The ‘Texting Walkers’ Are Coming of Age

It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The teenager had no clue. Everyone behind him did. With each step he moved closer and closer to his fate. He just kept texting. And walking. We cringed. He didn’t. Three… Two… One… Smack! He walked right into a stop sign pole. He was the latest victim of “text walking.”

The teenager entranced by his cellphone represents much more than a pedestrian hazard. In three years, his generation will be the fastest-growing generation in the workplace and marketplace. Are you ready?

At The Center for Generational Kinetics, we study this new generation. They were born after 1995. We call them iGen. They’re more than a little different than the rest of us—and very different from older generations.

Along with an umbilical smartphone, they possess tremendous purchasing power and valuable workplace skills. The companies that adapt to iGen’s mindset now will benefit from the best this generation has to offer— and their 5,000 friends on Facebook.

A sneak peek into iGen’s mindset:

Amazon has always been a store (with free shipping). The 1990s are “retro” (including Seinfeld). Cameras are always an included feature (unless you’re at Grandma’s). The most important book is not in the school library (Facebook). Sept. 11, 2001, is taught in history class.

At the center, we’ve identified the events and factors that most influence iGen’s trajectory. Here are three:

» Challenging economy—The economy soured right when iGen was old enough to know the difference. They’ve seen their parents worry about keeping a job, or worse, struggle to find a new job when unemployed. As a result, they are looking for stability in their careers and value loyalty in the workplace. » Diversity of all kinds—iGen is the most diverse generation in U.S. history. This natural diversity impacts iGen’s view of politics, marriage, religion, marketing and work. Diversity is so normal to iGen that they’re turned off by marketers who play up diversity as something new to be achieved rather than an established norm. » Tech adoption—This generation has spent more time looking at screens than any generation at the same age. iGen literally goes from screen to screen all day long. Their relationship with technology will transcend everything from shopping and working to learning and parenting. They expect technology to be on-demand, to never crash, and to fit in one hand.  

To make the most of iGen's potential: Identify the aspect of your business that iGen will impact first. Will it be as customers, employees or both? Can you create a competitive advantage by actively engaging them now? Determine how iGen will learn about your product, service or employment opportunity. Once you know their likely approach, position your message to align with iGen’s top three priorities: stability, creativity and collaboration. Ask iGen for their opinion. Often. They expect to interact directly with brands and employers. This is why online and mobile reviews and comments are so important. Give iGen a chance to share their thoughts and they’ll become vocal fans. As a concerned citizen, I asked a member of iGen what could be done to stop the text-walking epidemic. His solution: add a “pole sensor” to all mobile phones. I like this generation already.

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