Generation Alpha Is Coming – And Its Members Might Make Us Completely Rethink Marketing!

Born between 2010 and 2024, Generation Alpha is the next wave that will hit all markets in the next decade. Are you ready?

We often find that it is helpful to classify generations into groups with similar characteristics so we can make informed predictions about the best ways to market to them. There was the Baby Boom Generation, the Millennials, and so on through Gen Z. The latest to hit our radar screen is Generation Alpha (also called Generation Glass, Gen Alpha, Upagers, The Alphas, Global Gen and Multi-modals).

Generation Alpha represents potential consumers born between 2010 and 2024. Its oldest members are just approaching buying status. They are born to be digital, with those who lived through a long quarantine (during the 2020 pandemic) already sharpening their online consuming habits. These youngsters already know how to flex their muscles when it comes to influencing household buying decisions, and their strength will only grow as they shape the future of marketing.

If the Alphas are not already a part of your content marketing strategy, they should be. Here are a few startling facts from Australia’s McCrindle Research report on Understanding Generation Alpha that should really make you sit up and take notice:

  • One in seven people are already part of this generation, with over 2.8 million more Generation Alpha members born each week!
  • The generation is growing rapidly, to say the least! At this rate, it is expected that there will be 2.2 billion Multi-modals by 2025.
  • Trends indicate that this will be the largest generation, and that they will live longer. They will outnumber the Baby Boomers, and many will live to see the 22nd century.

But, what do all those numbers mean to today’s marketing pros as you try to develop branded content to appeal to the next generation? Let’s take a look.

What Makes Generation Alpha Tick?

“Gen Alpha is the next step beyond digital native. Their understanding of what it means to be connected to other people, what it means to own something and use pieces of your own experience to create something entirely new will result in a group of young people unlike any we’ve seen before – they will be completely untethered to time, space, location or people.”

– Dr. Thalia R. Goldstein, George Mason University

According to audience research, this emerging consumer powerhouse is already providing insights into what lies ahead:

  • Technology is in: They were born the same year as Instagram and the iPad, weaned on LeapFrog, home-schooled during COVID, and already demand 5g access. These clues should be a pretty good indicator of their comfort with technology. As they grow into their own, they will want faster and more accurate access to information and technology.
  • Communication at the speed of SnapChat and streaming: It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s here and it’s gone. These now-youngsters communicate at the speed of light. They get a message and respond immediately. They have a question, and get an instant response from SIRI. Imagine how that will translate into their approach to making buying decisions over the next few years, and then think about what your brand, product or service needs to change to be able to respond. That means mobile- and voice-friendly search response capabilities, providing a constant stream of short information tidbits for instantaneous connections, and making sure your content strategy provides information in an always-accessible manner.
  • Social plus: This is a generation that has never known the delay of a letter, or the wait for a telephone call, to interact with others in their social circle. It’s all right there at their fingertips. This indicates that marketers will have to force their way into this circle of influence as well. It may require more YouTube or live-streaming videos, social media marketing specialists, podcasts, or the involvement of social media influencers to attract their attention and motivate them to take the next step in the buying journey.
  • Attachment “challenged”: Households are no longer those of the traditional nuclear family; they may contain one or two parents, same sex or different, and family makeup may change over the years as parents and siblings revolve in and out. The family might move frequently, so it can be difficult to form long-term relationships with friends, neighbors and school mates. They probably won’t look for a life-long job or career, and may jump easily from one pursuit to another. All this fluidity could indicate that it will be harder than ever to form meaningful relationships with them as they grow into adult consumers. The “mom and pop” shop or neighborhood store doesn’t have the same appeal to somebody who can instantly order anything they want from anywhere in the world. Content of the future may have to focus on continuously strengthening those bonds, and reminding prospects/customers why they really, really want to buy from you.
  • Diversity: With a further blurring of racial and ethnic lines, Generation Alpha is continuously exposed to diversity online and in real life. Content marketers can no longer afford to pretend that they are talking to one, monolithic group. They will need to develop strategies that communicate inclusively to diverse backgrounds and populations, presenting information in ways that appeal equally to all.
  • Education: With the loving devotion of parents who enable them to stay in school longer, the Alphas have the potential to become very well-educated. Think about communicating in ways that encourage investigation and sharing of knowledge.
  • Community: It is difficult for the Alphas to build trusting relationships when the world around them is changing so quickly. They turn to their online networks for information and guidance, especially when it comes to making buying decisions. In the future, it will become increasingly more important for marketers to cultivate the primary influencers in these consensus-building networks, and to obtain their approval of marketing approaches.

