Today’s ‘digital natives’ are one of the first generations to have grown up in a world where every aspect of their communication, entertainment, social activity, private and school lives are entwined with technology.

Initially conceived in 2011, the Amaze Generation Project – the first of its kind – set out to track how ever-changing technology has influenced the lives of a group of 10 – 15 years olds and observe how five years’ immersion in a digital landscape has shaped their behaviours and attitudes as they move into further education, work and relationships.

The past five years show a clear progression in the Amaze Generation’s attitudes and behaviours. As the participants have matured, they have developed processes and strategies to deal with the digital world around them. These affect every part of their lives, from relationships to self-esteem, careers and education to hobbies and shopping.

The original hypothesis concentrated on the idea that the rapid evolution of technology could make this the first generation to find its behaviour shaped by digital.

In reality, the 'Amaze Generation' are the ones shaping digital in their own image, something which has key implications for marketers.

They are not a group of selfie-obsessed digital conformists. Digital is not shaping their world. They are shaping it. They manage it and mould it, developing strategies to get the most out of every platform while minimising the risk of negative feedback. They are the ones in the digital driving seat.

As such, they have become adept at fragmenting their identities, cultivating multiple digital selves depending on the platforms used and the result they want to elicit from sharing their content.

This is also a generation of digital strategists and content editors – even if they don’t know it. While they may be actively seeking more real experiences online, they have learned to be extremely calculated in how they present their personal brand, creating strict strategies around how, when and where they are seen.

Aware of the tension between their current social media presence (a reflection of the present) and their digital footprint (a reflection of the past), they edit timelines and delete online histories to create better, up-to-date impressions.

In addition, there has been a clear shift in how relationships are viewed. Once, the aim was to collect followers as a form of peer validation. While followers and likes still matter there is a greater understanding that social media friendships do not necessarily equate to real friendships. This generation is, therefore, placing an emphasis on finding positive experiences on closed, intimate networks of real friends.

This balancing act between open and intimate is one they appear comfortable with, as they adapt content rather than security preferences to stay active online, yet a dichotomy remains between the ongoing need for validation and a desire for more control and privacy.

From access to information to mobile shopping, study groups to social interaction, the view this generation has of the world is largely upbeat and positive. The participants seek out positive experiences on and offline, and employ personalised strategies to avoid negative experiences. There is a sense of being at the start of an exciting journey or phase in their lives and they hold the view that the digital world already does, and will continue to, enable them to progress.

They seem equipped with strategies to make the digital world work for them as they recognise that if not managed appropriately, there are negative aspects to being ‘always on’.

The results have consistently shown that this Amaze Generation are an intriguing mix of contradictions, fracturing identities, creating personae, editing their personal brands and developing strategies to shape the digital world to meet their evolving needs.

Even more importantly, they simply refuse to be ‘sold to’. They know what they want, and woe betide the brands that fail to deliver, because they also know how to customise and adapt the digital platforms around them to deliver what others don’t.

The message for brands is clear: keep up or face the consequences.

 

By Alex Comyn, chief strategy officer at Amaze


GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at http://www.gdprsummit.london/


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