Experimentation is the New Engagement – Speech at AIMIA Gen Y conference

Speech I gave 18months ago (have only now decided to upload it) at AIMIA (Australian Interactive Media Industry Association) conference on Gen Y. I speak about the dimensions of Gen C and how brands need to experiment with popular culture and involve youth in the brand narrative if they want to engage. The examples are a little outdated (apologies) but hopefully there are still some relevant learnings even though this presentation was delivered well over a year ago.

Chameleons 2.0 – experimental identities

Last year I blogged about the concept of youth being ‘chameleons’, in that they’re constantly morphing their identities to access different tribes and subcultures online. Today youth prefer shallow membership of many tribes, as opposed to entrenched membership & being defined by one subculture. Access to new tribes is just a ‘Google’ away.

The past few months I’ve explored this concept a little deeper whilst chatting to a host of teens and early 20 somethings as well as kicked around some thoughts with my good friend James Quinlan and we’ve come up with some new perspectives on the concepts of Chameleons.

The big insight is that youth in the digital age see their  IDENTITY AS EXPERIMENTAL.

They’re  constantly trying on different personas to see which suits best. Their identities and how they express themselves online is in constant BETA MODE, open to influence from culture, brands, events, celebrities.

An example being, a 15yr old girl I spoke with who is into beach culture and lifesaving puts on a certain voice eg: she speaks ‘pig latin’ with her beach buddies, but that same afternoon she’ll interact with her gamer or dance crew over Facebook or messenger and her communication (language, voice, tone) shifts completely.

Just as the youth of the 60’s experimented with drugs and free love, todays youth experiment with their digital identities, constantly.

How one crafts their digital identity is critical for young people today, as identity and being seen as multimensional within your peer group is social currency and ultimately, acceptance into the group or many groups. If you’re not connected and contributing to the conversation amongst your tribe, you’re social status drops and you’re an outcast. So, we’re seeing massive peer pressure being put on todays youth to contribute to their friends worlds.

This pressure to contribute and play an active role on social networking has led to what I call DIGITAL FAKING or  ‘FACEBOOK FAKING’. It’s rampant amongst Aussie teens.. They’re ‘faking’ checkins on Facebook places, taking credit for other peoples tweets,  lying about their FB status updates eg: they’ll check-in at the Ivy in the Sydney CBD, even though they’re sitting on their couch at home watching The Hills.

Although intrinsically linked, their online identity is far more important than their real world identity given they’re constantly on show and seeking affirmation. They are stressed about it, and scarily they are doing a lot of faking in order to fit in amongst their tribe. In a world where what and how often they share content, ideas, conversation with their friends determines their importance within the tribe, teens are under pressure to constantly be interesting and that’s hard, even for the coolest kids.

The implications for youth marketers are threefold:

–       There’s no longer a one size fits all approach to engaging youth, brands must appeal to multiple passion points and match their different social rhythms of the year

–       Think about how your brand enables young people to take on or evolve their identity? The success of gaming culture is a perfect example of the escapism and role playing young people crave today

–       How does your brand give youth fun and interesting ways to express or reinvent their personas, either via an interesting experience or content/ideas they can curate and share with friends. Give them ideas/content which is cultural currency, stuff they’ll want to talk about with their friends online as friends are the ultimate filter

Insights into Gen Y: We all want to be young

Came across this cool video by Brazilian research agency Box 1824 on Millenials/Gen Y. It’s a 9minute long mood video which talks through how youth culture has evolved from Baby Boomers being ‘liberated youth’, Gen X’ers being ‘competitive youth’ to Gen Y being ‘global youth’.

It was great to see the video cover several key topics i’ve been talking about for a while.

See my post here on ‘I share therefore I am‘ which talks to the point of youth today having to choose the right filters to organise all the content in their world.

Gen Y are the CHANGE generation and are empowered by their collective conscience to make a difference.

The other major point was around Gen Y living PLURAL lives and the fact it’s cool to be multidimensional. I’ve spoken about this theme alot in my posts on Gen C being CHAMELEONS and their splintered personas driving their self expression.

Well done to the guys at Box 1824 for creating a great mood video.