When Will Generation Alpha Really Flex Its Buying Power?

Currently, the oldest members of Generation Alpha are just looking at their teen years, but those next few years will fly by ever so quickly. The year 2030 is getting closer everyday, and then what? According to McCrindle:

“This generation will stay in education longer, start their earning years later, and so stay at home with their parents for longer than was previously the case.”

Even though it looks like the Alphas might delay some aspects of adulthood, they still need to be respected as potent buying forces. Examples of the type of goods they might be interested in purchasing include:

  • Screens, screens, screens: We don’t call them “screenagers” for nothing. This generation will be the most connected, either through their phones, wearable devices, or glasses. They will look for increasingly sophisticated ways to interact with their technology at home, in school, and at work. Cars will continue evolving to meet their demands for driverless transportation, so they can continue to focus on their technology while being transported from one location to another.
  • Artificial intelligence: Generation Alpha will look for more products that intuitively know what they want and need, and can interact in ways that are more individualized to their unique personalities.
  • Gender neutrality: Some brands are already beginning to move away from traditional concepts of products for “girls” and “boys.” They are eliminating separate aisles in stores, and have ditched the pink and blue gender identifiers. In their place, marketers of the future will have to communicate in a way that appeals to all potential consumers, not just one segment.
  • Social awareness: Beyond being just good providers of a product or service, businesses might have to demonstrate to this generation that they are socially aware citizens as well. This next generation is more likely to buy from companies that make a positive impact or contribute to social causes they support, but it can be a double-edged sword as they are also likely to stop buying from companies that contribute to causes they do not support.

It’s a new millennium, a new century, and a new generation – so let’s get ready now to communicate with Generation Alpha effectively! Toast Studio has been following the latest trends in content marketing for over 20 years. Our goal is to help brands and advertisers better connect with target demographics through digital and traditional media platforms. Book one of our content experts or sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about the latest trends in generational audience insights.

[Originally published February 8th, 2020, last updated June 28th, 2021]

Personas: an essential element in any content strategy

How well do you know your audience?

By building personas, you are facilitating the process of deciding how you will be building your content ecosystem, which platforms you will use, what tone you will take, what types of content you will create.

“[Personas] are a method of market segmentation wherein we collect a combination of qualitative and quantitative data to build archetypes of the members of our target audience.”

Michael King, over at Moz, has published an EXTENSIVE article on personas, the tools available to help you create them, how to do qualitative and quantitative research, etc.

It is just shy of 12,000 words. Don’t be scared. A one-hour read.

And it’s all about knowing your audience. A key step in building any content strategy: Personas.

It is a goldmine, a reference on the subject. You might not read it in one shot right away, but you will keep this article handy for when you need to be analyzing your audience.

A must-keep resource for some time. Bookmark his article.

As media fragmentation continues to grow, it becomes even more important to know who you will be publishing content to. Knowing them almost on a personal basis. What they like, how they think, who they are.

As media, brands and publishers are targeting niche markets more and more each day (and this is what will be key in the future, avoiding mass media targets that are too hard to measure), personas give a personality to the people consuming your content.

 

Attention and empathy

 

 

“ATTENTION IS THE RAREST AND PUREST FORM OF GENEROSITY.” – SIMONE WEIL

For several months now, I have been wondering what attention is, how to get it, how to keep it when someone grants you theirs, etc.

In the conferences I give, I often talk about the importance of the fact that when someone views or reads your content, they agree to give you some of the attention they have in their day.

It is up to you to take care of it and make sure that he/she does not regret this action so that he/she can give it to you again next time.

It is essentially an exchange. You give them value, and they give you attention. If the value is there, trust is built and you might have their attention again the next time they have the opportunity.

The content you produce must therefore bring value, and this perception of value can be very different from one person to another.

