The term Generation C is popping up in the press, “C” standing for corona virus or COVID-19. But the “C” in Generation C has another definition, connectedness or connected consumer. The latter definition predates the former by more than a decade.
Generation C: The corona virus generation
The corona virus generation describes those born between 2016 and 2030. Children born in 2016 would be four years old when the pandemic surfaced, and the country started to shut down. Those born during the pandemic would be 10 years old in 2030.
The response to COVID-19, especially in progressive states, produced one of the greatest economic and social upheavals in the nation’s recent history. Children’s education, friendships, routines, and even livelihoods suffered great disruptions. Children were forced to wear masks, stay away from their grandmas, and admonished not to hug their friends.
Such events can instill anxieties and fears in developing minds that go on to define a generation. Children of the Great Depression became The Silent Generation — cautious, thrifty, and loyal. Young minds that experienced the tragedy of 9/11 while in school or college grew into Millennial adulthood in the shadow of the Patriot Act — they are comfortable with government mandates and restrictions.
It is of course too early to say what the characteristics of the corona virus generation will be. We can only point out that masks and social distancing might prove to be Generation COVID’s Patriot Act.
Generation C: The consumer generation
Way back in 2010, Strategy& published The rise of Generation C: Implications for the world of 2020. Here Generation C refers to the “connected” generation, young people that “live online.” These “digital natives” have vast networks of connections and contacts that rank as pure gold in strategies of communications and technology companies.
In the face of declining revenues from traditional services, the challenge for the communication and technology industries will be to abandon successful but outlived business models and refocus on what it takes to thrive in the Generation C environment. This shouldn’t be taken as bad news, however; the rise of ubiquitous broadband, and of newly connected populations from emerging economies, will enable operators to capitalize on a vast new array of services. The Rise of Generation C, Strategy&, March 26, 2010.
The Strategy& analysis labels Generation C as those born after 1990. However, others have postulated that although most members of Generation C do fall into the Millennial category, they comprise a group that is more psychographic than demographic, with a mindset that spans generations. Google has studied this group and says,
Most recently, we conducted a global study on Gen C with Ipsos MediaCT and TNS2 and for the first time we’re now able to see the behaviors that make Gen C such a potent force. From electronics to travel, clothes to cosmetics, live events to fitness, Gen C buy products and services with far greater regularity than do their non-Gen C counterparts; they’re up to 3.6x more likely to purchase. And two thirds of Gen C around the world say that, “If there is a brand I love, I tend to tell everyone about it.” The Power of Gen C: Connecting with Your Best Customers, Google Marketing Strategies, January 2014.
Thus, this Generation C is the holy grail, pursued at every click of their smart device. Their reward is a vast array of apps that gives them instant gratification and endless connectivity.
These two generations are different in age and general attributes. But they share an inclination anathema to The Silent and Boomer generations – trust in the establishment.
Silents and Boomers are skeptical. Millennials are trusting, as evidenced by their willingness to share limitless amounts of information. They are happy to live in the fishbowl of connectivity and be plugged into the smart grids of smart cities.
Although it is too early to define the corona virus generation, it might be safe to assume they too will trust. Their developing minds are saturated with mandates that are willingly obeyed: wear masks, stay 6 feet apart, stay home from work or school, vaccinate, and do not say anything counter to CDC guidelines on social media.
Is the trend becoming apparent?
As major difficulties occur – the Great Depression, 9/11, COVID-19 – mandates and obedience to them are normalized. Such mandates are not limited to government edicts. They can be pressures to conform applied by those that benefit from specific behaviors. The populace is promised safety, convenience or peer acceptance, in exchange for trust in the establishment. A drift towards increasing levels of dependence on the establishment becomes inevitable, obliterating individual freedoms.
If wariness of democracy and free speech does not represent a political position, what does it represent? What unites so many young Americans in these attitudes? I propose that the answer is fear — the ultimate enemy of freedom … When people are afraid, they cling to the certainty of the world they know and avoid taking physical, emotional and intellectual risks. In short, fear causes people to privilege psychological security over liberty. Why Are Millennials Wary of Freedom? New York Times Opinion, October 14, 2017.
[Featured Image of school children tearing up a giant mask: Picture by Trent Nelson, in Salt Lake Tribune of April 24, 2021, article 3 Utah school districts now allow students to skip masks, based on their parents’ judgment]