In 1995 the WWW had only just been invented; browsing was still text only. Five years later the .com bubble had been and burst. Eleven years on and children are smarter than ever, usefully assisted by mobile devices. Let’s consider where this is all leading...
I’ve just returned from two weeks in France. Lovely time, thanks, but what impressed upon me the most (other than the amazingly quiet roads) was how my two kids and their three cousins constantly used the iPods, iPhones and BlackBerrys we had between us. Aged from 4 to 13, between the five of them they were playing music, videoing each other, taking pics, the eldest did some Facebook uploads and messaging, they were texting of course and the largest chunk of time was spent playing with apps, mainly games.
In 1995, when working on the burgeoning and self-proclaimed innovative sector of EDI (that’s Electronic Data Interchange – crikey, what a hark back – but it’s still around), I was introduced to this Internet thing. Not so much the WWW at first, it was more about closed email systems, usenet and telnet (what?!). Three years later, a PhD research programme dusted and the whole scene had moved on at lightning pace. Dot.com was about to hit and big companies were scrambling around asking what content they should put on their shiny, flashy new websites.
During the intervening period, there have been many wonderful inventions and progress has been made. A slight diversion... nonetheless we’ve still got ridiculous browser issues and a real minefield of testing conventions we need to adhere to if we’re to build websites that don’t leave someone without a reasonable user experience.
And then mobiles – or more specifically, smartphones – landed. The definition we’re really interested in being those devices that run a browser, have good 3G/wireless connection and also run apps. It’s these little gadgets, now being used by the majority of the 70–75 million live mobile connections in the UK, that offer us a glimpse of the real smart generation. Smartphones will become the norm. Most people will have one – maybe not for a year or two, but soon.
So how will this change marketing messaging to customers? Well, I should hope all marketers have now at least thought about mobile. Thought about getting brands into the hands of your customers. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a B2B environment, in fact it could be argued you’re more likely to have an audience with suitable smartphones just ready and waiting for you to contact them. After the thinking comes the doing. There’s lots of shoe-shuffling and feet-watching going on. Too much I think. I’m constantly surprised by the lack of willingness to get in there, invest some time, energy and, yes, money in order to do what marketers should be doing. Marketing! It seems to me there’s a lot of fence-sitting and suggestions of, “Oh, it’s not for our type of business”, when in fact the mobile space is HERE and up for grabs.
Before the iPhone and iPad were invented did any of us think we needed one? Now try taking it (or your Android phone, BlackBerry etc) away from us. No way. And yet the obvious link between what we all have in our hands and marketing seems to be (largely) going AWOL. Too many marketers are failing in the very essence of their job. Stop relying on old methods. Stop burying your heads. Get out there, learn about it and get proactive.
So back to the familial link. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure every generation of parents and grandparents looks at their offspring and wonders at how things have changed, "It wasn’t like that in my day”! But that’s not my point. And I’m not suggesting this generation is any smarter than any other. But it’s undeniable that the tools they have available, literally at their fingertips, give them a huge head start with dexterity, numeracy and knowledge and yes, let’s face it, they’re fun too! So their expectations are that much higher.
My 4-year-old plays superhero games on my iPhone and then minutes later is running around, his head full of imaginative scenarios he now wants to act out (with cape and weapons of course). This is also the kid who loves attaching ‘dot com’ at the end of any statement! So, the ‘mobile’ generation are living, working, socialising literally everywhere and utilising their handheld devices. Anyone who doubts it, just think back to 1995 when you hadn’t heard of the Internet...