Meet the First Generation of Digital Natives

The First Generation of Digital Natives.jpg

Born after 1980, the first generation of digital natives has hardly known a time before technology disrupted the way people work, play, and form relationships. The internet was first made available to the public in 1991, and within fifteen years, over 97% of Americans were using it. Information became democratized, which completely changed the world; empowering millions, and terrifying their oppressors.

Those who grew up during this time of rapid and unprecedented technological change learned the ‘digital’ language and now speak it as a first language. This digital language has shaped the way the younger generations find and process information. Instead of newspapers, they read blogs. Instead of paperbacks, they read books on tablets. Picking up the phone and placing a call? Who needs that? This generation would rather text, facetime, or in most cases, catch up with their friends and family via social media.

While close to 75% of U.S. adults use social media, primarily Facebook, on a regular basis, the younger cohort of digital natives use multiple social media platforms every day. The younger members are also shaping the way social media conducts itself. While "older" Americans tend to stick to Facebook on the regular, young digital natives are leery of the breaches in privacy Facebook has a reputation for. They are more likely to engage in social media platforms like SnapChat and Instagram Stories, which allow posts to appear for a set timeframe.

Digital natives are also changing the way Americans consume political news and rally around topics they value. Young people are using the power of social media to share their political views and charged ideas, and are using social media to empower grassroots efforts in their communities. They're using social media to invigorate rotary clubs, leading to a resurgence of civic-mindedness in communities around the country.

Digital natives are also fundamentally changing the way the world views work and career. The freelance and gig economy has exploded in recent years, in part due to the digital revolution. Young people are leading this charge, and many cite the flexibility of these working arrangements made possible by technology and telecommuting, such as Slack, Basecamp and Zoom. Also, this generation has coined the term ‘digital nomad;’ a person who travels the world while working online.

While "older" generations may look askance at the way digital natives conduct their working lives and communicate, it indeed is an exciting and super-efficient time to be alive. Digital natives are taking the disruptive, Wild West nature of the digital revolution and taming it. This generation is and will continue, to completely defy and shape societal and economic expectations. Perhaps they’ll be able to use the power of technology to restore the Arctic ice caps before their children inherit the earth.


The business and marketing worlds have always been competitive spheres, but since the dawn of globalization and the internet zeitgeist, hypercompetitiveness rules the day. And for a brand to stand out in this climate, they must become iconic.


To brands, iconic means that products and services are highly relevant to the target audience, they are recognizable and distinct. Furthermore, becoming iconic doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, simplicity and timelessness are some of the critical elements of iconicity. Think the simple Nike or Target logo, or the clean lines and shape of an Absolut bottle.

Iconicity also takes shape within the memories and emotions of the consumer. Winning brands which reach iconicity have already imprinted within their target market’s consciousness. For instance, people remember the distinct colors, shape, and texture of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and the feelings those products elicit.

A warning, though; brands that reach iconic status, but become complacent and then chase after the next ‘shiny object’ fad can anger customers and quickly lose iconicity.


Take Coca-cola, for example. The signature drink was first patented in 1885, and after experimenting as a ‘nerve tonic’ complete with cocaine in the mix, the brand soon finalized their recipe in 1903. For decades, coke remained the same, imprinting its look, feel, and taste within its target market. That is until the mid-1980s when the company decided to experiment with its formulation again. Consumers boycotted the company until the brand switched back to its (somewhat original) formula.

Being relevant in a meaningful way gives a brand, iconicity. To stand out in the crowd without resorting to fads and shiny object syndrome, brands need to think long and hard about what makes them distinct, right down to their logo, signature, tone, and colors.

Steve Jobs designed the first Apple logo in the late 1970s with Ronald Wayne. The first logo was busy, intricate, and would be difficult for a consumer to remember or articulate to those unfamiliar with the company. Steve Jobs commissioned designer Rob Janoff to work on the logo, giving us the memorable, simple, and timeless bitten apple design the entire world now recognizes.


When thinking about how to make your brand iconic, think about the following elements:

LOOK: Is your logo simple, easy to identify, and can a customer articulate it to another person? Is your brand’s personality shining through the way it is visually presented?

FEEL: What is the tone of your brand? How does that resonate with your target customer, and can you easily replicate it across products and services?

POINT OF DIFFERENCE: What values does your brand embody, and is the brand’s purpose resonating with the target market? Also, how can your brand promise and deliver on specifics where your competitors cannot?