Hence the importance of knowing your audience, your people, and being able to show empathy.

Benoit Giguère, Vice President, Creative and Content at Brandbourg, has an excellent way of explaining this: Imagine how different people perceive a cow, between you, a butcher, a veterinarian, a child, etc.

The same cow is very, very different for each of these people.

In an article published by Brain Pickings, we discover an excellent book that demonstrates it all: “On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes.” The author, Alexandra Horowitz, walked around her city block, in New York City, with 11 experts from very different backgrounds. A geologist, an artist, a sound designer, etc.

The perception and the way in which each person “sees” the same block is fascinating.

The article is an excellent summary of the book (and very thorough… 37 minutes of reading!), but I didn’t read it in full.

Why?

I immediately ordered the book.

 

How to use empathy in your content initiatives

Having a deep understanding of your audience is key. You know it. And empathy plays a big role in creating a strong connection with your audience.

How can you use social data and the science of psychology to really connect with the people you are producing content for?

We keep saying it, there’s too much content out there. And most of it is definitely subpar. So how can you differentiate from the mass of content available?

One way is to focus on emotion and empathy. To create a connection at an emotional level rather than a too shallow functional level.

The science of psychology can help you with this.

But how can you find insights, social signals and information that will help you build a data-driven-yet-emotional-content-machine?

Dr. Jillian Ney has written a comprehensive guide that introduces you to the psychology of content. A great read designed to help you get closer to your customer, and has she puts it: “so you know what makes them tick.”

It is structured in a very simple yet powerful way:

  • The psychology of decisions
  • Why empathy is your secret superpower
  • Why you’re probably using the wrong social data in your content strategy
  • Why it’s time to prioritize brand storytelling
  • Using social data for empathetic content inspiration

At 30 pages, it might look like a long read, but it is packed with actionable information. It was written to promote Sysomos/Meltwater tools, but you will still find valuable information that you can apply right away in your own journey towards more empathetic content.

 

Emotion detection and your content

 

 

Empathy and the understanding you have of the emotional state of your audience are at the heart of the success of your content.

 

When we give a masterclass on content strategy and personas, we spend a lot of time on a notion that is essential to understanding and knowing the audience of a brand.

Empathy.

It is defined as the ability of a person to put themselves in another person’s shoes. To understand how the person feels, what they are experiencing and how they perceive (for example) the messages and content coming from your brand.

It is a central element in a Design Thinking approach, which aims to solve a problem but from the user’s point of view, rather than from the company’s point of view.

We could practically say that your knowledge of your personas is directly related to the emotional quotient of your company, which is defined by Mayer and Salovey as “the ability to perceive and express emotions, to integrate them to facilitate thinking, to understand and reason with emotions, and to regulate emotions in oneself and in others.

So, does your content take into account the emotional state of its readers, its audience at each step of the buying process?

The question that many marketers ask themselves is whether it would be possible to detect the emotion experienced by a consumer during their interactions with your brand. It can manifest itself in the way they express themselves during a call with your customer support, but it could also be expressed in the way they choose the content they consume.

An article by Andrew Mort published by Customer Think provides an overview of emotion detection and how it could be used to support the communication and marketing of brands.

Community managers have already started using some tools to filter comments and mentions according to the emotion conveyed, allowing them to focus on dissatisfied customers (for example). The Sentinel tool, developed in Montreal, integrates such a filter into its comments and mentions management platform.

The idea here is not to spy on your audience, to play in their heads to detect their emotions, but rather to invite you to think about the state in which a person can be when they want to be informed, educated or entertained by your brand, and to integrate these insights into the tone and manner you will take in any piece of content.

 

Your personas and empathy

 

 

Being able to understand your personas at their core requires deep empathy.

 

In our content strategy masterclasses, we spend a good part of the day discussing personas, how we must understand them through empathy and design thinking, and how this allows your overall content program to be deeply rooted into what the needs and desires of your audience are.

Marketers need to empathize with their audience at all levels.

Creating content cannot be based on the old model of the sales funnel. It needs to understand the problem your product or service solves, and frame the narrative through that lens.

In a Forbe’s article, Serenity Gibbons dives deeper into the why and how marketers can build these notions into their workflow and strategy sessions.

