Initially, Don Tapscott was convinced his 12-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter were prodigies. The way they navigated computer technology so easily, so effortlessly--surely, he thought, this is not the norm. "But then I noticed all their friends were just like them, and the theory that all their friends were prodigies too was a bit of a stretch," he recalls. "So I started looking at them as a generation."
The result was Tapscott's widely hailed Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation (McGraw-Hill, $22.95, 800-338-3987). In this book, Tapscott examines the some 80 million kids whose parents are baby boomers. "They're the first kids to be bathed in bits," observes Tapscott, who also heads the Alliance for Converging Technologies, a Toronto-based think tank on new media. "Increasingly, they're growing up in an interactive world. Rather than spending time watching television, they're online. So they're going to be very different as consumers."
In what ways are so-called N-Geners different? How should entrepreneurs adapt their marketing plans accordingly? We asked Tapscott for his hottest tips on targeting Generation X's younger siblings.
1. Be pro-choice. "When I was a kid, I had three media choices," says Tapscott. "These kids have hundreds of thousands. They've grown up in this environment. Choice is like oxygen to them." To put it simply, they choose . . . or you lose.
2. Let them test-drive it. Another way to lose out to this generation of cyber-literate youngsters is to deny them the opportunity to try out a product or service before purchasing it. "The demo is deeply ingrained in their culture," Tapscott says. "Let them check out [whatever you're trying to sell]." By way of example, look at the video game and software companies that allow free introductory use of their products. These companies realize--as others are beginning to--that the only expertise that truly registers with N-Geners is their own.
3. Think custom. Because they have so much individual
expertise and tech savvy, it's probably
no surprise that N-Geners also crave customization. Erase the term "mass marketing" from your mind. "They want to imbue products and services with their own knowledge," explains Tapscott. "Doesn't matter what it is--these kids want a custom version."
4. Roll with the changes. N-Geners want to be able to change their minds. Blame it on the with-a-click-of-the-mouse-you're-somewhere-else world of the Internet. Regardless, says Tapscott, you've got to roll with the changes.
5. Accentuate the functionality. Surprisingly, Tapscott cautions against wooing today's kids with technology for technology's sake. "It's not the technology that dazzles," he stresses, "it's the function. My son is consulting for a video game company, and he's concerned that they're focused on the graphics--he thinks it's the play value and the fun factor that are really important."
If you're beginning to think N-Geners are the savviest consumers this nation has ever seen, you're probably right. "Because they've grown up in this interactive world," contends Tapscott, "they're better than adults at being BS detectors."
If you can make your N-Gen marketing BS-free, you'll find the results well worth the extra effort. "They have massive muscle in the marketplace," Tapscott points out. "In the United States and Canada alone, they have $150 billion in direct purchasing power--which, per capita and adjusted for inflation, is many times greater than their boomer parents."
Greater than boomers? Hey, prodigies or not, these kids are all right.
Alliance for Converging Technologies, (416) 863-8803, firstname.lastname@example.org