WHAT THE F**K IS GEN S?
Gen S…Heard of it?
Aragon Research calls it the “generation that is coming of age at one of the wildest, unpredictable times in history: during a pandemic”. Not to be confused with Millennials or Gen Z, this group is uniquely different due to its technological capabilities, workplace experiences, and expectations of others.
At the turn of the 21st century, the generation coming of age then – the Millennials – experienced an enormous technology-enabled shift with the birth of smartphones and social media, most specifically Facebook. Aragon deems the term “Millennial” as out of date and suggests that grouping a 15-year span of people under one moniker doesn’t take into account the distinction from Gen Z and the different engagement as customers, employees, and partners as a result.
Even more striking and significant, the generation coming of age today has not known a world in which the immediate accessibility of information and services was not possible. Think about that. Uber, Grubhub, AirbBnB, YouTube, Snapchat, Google, Zoom, Bumble – a digital world always at its fingertips. And yes, we mean always. This generation was raised on “sharing and services.” More about that later.
Let’s take a look at the impact on work. Millennials have had some time to collect work experience under their collective belts. Gen S – well, hey, I can tell you firsthand, coming into the “real world” post Master's degree during a pandemic is a pretty daunting experience. If you were lucky enough to find a job, the prospect of losing that job, a furlough, or a pay cut was ever looming. In some instances, this set of circumstances made the greenest of us make a decision to change our career course before we even had one!
But, as a Gen S’er, my first job – remote. From a laptop. By myself. In my home “office” aka “bedroom”. That’s all I’ve ever known. The thought of what it could have been now that I think about it is scary! An hour commute to and from an office in Manhattan. Taking the laborious Long Island Railroad. My day starting at 6:00am and ending at 8:00pm. The weekends the only time for social life, exercise, and hobbies.
How in the world does anyone even do that?
Where exactly does this schedule leave room for me?
You get where I’m going with this, right?
I grew up in a digital world. I’ve had a smartphone for as long as I can remember and for social, educational, and professional interactions, I am usually online. According to a research study conducted by Pew Research in 2018, 45% of teens reported that they were online “nearly constantly”. Can you imagine what that statistic is now considering there was absolutely little beyond digital interaction for this age group for a good 18 months beginning in early 2020? This generation’s navigation of the world was turned upside down “almost overnight” with the onset of COVID-19.
For me, the term Gen S is ecstatically refreshing and I’m happy to be one of this unique and distinct group that is changing the world -- in a good and progressive way.
The “S” stands for Sharing and Services. What does this mean?
Gen S constituents are careful with money and as a result, often share services (the first S). For example, a Prime Video subscriber gets several IDs and those are doled out to friends who often share in the cost . Uber and Lyft offer rideshare options. And you can now rent someone’s car for a short (or even long) stint. Even medical costs are shareable now through certain religious or work affiliations. “Sharing is pushing the benefits of ownership into the background,” states Aragon.
The second S speaks to Services. Directly related to the decline in ownership, Gen S derives its necessary functions for daily life from services. With self-driving cars a reality within ten years, why would one want to incur the expense of a car, its maintenance, and expenses – when you can just summon a driverless with a swipe? And that’s just one aspect. Consider all capital expenses – home rentals, clothing, bicycles…all are affected and all to become service-based.
This has major impacts for brands of all types but we’re going to focus on the events and experiential industry.
Gen S is going to expect any and all content to be easily accessible, interactive, immersive, engaging, and mobile device-friendly in a significant way. When it comes to professional education, networking, and career expansion, they are going to seek out experiences that are proactively and digitally transformed both virtually and in person.
No more boring ballrooms. No talking head after talking head. No PowerPoint presentations to muddle through. No sitting through hours of breakouts.
As this generation develops into the everyday exhibitor/presenter/attendee, the learning mechanisms have got to evolve to keep pace. And it doesn’t mean you have an in-person event and stream it to a portion of the audience that is virtual.
That “e” word? You know…experiential? It’s now more critical than ever. You need to deliver social media experiences, goodies, a-ha moments of surprise and joy, true and authentic messaging, and intentional and meaningful ways to connect. Not to mention the social responsibility aspect. But that’s a whole other blog…
This is a generation that “loves video” and prefers “collaborative, social learning” (Panopto) and wants to be part of the story. Hence the success of immersive installations such as the Van Gogh immersive art exhibit or Area 15 in Las Vegas, an immersive playground that reaches past the “confines of space and time” (https://area15.co/experiences/).
Gen S is our exciting, challenging, discerning, demanding collective future.
Looking for more insight on on how to engage this Gen S audience? We can help.
- Laine Thelian, Current Gen S'er, Future Leader