Sunday, February 25, 2007

Enrollment, Retention, Marketing and The ME Generation

What do iPods, TIVO, FaceBook, My Space, SecondLife, Lonelygirl15,videocams, Power Director, on-line and podcast learning and a survey by MY College Guide tell us when looked at as a group? I can tell you now, once you realize it, you will look at students, as well as your marketing and retention efforts quite differently. And you'll rethink all that Millennium Generation stuff.

Look a bit more. Think about what the connecting concept here is…. Ahhh. You have it. Right.

The connecting concept is personal control. But a new sense of control. Not the old control of restraint, or structure, or domination of one by another. Certainly not “your not the boss of me” Big Brother or en loco parentus. But control by me over my environment , my experience by me, for me, and without you. And I want it personalized.

Control is by and for the individual. Not for me over you but over my environment. I will listen to what I want, when I want and not when a radio or TV station schedules it. And I will watch only what parts I want. Ads? Nah. I'll fast forward through them and drive the marketers nuts. I don't need to watch and I won't watch if I don't feel like it. Your old styles and modesjust won't work with me.

I will devise my self-definition of who I am and how I want others to see me. I won’t leave it up to you. If I want to be someone else, I will do that too. Hey, I’ll look like Robert Redford. If I want. See my picture. And my description of myself.... I will make me who I want to be.”

And I will take classes when I want and where I want. In my underwear at 2:00 in the morning. If I want. I’ll start it on my computer and finish it on my video MP3 player on the bus.

I will control my own world as I can. At the very least, I will manage my experience. I don’t need you to do it. I don’t want you to do it. I am a member of the ME Generation. The generation that Manages Experience.

A generation defined not by age just as a college population is no longer bound by ages 18-21. Adults are major factors of colleges today. A generation defined not by when they were born but what they can do, especially with technology. From 19 year old Jessica Rose as Lonleygirl 5 to the 54 year old creep who goes on FaceBook and creates himself as an eighteen year old high school student, they are all potential members of the ME Generation on your campus. They crave control over their own reality, time and desires.

Granted at many schools, the traditional age college student is predominant as the primary market. But to reach that market, it is necessary to realize they are part of a generation that wishes to manage its own world. And may decide to opt out of yours which is why campus clubs, and organizations may not get many really interested visitors at their tables during orientation.

Yes, the ME generation also seeks strong community connections but they do not have to be high touch ones. High tech lives can suffice and substitute as a form of reaching out to touch someone. A FaceBook community is a community for this generation. A chat room can be a ‘face to face” discussion. Even comments left on TorrentSpy can form a social group with shared norms, traditions and heros.

The concern that students do not seem to go out together as groups like we used to is correct but not a concern. Identity with an assemblage of friends to go to the mall for example, is not the point. Going to the mall and then seeing who’s there to form a temporary group is enough. “I will decide who I will be with tonight when I decide to decide that. Not before.”

Le Soleil c’est Moi. The world revolves around me. I will manage my own experience. And I have the technology available to do it. I want it all personalized to me. If I cannot manage it completely I want to at least participate in forming it. So you'd better let me in on forming the experience or I will not accept it. Markting? Better make it personal and personalized if you want to get my attention.

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