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Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 at 9:00 am

How Would Sterling Cooper Deal with Digital Natives?

By Brendan Regan
October 28th, 2009

I perused a recent survey conducted in the U.K. about how young adults, a.k.a. “Digital Natives,” feel about the Web.  Like all surveys of this age group and how they interact with technology, it was fascinating.

The survey involved nearly a thousand participants ages 16 to 24, and the good news for us as online marketers was that 75% of respondents said that they “couldn’t live without the Internet.” Wow, that’s a bold statement indicating that the Web will continue to be a central part of that generation’s lives, and will be essential to how they research, form opinions, make decisions, and buy.

Maybe it’s not “bad news,” but the challenge this presents is: How will our generation of digital marketers and online businesspeople keep up with the attitudes and expectations of a new segment that doesn’t remember the absence of the Web?

Image from AMCTV.com

"Kurt & Smitty" | Image from AMCTV.com

I can’t help but think of my latest TV series obsession, Mad Men.  The fictitious ad agency, Sterling Cooper, hired two young upstarts, Smitty and Kurt, to help them figure out what the youth of the early 1960s was thinking.  They informed their hopelessly old employers that the youth “don’t want to be told what to do or how to act. [They] just want to be.“  Sound familiar?  It sounds corny, but Sterling Cooper did the right thing by bringing in outside perspective to help them better empathize with their target audiences.

So, what are we going to do? Should all marketing teams have their own “Smitty and Kurt” to help them grok how Digital Natives want to interact with businesses?  Should we spend more time spying on our children and grandchildren as they network their always-available lives at lightning speed?  Let us know in the comments what specific tactics you’re using to keep up with what “the kids are into these days.”

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Comments (17)

  1. Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is: “Don’t bother”. But when the 16 to 24 age will become the buying power, I hope we will stay in touch. The general idea is to act like one until then and never loose touch.

  2. And that is why it is important to stay in front of that age group. The internet is going to become even more important as time goes on. It is only getting stronger and eventual those 16-24′s will want to start making purchases.

  3. Good article. All of the business magazines and articles I read these days keep showing and stating how the web spending keeps growing. I agree that it will be a challenge, but I personally feel a bit more comfortable with web marketing than other types since it seems easier to track.

  4. Hi – five year olds (yes 5 year olds) are on http://www.readinglogs.com and making a big difference. Everything we know about marketing is dead. Digitial Natives or Clickeratis want more transparency and “interaction” – they want to leave “this is me” on a website!

  5. it is very important to stay in front of that age group, nice article here

  6. The business magazines and articles I read these days keep showing the great development.

  7. With articles like these that come for free, you probably don’t need to subscribe to print versions of Forbes/Fortune.:)

    That UK became the first country to have spent more on online advertising than on TV advertising recently, marketers -small & big alike- have a need to sit up and take stock of their strategies.

    Good article.

  8. it is very important to stay in front of that age group, nice article here

  9. thanks for the information guys
    nice post

  10. opinions and attitudes are always interesting.

    But don’t forget to track what people DO online as well. This is usually different from what they say.

  11. There is no need of spying.I think most of the younger generation are sensible enough to make a decision of their own.
    We have to change (adjust) your principles a little bit.

  12. At 50, I do struggle to keep up but my two main strategies are

    1. hire young graduates in my business and let them show me “the new stuff”

    2. Let my teenage kids educate me on what’s new.

    That and reading a bundle of blogs seems to keep me up to date.

  13. For first gen digital natives like me, we’ll just keep on with our traditional ceremonies and keep wearing our tribal attire… http://bit.ly/diyDEv

  14. It is a good thing to hear that 20 somethings can’t live without the internet. I think the bad news though, for anybody not connected with a strong web presence, is that it is all shifting there soon anyways.

  15. I think we need to turn our focus towards the Internet to keep up with the digital generation. Using Facebook and Twitter is a good beginning. Reading blogs and postings like this one will help us the most.

  16. I guess you also have to be up to date in your business. What are the newest trends and what does this “younger generation” really want. For that you have to listen to them or even ask them what they think about certain topics.

  17. I think we need to turn our focus towards the Internet to keep up with the digital generation. Using Facebook and Twitter is a good beginning. Reading blogs and postings like this one will help us the most. thank you

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