end of controlGive digital natives what they want? It’s not an option; it’s a business imperative. These tech-savvy, empowered individuals (your customers, community members and employees) have grown up with the Internet and an abundance of applications designed to give them more of a say in how they create, access and enjoy content. (And don’t forget that truly valuable advertising combines a sales pitch with useful content — recipes, advice, etc.)

The advance of mobile takes this all to  a new level, taking natives’ natural inclinations to interact to a new extreme. Mobile enables instant self-expression and turns up the pressure on companies and brands to deliver their marketing message via a two-way conversation within the context of what matters most to digital natives: their lives, their experiences, their networks, and their worlds. But delivering a message doesn’t make for a conversation; marketers also have listen to what digital natives have to say. Connect the dots, and it’s clear that permission marketing has earned a central spot in the mobile marketing mix.

Personal mobility and personalized advertising

This is the main message in my contribution to the new book Dancing With Digital Natives: Staying in Step with the Generation That is Transforming the Way Business is Done (May 2011). I am proud to have worked with Michelle Manafy on this project and feature her own takeaways in this guest column on MobileGroove.

In my chapter on personal mobility I draw from primary research and  interviews with industry influencers including best-selling author and consultant Tomi Ahonen; futurist Alan Moore, Antti Öhrling (Blyk co-founder),  Rosemary Tan (SPTI Asia’s Executive Director of Mobile Entertainment –a woman whom I regard as a visionary); Graham Brown (Mobile Youth); Rory Sutherland (Ogilvy UK Vice Chairman); Nigel Shanahan (Rapide Communications); and Mark Curtis (Flirtomatic) – to name (and thank) a few.

I also summarize the key takeaways of ongoing research into digital natives’ attitudes toward mobile advertising conducted by the Global Youth Lab, an innovative primary research program managed by Alcatel-Lucent.

The insights offered by Connie Torres, Global Youth Lab director, provide us with five basic rules for effective mobile advertising. Among these: Natives expect (and will come to demand) control of their advertising. So strap in for a massive shift in how brands and mobile operators do business.

Digital native insights

The new book brings together research, opinions, and business advice on digital natives, a term coined by author Marc Prensky to describe a generation of young people who have “spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age.” Flawed stereotypes of digital natives abound, but not in dispute is that, globally, an increasingly mobile, socially networked consumer base and workforce is creating fundamental changes in the way business is done.

“Generational differences have always influenced how business is done, but in the case of digital natives we are witnessing a tectonic shift,” Michelle Manafy said in a press statement.

Marketing and more

Understanding the impact of their lifelong immersion is key to creating and delivering effective advertising. But it doesn’t stop there.

In Dancing With Digital Natives, Michelle, co-editor Heidi Gautschi and twenty contributors explore a wide range of business issues and impacts. The result is a collection of thought-provoking chapters organized in four major parts: “The Digital Native Goes to Work,” “Marketing and Selling to the Digital Native,” “Entertaining the Digital Native,” and “Educating the Digital Native.”

Dancing_with_Digital_NativesJust released this week Dancing With Digital Natives has garnered strong pre-publication praise from a number of leading writers and researchers who have studied the phenomenon.

  • Don Tapscott, author of Grown Up Digital, said, “The wide array of fresh insights offered gives educators, employers and marketers the techniques and tools to better understand this challenging generation.”
  • John Palfrey, co-author of Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, said, “This remarkable group of editors and authors present a range of opinions about the challenges and opportunities of business life in a digital era. … No matter what, this book will make you think.”
  • Lou Frillman, Chairman of the Unity Fund who held multiple leadership roles in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, said, “The digital native generation doesn’t want to be talked to; young people want to interact, engage, and effect change. … Dancing With Digital Natives shows you how to make that real connection happen.”

Disclaimer: News and views across the mobile marketing ecosystem is sponsored by Optism, a MobileGroove client and supporter.