Addressing human motivators, working with emotional triggers, and making sure the consumer is the hero of your story are three elements that will make your content strategy connect more strongly with your audience.

Would you like to develop your personas even better? Let us know and schedule a consultation with our experts at Toast today.

Are you listening to your audience or just producing content ?

Many content marketers are just “waiting to content” rather than listening to their audience to see what works, what doesn’t, and what they need.

At Toast, we proud ourselves on focusing on building audiences rather than just producing content.

In the end, the content we produce will exist to bring value to a specific audience. To inform, educate or entertain them.

But a lot of content producers focus too much on the content production part, and not enough on the “why” of that content.

In Robert Rose’s words at Content Marketing Institute, they are just “waiting to content.”

This is the reason we’ve been building research capabilities to Toast’s Content Strategy service pillar. Being able to gather, analyze and build insights off audience data is key for the work we do.

In a Content Marketing Institute article, Rose refers to a research that shows what the biggest challenges are for marketers when thinking about their audiences.

Coming in the #1 and #2 spots are:

• “Prioritizing marketing efforts toward one audience over another.”

• “Knowing what is most important to the audience(s).”

When thinking about audiences, their needs and their expectations, you see how one must make choices. And that is the hard part.

We know that trying to please everyone does not work. We end up pleasing no one when we do that.

So why is this still being done with content?

A broadcaster recently asked us to pitch a show that targets a specific demographic audience. But even for this project, in that target audience, who will we choose? Listening and research will help us do just that. We’ve gathered reports and launched a research project that will allow to make decisions based on data.

Also, in the past year, we’ve conducted research initiatives that have allowed us to gather precious data points on the expectations and needs of various audience segments, and these insights inform the content strategies we build and the productions we do.

So how are you listening to your audience to produce better content aligned with an even better strategy?

If you would like to discuss audience research let us know and schedule a consultation with our experts at Toast today.

Content, behaviour and segmentation

Your content is the perfect tool to segment your audiences into well-defined cohorts.

Content marketing is often linked with relationship building objectives between a brand and its consumers (B2C) or buyers (B2B).

It is indeed the best way, with a consistent approach and a well thought editorial calendar, to maintain the connection and remain top of mind using high value content and relevant assets that inform, educate or entertain.

But have you thought how powerful this same content can be to detect intention and behaviour in your audiences?

Are you creating audience cohorts (segments of your website visitors for example) based on what you can detect from the pages they visit? You can, for example, place visitors in a cohort that represents consumers that are currently at the top of the funnel, just by the type of video they watched or article they read.

The media you are buying is very useful to create audiences that you will retarget, but these initiatives will often be used for “bottom-of-the-funnel” consumers.

Your content should attract people no matter where they are in their decision or buying process. You should have content that supports every stage in the buyer journey of your audience, and this content should drive the creation of cohorts that you can nurture down the road or maybe even contact with a direct “call to action” depending on their activities with your content.

This is the type of thinking we put behind every content strategy we create with our clients.

Tools such as Segment.io (that we use at Toast) and others support this segmentation process and bring new light to the return on investment you can get from content marketing.

Brafton, a content agency located in Australia and the USA, has published a good article on the subject, shedding light on how you can use existing data, but also live data sources, to orient your segmentation objectives.

Would you like to discuss segmentation opportunities with your content? Let us know and schedule a consultation with our experts at Toast today.

Consumers have evolved and have higher expectations from brands

Consumers expect to be informed, educated and entertained in the best possible way.

 

The current advertising system is very well set up. There are case studies, books, courses and an astronomical amount of data that demonstrate that consumers can be influenced to buy through a series of interruptions. The entire model is built on interruptions.

 

But this model no longer works.

 

Data from the past no longer represents today’s consumer.

 

Consumer behaviour has been changing at an alarming rate over the past decade or so.

 

And this is due to the equally catastrophic growth in the number of interruptions experienced.

 

In a study from the book “Friction,” it was discovered that on average, we are exposed to a branded message every 2.7 seconds when we look at our electronic devices.

 

That’s a lot of interruptions!

 

If a brand is not able to bring value, it is almost impossible for it to stand out and make a real difference in the minds of consumers.

