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Are you listening to millennials and gen C?

We’re used to hearing about millennials and generation Y, the group that’s grown up with technology and isn’t afraid to tweet companies what they really think. But there’s another group, generation C, that’s not necessarily 1980s-born and equally hyper-connected.

If your company isn’t communicating with these groups in a personalised way that gives them the power to choose the messages they hear, you’re getting it wrong.

That’s the warning from Geraldine McBride, co-founder of cloud commerce startup MyWave, zoologist by training and and the former North American president for software giant SAP.

The consumerisation of IT was one of the key trends McBride identified at the Project: Digital Disruption Conference, as a driver of digital disruption and an empowering force for these two generational groups.

“These are kids born ready to compete in this world. The mistake corporations make is they sit them in cubicles and ask them to wait 27 years before they run the corporation. These guys won’t stick around 27 years, they’re forming their own corporations. “They’re wired, always on, all the time. If companies start to design customer experiences for the millennial, gen C will start to pick up on that as well.”

And it’s pointless blaming the GFC for poor business performance, when failure to adapt is the root cause, McBride adds.

“If companies experience low single digit growth today, it’s not because there’s a bad economy, it’s because they aren’t relevant. Half a century ago the average company could live 75 years, today those companies are living 14 years and less because they haven’t kept pace with change and they haven’t figured out how to embrace the consumerisation of technology.”

Brands and companies that doesn’t listen to the preferences of millennials and gen C are getting it wrong, McBride warns. These firms are often following legacy models of communication, hangovers from the industrial revolution. Instead, they should allow consumers to opt in to the messages they want to receive and stay in control of their data online.

“We’ve taken 50 or 60 year old advertising models and stuck them on digital steriods. You get stalked and tracked. Look at all the words using in marketing today, like tracking and targeting. We’re being treated like wildebeest, but we’re not a herd of animals to be targeted.

“I believe in a different, where we put the consumer in the centre and they own the data about themselves.”

Companies should also offer experiences instead of products to avoid the commodity price trap. “If we find companies caught in a price war, they’re already on their way to death. How do you shape and craft amazing experiences around what the consumer wants?” 

Amanda Sachtleben is an Auckland writer and social media type, who's also Idealog's former tech editor and business journalist.

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