Native digitals: influence in the new economy

The so-called “Net generation” is transforming ways of business design and implementation. Why does it promote organizational transparency and what is its role as a consumer?

In our urgent need to understand the growing interdependence between the economy and the technology, we have been talking about how the latter is remodeling the former. The ways of working and consuming are changing before our eyes at full speed, and businessmen and women must keep their fingers on the pulse of these changes to make the best decisions.

Along these lines, we have addressed issues such as outsourcing in technology, new schemes of customer service, managing online corporate reputation (which is not limited to a simple web presence), and leadership skills needed in the new landscape.

All of this is merely different faces of the new economic and social landscape and, therefore, is closely connected with the “Net generation”. The so-called “digital natives” are gaining ground in the 21st century economy and very soon, they will impose the modes. For business leaders – whether digital natives or not – it is, therefore, essential to understand some of the key characteristics of this generation.

Informed, horizontal and “wiki”

The key characteristics of digital natives, according to expert reports by Mark Prensky and Don Tapscott, could be summarized as follows:

  • Information management: they are more demanding in the respect of dealing with greater volume of information in less time. They are also more prone to share information about products and services with their peers, especially through online platforms.
  • Greater horizontal influence: their comments on social network profiles can easily reach up to 200 or 300 people. They are better able to viralize contents, a sphere of influence notably greater than that of previous generations. 
  • Private/public: the boundary between what is public and private seems more blurred for the members of this generation. This lowers their inhibitions to comment on digital platforms and strengthens their participation. 
  • Less permeable: they are more trained to avoid or “skip” traditional marketing media. This implies that the influence is de-centralized and, therefore, requires a more specific communication. 
  • “Wiki” philosophy: their great familiarity with using collaborative digital tools (whether an encyclopedia or blog networks) leads them to translate this tendency into other areas, including consumption. According to Prensky, instead of believing that “knowledge is power” (as the generations of digital immigrants believe) they are guided by the premise that “power is in sharing knowledge”. 

Transparency and viralization

As noted in a previous article, the concept of a “see-through” company refers to businesses that disclose information about themselves in hopes to benefit from it. And that transparency, rather than being an end in itself, is a means to generate an atmosphere of trust. This is a new business model that is gaining popularity because, as stated by the European Central Bank governor Jean-Claude Trichet, we realize that “the opacity is a recipe for herd behavior and transmission of bad practices”. 

In a scheme where the verb “to share” takes on new weight, the so-called digital natives pose a different relationship with the corporations, asking them for honest information and a space to comment on products and services. 

In this sense, it is worth noting an action taken weeks ago by the marketing management of McDonands Canada. From the Our Food, Your Questions campaign launched on social networks, the firm received the following question from one of its users: “Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?”

It was then that the head of marketing Hope Bagozzi took up the matter directly. She decided to respond through a 3-minute video clip, where she buys a regular hamburger and then compares it with that “generated” in the advertizing studio. The video has spread rapidly over the Internet, getting millions of hits in YouTube and giving a real “behind-the-scene” scope: it reveals all the tricks of advertizing photography, including digital retouching. 

The positive impact of this strategy illustrates how companies can accurately tune up to a new type of consumer who, being more demanding and much more informed, obliges us to revamp our corporate actions.