The Kaiser Foundation recently released a study documenting the astounding fact that 8-18 year olds in the United States have increased their media use from 8hrs 33 mins per day in 2004 to 10hrs 45 mins in 2009, which means that except for when they sleeping or in school they are almost always consuming media. I call them the 10:45 generation. Regardless of whether you think this is bad news signaling the demise of our children, or good news expecting our progeny are on the way to be becoming more literate in rich media world, as a business leaders we all must face this new reality. In particular, this short post will deal with the issue of managing your brand for the 10:45 generation.
I do not need to recount here the facts that the combination of the cell phone, the personal computer, wireless communication and overall miniaturization has lead to an anywhere, anytime, anything world. What is interesting is to ask yourself, when did companies have to begin dealing with this always on consumer -- and thereby continuous brand management? I think the modern need for continuous brand management started with 800 numbers, which was the first time that customers could effortless call a company at will. 800's were invented by AT&T as "automatic collect calling", and the concept took some time to catch on, but by 1992, 40% of AT&T's calls were 800 number calls. What did this do to management? Well, the first thing companies needed to learn was how to have a dialog -- not just a monologue with their customers. They needed to field large call centers to answer the phones, and they needed to train thousand and thousands of people to follow the service script. Over time, firms learned the power of cross selling, and outbound calling for selling. In short, most consumer-oriented companies needed to upgrade their ability to field and answer customer requests. These early contact centers were followed by the world wide web and now the mobile web -- extending a customers ability to reach any company, anytime, anyway.
What will the 10:45 per day generation expect? First they will expect a continuous brand experience. For example, Facebook is very similar across the iPhone, the web, the BlackBerry -- and even the PlayStation 3 has Facebook incorporated into its interface. Despite the fact that some look at the 10:45ers as the poster children for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, better known for ADHD, if you look a little closer, by using these various devices they are creating a new continuity. Google is everywhere; their friends are too, as is access to communication. From their point of view, their experience may look more continuous than the "old days" of separate television, radio, phones and mail. So you need to ask yourself, how "continuous" is your brand and the service that supports it? Do people "see" the same company across the web, phone, call center, and in person? In our work with companies we have found great disconnects among the customer contact channels.
Second, they will desire transparent service. Anyone can "see" where they are any time of the day or night. Why can't you and your organization show that same transparency? They expect to be able to get status on any order, any service, or any request -- immediately! (See my early post on the reinvention of customer service for more on this transparency idea.)
Third, they will want to see word of mouth on you -- long before they believe what you have to say. We already know that people trust other customers much more than they trust the company selling things to them. They know that legions of people who use your product or service will be online -- because they always are. So, word of mouth will be as continuous to them as a stock ticker was to John Pierpont Morgan, but the markets never close.
You have to ask yourself in this new, continuous world is your company like Richard Nixon, losing on TV but winning on radio?