"People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be"-Don Draper
Why do we so often ignore the very advice that can save us? The answer may very well be found in Disrupted by Stefan Pollack which is easily one of the most important books of the year, especially if you want to understand the iGeneration (sometimes called Generation Z) or anyone that was born after 1994. It isn't a Futurist book, a Library book, or even a PR / Marketing book. It's about relationships.
Ever since I entered library field about 20 years ago, people have been telling me that I am wasting my time and Libraries are dying and so indeed is the book. I have read dozens, if not hundreds of articles and books on everything from the history of libraries to why Millennials are so different from Baby Boomers and even what makes my own GenXers tick. Yet, Pollack a long time PR and Marketing guy, has finally synthesized what numerous academics couldn't - he actually explains the iGen, so even a child of the 80's can understand.
To take a step back, I have to credit Dennis Miller for turning me on this amazing book at the same time I was trying to make sense of the students who recently arrived for the fall semester. I had already ditched the idea of direct mail or even email (yes, I have gotten this advice as recently as last month and also, was recently told that Pintrest has no role in a Library or Academic institutions) or to give the ever present survey requests and was concentrating on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. All of it was me going after them with my brand - the Library. Pollack says this approach is wrong - the iGen only care about information if it is relevant to them and since they serve as their own gatekeepers and they jealously guard what they let into their circle, they will only share what they consider relevant with their peers. Unwanted information simple doesn't even get in. One of my favorite lines likens information to a wildly popular club where the iGen serve as the bouncer - everyone that is anyone is line waiting to get in, but it is the bouncer what makes the call.
So we care because... the members of iGen will not only be spending billions of dollars of the next 15 years, they will be replacing the members of Baby Boomers, Gen X and Y in the workforce. Certain truths will hold sway with them:
- The recommendation and referrals of friends, peers, and other consumers is critical to getting your message or product to them. The expert or journalistic critics only matters if they agree with them
- Mobile devices aren't a fad, they are here to stay and IT IS the leading way they get their information. Their attention is moving from TV and print to their devices.
- They want information that's relevant and or funny. Specific niches, such as video and music streaming, augmented reality, and location-based promotions, have tremendous potential for success.
- iGen is not adverse to marketing or advertising as long as it is relevant and authentic.
- They want a relationship, not to be viewed as mere consumers. Listen to them, Converse with them, Deliver because there are no second chances.
- Generation X was about "us versus the man", Generation Y was the "me" generation, but the iGeneration is the "us" generation - together they can change institutions and create the environment they want.
Now where can Libraries come in:
- The iGen is different. We must recognize this and embrace it. Not make excuses, not tell them what they want or need, but accept this and deal with it in a respectful and thoughtful manner.
- Traditional methods of information delivery (newspapers, serials, even books and movies) need to address the above facts, especially the mobile devices. Why did Amazon.com make it and Boarders Books didn't?
- Content Curation is the name of the game. As Pollack says "Curating content means implied objectivity about who you are and what you are offering. There is no attempt to "sell" when you are collecting valuable information and offering it to people who are looking for it.... Becoming skilled curators of information gives consumers a reason to listen to your brand. You are providing valuable information that they (iGen) want, and you are helping them connect the dots." Sound familiar?
- The iGen is smart. Where previous generations had to earn knowledge via memorization or finding it, this generation simply can access it. To be relevant to the iGeneration Libraries need to be seen as being necessary and a valued brand.
Developing the kind of relationships that last matter to everyone. The iGen wants what they want, we can adjust to the new reality or forget about it and carry on with business as usual. The choice is ours.