 

These consumers are now looking for content that informs, educates, entertains, makes them better at who they are and allows them to make better purchasing decisions.

 

They have become allergic to interruptions.

 

This is true on social networks, online, on television, everywhere.

 

How does your brand position itself in this spectrum of value creation?

 

This reality is at the heart of Toast’s raison d’être. This is what motivates us to produce the best possible content.

 

It is also at the root of Jeff Rosenblum’s book, “Fiction, Passion Brands in the Age of Disruption”, an excerpt from which can be found on the Branding Strategy Insider blog.

 

This reality is not the future, it is the present. Your consumers and audiences have needs and expectations that have evolved and will continue to evolve. Will you be well positioned to follow them?

 

How do you feel about your capacity to understand your audience’s needs and expectations? What is your level of satisfaction of it? Let us know and schedule a consultation with our experts at Toast today.

Your audience: cause or consequence?

Your brand’s community is a consequence of the value you have provided in the past.

Do you ask yourself the right questions when it comes to building your brand’s audience and community?

In many cases, we find that for some brands, the objective is to first grow the community and eventually publish articles, beautiful photos on Instagram or to help people move forward in their buying process, but we see this as a big mistake.

The growth of your community is the result of the value that you have brought to it. It is the result of the articles you published, the superb photos on Instagram, the relationship you created.

People follow your brand because they want more. Because they have seen value in the past and want to continue the adventure.

A person will not follow your brand in the mere hope that you will publish something extraordinary in the future.

When your brand has few subscribers, few members, you may feel like you are “publishing in a void,” but you are actually building your value, and eventually your community.

It is possible to accelerate the growth of a community through different methods, but if these methods are not based on a high value proposition, you will end up with a community that is not engaged with your brand and believe me, this problem can be even worse than not having an audience at all!

An article by Rachel Sullivan published by Business2Community addresses this subject, highlighting the great importance of value, well beyond the numbers.

And what is the value that your brand brings to its current and future audience?

If you want to optimize your community’s growth strategy, contact us and schedule a free consultation with our experts at Toast today.

Attention and empathy

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” – Simone Weil

For several months now, I have been wondering what attention is, how to get it, how to keep it when someone grants you theirs, etc.

In the conferences I give, I often talk about the importance of the fact that when someone views or reads your content, they agree to give you some of the attention they have in their day.

It is up to you to take care of it and make sure that he/she does not regret this action so that he/she can give it to you again next time.

It is essentially an exchange. You give them value, and they give you attention. If the value is there, trust is built and you might have their attention again the next time they have the opportunity.

The content you produce must therefore bring value, and this perception of value can be very different from one person to another.

Hence the importance of knowing your audience, your people, and being able to show empathy.

Benoit Giguère, Vice President, Creative and Content at Brandbourg, has an excellent way of explaining this: Imagine how different people perceive a cow, between you, a butcher, a veterinarian, a child, etc.

The same cow is very, very different for each of these people.

In an article published by Brain Pickings, we discover an excellent book that demonstrates it all: “On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes.” The author, Alexandra Horowitz, walked around her city block, in New York City, with 11 experts from very different backgrounds. A geologist, an artist, a sound designer, etc.

The perception and the way in which each person “sees” the same block is fascinating.

The article is an excellent summary of the book (and very thorough… 37 minutes of reading!), but I didn’t read it in full.

Why?

I immediately ordered the book.

Do you know your personas and audiences as well as you would like? We can help you discover the value they are looking for. Reply to this email and share with us your current issues and we could support you in your content program.

Your Minimum Viable Audience

You brand should target the smallest audience possible.

In the world of startups, you might have heard the expression “minimum viable product”.

This concept pushes a company to market its product as fast as possible, even if it doesn’t yet have all the desired functionalities, but a product that will allow it to test the market, evaluate the potential of the idea, in a really pragmatic manner.

What would this concept look like if it was applied to content marketing?

Minimum. Viable. Audience.

If we apply the same notions to our discipline, a brand must concentrate on its own audience, but an audience as clear as possible, precise, that will also generate revenue.

The smallest possible audience.

I often talk about the importance of targeting the right audience, to adapt your content to it.

So what is the smallest possible audience that would allow your brand to survive?

