constitute the largest single cohort of consumers worldwide.

 
 
 
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Resources

  1. Roman Friedrich, Michael Peterson, Alex Koster, and Sebastian Blum, “The Rise of Generation C” (PDF), Booz & Company white paper, March 2010: The paper from which this article was adapted.
  2. Michael Peterson, Volkmar Koch, Florian Gröne, and Kiet Vo, “Online Customer, Digital Marketing: The CIO–CMO Connection” (PDF), Booz & Company white paper, August 2009: Why information and marketing officers must work together to develop a marketing architecture for an increasingly digital and connected future.
  3. Daniel W. Rasmus, “Keeping Up with Workforce 2020,” s+b, 2/24/2009: How organizations can adopt and internalize the technology and skills needed to thrive in an increasingly virtual and flexible work environment.
  4. Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age (Penguin Press, 2010): How the Internet and its tools will change leisure time, society, and the process of innovation.
  5. For more thought leadership on this topic, see the s+b website at: www.strategy-business.com/organizations_and_people.
 
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