Remember, when building your brand’s iconicity, don’t stray. Brands that try to experiment with the next shiny object or respond to a fad will lose loyal customers and hurt their brand’s image. And if you’re first starting out, take the long view when building your brand. Don’t look to fads but instead, work on developing a timeless and distinct brand that will create and cement positive memories for your customers.



If You Can’t Control It, Stop Worrying About It.jpg

You have a flight to catch, a crucial flight to catch at an ungodly hour in the morning. If you miss the flight, horrible things will happen, and understandably so. Perhaps you’ll lose out on a significant contract, or worse; get fired. While your worry about the outcome of missing the flight is rational, what isn’t logical is worrying yourself sick about missing the flight.

How so?

Well, have you taken reasonable precautions to ensure you’ll catch your flight on time? Do you know where your tickets, necessary paperwork, and identification is? Is everything packed and ready to go? Do you have a ride to get there, or do you have your vehicle where none of the tires are flat, and the ignition starts to get you there? Will you leave early enough?

If you answered ‘yes’ to everything, then all of your other worrying is nonessential. If you’ve taken care of everything on your end of the deal, any other mitigating factors are out of your control.

Can you control traffic or traffic accidents? No. Worrying about things that you have no power over will not stop them from happening. All you can do is make the right choices and decisions to reasonably prevent disasters and mishaps on your end, and also rationally and calmly handle problems when and if they do arise.

Sometimes, we think that excessively worrying about the improbable will prevent it from happening. Of course, magic doesn’t exist and worrying will not shield you from life’s accidents.

And what if you are in the creative industry?

Do worry and anxiety help or hinder the creative process? According to research, fear, anxiety, and pessimism are huge stumbling blocks for creatives. Worry takes up far too much mental headspace, leaving no room for problem solving or for brainstorming new ideas. While you can’t control every horrible outcome, you can control how much you dwell on them and how much power you give them over your life.

If you want to have more optimism and energy, let go of harmful worry and rumination today. Take responsibility for what you can control, and forget about that which you cannot. You’ll boost your energy and creative output, and be seen as a trustworthy, capable leader in your industry.


Brands and Businesses, Pay Attention to the Attention Economy.jpg


Once upon a time, a group of brave young scientists decided to compare the attention spans of humans and goldfish. In 2000, humans had a several-second advantage over the goldfish regarding attention, but since 2010, the goldfish has surpassed humankind. In the digital age, the average human’s attention span is only 8 seconds, while a goldfish can concentrate on something for a whopping 9.

What does this mean for business owners in the digital age?

As a brand, it’s become even harder to compete for your target customer’s attention. Although, there are several proven metrics for gauging how well your audience is paying attention to your brand and your content.

How can you measure audience attention?

You can accurately measure audience attention by considering how often your content is liked, loved, shared, or commented on.

People assess a brands credibility and gauge its trustworthiness within 50 milliseconds of first viewing a website or landing page. If you want to know whether your audience is paying attention to your content and finds it credible or trustworthy, you need to pay attention to how often they interact with it, and what type of interaction is taking place.

A comment or share is a much more robust indication of trust, credibility, and attention that only a ‘like’ or a ‘love.’ A ‘like’ or a ‘love’ doesn’t entail much investment on the consumer’s end, although a ‘like’ or a ‘love’ will still shed a favorable light upon you. People want to associate with that which is popular, and likes and loves do indicate popularity.

But with a comment, they viewer is making a time investment in your content by responding to it and possibly hoping for a response back. A ‘share’ indicates an investment of their own credibility by associating with your content.

So, how can you get people to pay more attention to your brand?

The first thing you need to consider is your content. Is it engaging, well-written, valuable, and informative? Research says that if your content is riddled with poor grammar and spelling mistakes, you’re actively sabotaging your brand’s credibility. Also, if your content is uninspiring, people may not necessarily find you untrustworthy, but they won’t pay any attention to it. Give your viewers interactive, informative content while still being fun and they’ll more likely pay attention to what you have to say. Furthermore, you want to add a call-to-action to your content.

This way, you’re inviting the reader to respond by either liking, sharing, or commenting. Better yet, specifically ask for a comment or share since it adds more weight and credibility to what you’re saying, not to mention on social media, the algorithms will look upon you more favorably with the more interaction your brand receives.

In this way, attention is an economy. The more people you get to interact with your brand, the more the algorithm will show your content to more consumers. Attention compounds upon itself. If you want to gain consumer trust and build your brand’s credibility, don’t ignore the attention economy.

Have a listen to this latest TED Podcast: Attention Please. It should offer some additional insights.