Who should it reach at a minimum?

By defining as precisely as possible your audience, you will, of course, have to make concessions on certain segments of the population but don’t worry, they will most surely be very interested in what you will be publishing.

But one thing is sure, you messaging will be clear. It will also be easy to produce as you will not have to consider all sorts of variations in the knowledge of your product, your market, the seniority of your readers, etc.

If this interests you, you should read this article by Seth Godin, the king of short articles.

Take the time to reflect on your own minimum viable audience, and if you’d like to define it in depth, contact one of us at Toast today.

How to avoid producing bad content (hint: it’s data)

You target your audience, but do you target your content? 

Too often, agencies use research and data to justify their work. The good ideas come before the data. We call that guesstimating: half guessing, half estimating. Sometimes it’s backed up by a previous campaign, instinct or life experience.

It’s clearly a flawed approach.

Optimizing content according to personality

Persuasion depends on how we judge a source. We perceive sources that are similar to us as being more credible and trustworthy. That’s why we tend to associate and make friends with our peers. And because our brains are programmed to favour emotional decision-making, adapting messages to our personality traits increases their impact.

As we know, millennials and baby boomers are not all the same. Some are extraverted and some are introverted; some are open-minded and some are not. Psychological and behavioural segmentation can make a lot more sense than demographic segmentation alone.

A short history of psychometrics on Facebook

Psychologist and data scientist Dr. Michal Kosinski proved that from a minimum of 68 likes on Facebook, it’s possible to predict the colour of a person’s skin (95%), their sexual orientation (88%) and their political affiliation (85%). With a sample group of more than 80,000 volunteers who responded to more than 100 questions, he showed a direct correlation between the Facebook pages we like and our psychometric profiles. His algorithm is more accurate than our colleagues and friends.

His research inspired the American and British data firms behind the online campaigns for Brexit and Trump. In a test campaign carried out by the University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre, content that was optimized for target personalities was twice as effective as non-optimized content.

Psychometric and behavioural data is like a secret weapon

Good ideas without data to support them look like this:

The goal of content strategy is to find touchpoints between brands and audiences that resonate. Our role as content strategists and creators is to find the behavioural vectors and persuasive emotional levers that trigger a move to action.

Your unfair advantage

Using relevant data will enable SMEs to compete with the big industry players and hack their growth. For your next content strategy, you don’t need a drone, a viral video or a comedian—you need a game plan that is backed up by data. This approach will give you an unfair advantage against your competitors’ big advertising campaigns, or as we like to call them, “spray and pray.”

Where to start?

At Toast we create, hack growth and integrate technology. We link up data and creativity with your needs and your audience. To find out more, send us an email: [email protected]

Sources

HOMOPHILY Chu, S. C., & Kim, Y. (2011). Determinants of consumer engagement in electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) in social networking sites. International journal of Advertising
PERSONALITY J. Hirsh, S. Kang and G. Bodenhausen (2012). Personalized Persuasion: Tailoring Persuasive Appeals to Recipients’ Personality Traits. Psychological Science

Marketers can learn from Trump with the science of persuasion

An fMRI study of motivated reasoning: Partisan political reasoning in the U.S. Presidential Election

The importance of emotions in advertising

Unbranded content: Chipotle produces a series for kids

Chipotle promotes its core values to 7-to-10-years old in a 6-episode series.

The brand has been known for making bold branded content moves in the past. They were applauded for their “Scarecrow” film in 2013, and then with “Farmed and Dangerous” in 2014.

Both these previous efforts were focused on promoting the importance of fresh ingredients, responsible farming, etc.

This new series, “RAD Lands”, targets a younger demographic, an audience they haven’t advertised to directly in the past: preteens.

The story takes place in space with a team called the Cultivators, whose aim is to save the galaxy’s animals and plants. It also includes segments with musicians and celebrity chefs.

It is all about promoting the brand’s core values: fresh food, fresh ingredients, responsible farming.

Chipotle will be promoting the series through a paid advertising campaign, aimed at families, and will not promote the series in its restaurants.

What do you think about this campaign/series? Any brand’s marketing aimed at kids always raises an eyebrow, but is it done properly this time?

I invite you to read Advertising Age’s article on the project.