Meet the Change Makers
You thought the millennials were hard bunch to please? Please. Millennials were a boom to brands and smart businesses. Self-centered, superficial and in constant need of validation, they were a breeze to target wholesale. Social and convenience mixed in with a bit of faux personal touch had them easily separated from their easily earned cash.
They get blamed for the demise of a bunch of industries and businesses, but honestly, those guys had it coming. It wasn’t the millennials that killed them. It was their own refusal to adapt. Age-old story, really.
Millenials quite happily associate themselves with value-aligned brands. They love to “like” and “follow”. That stuff has been too easy to exploit by companies and brands — all they needed to do was to manufacture narratives that aligned with 3–4 fundamental themes and they laughed all the way to the bank.
A new cohort has come of age, and they are VERY different creatures.
Powered by knowledge and technology, these new guys have an unprecedented grasp of the global complexities facing their generation and are keen to do something about it. They make a point refusing to follow narratives and instead desire real change. Authenticity. They wouldn’t be seen dead “following” anything and anyone.
Poorer than the previous generation, betrayed by incumbent industries and corrupt governments, shocked by repeated breaches of trust from large, monopolistic companies, these new guys view “social” models as exposing vulnerabilities and facilitating manipulation from data-savvy companies and governments. They value their privacy, are intolerant of creepy advertising models and are savvy enough to build the tools needed to circumvent the system.
Short-changed by unsustainable economic models flogged by their pampered predecessors, they are feeling the economic pitch and the urgency of reversing some of the consequences of decisions taken by their elders. They want a more active, authentic role for themselves, in a new type of economy, powered by new rules.
These guys want to be in control. They need Purpose. They are ready to define an identity for themselves through acts of positive change. They care for their impact on the world.
We call them the Change Makers.
Impact is the new currency
So you have a whole new generation that is suspicious of the status quo. They don’t believe in output industries and traditional economic theories that glorify growth without taking into account externalities and the social & environmental long term costs. They don’t buy property, even when they can afford it. They don’t set up pension funds and do not invest in the stock market. New economic models are emerging in which people prioritize community and sustainability over fast growth. Circular economies. Farm to table. Local, organic farming. Artisanal economies. Social capital. Natural capital.
Conflicts and struggles on the other side of the world feel a lot more real than they did for the any previous generation. For the first time, perhaps this generation doesn’t only feel that they may be able to cure disease, end poverty, save the planet, but they feel that it is their responsibility to do so.
They may seem fringe, at first. Naïve. Hard to scale, make-believe flights of fancy indulged into by eccentric youth. And that may be the case, but the fundamental needs of this new generation — the stuff behind these flights of fancy — is the most powerful thing in the world and anyone who dismisses these fundamentals does so at their own peril.
Since the beginning of time we have been through a bunch of economic phases, defined by the commodity or currency that powered the economy of the era. In our lifetimes alone, economic fundamentals have shifted a few times under the pressure of innovation. Industry-centered models powered by capital and fixed assets that defined the 80s made way for information-centered models powered by technology and software. Then, new models emerged, centered around social networks, powered by connections and engagement.
And now, in the wake of #DeleteFacebook, the end of the social era is near. The next era will be The Purpose Era. Powered by Impact.
There’s a catch, though. Impact is really hard to articulate, gauge and measure. It means different things to different people. Even if we agree what it means, correlations between actions and their impact are hard to understand. This creates a further vulnerability: companies (and governments and individuals) claiming more impact than they actually created. Greenwashing. Fake impact.
Basically, marketing products as “ethical” is just a way for companies to manipulate consumers and that many companies behave ethically in one area while behaving unethically in another. Consumers are smart. They have quickly become suspicious to the point that more than half of respondents in this Mintel Survey agreed that marketing products as “ethical” is just a way for companies to manipulate consumers.
The root problem is that impact is a black box. Tracking is slow, expensive and controlled by a small number of trusted incumbent mediators. Impact at any scale — regardless of the type of financing or the implementation model — relies on expensive, inefficient infrastructures that have remained virtually unchanged for the last three — four decades.
This is a big tragedy and a tremendous opportunity.
It is not a coincidence that the Bitcoin whitepaper was published ten years ago, in the wake of the worst financial crisis in a century. In fact, that financial crisis, and the way the world’s governments reacted to it was the single most powerful accelerator of this new generation’s drive for purpose. The whole thing left a bitter taste in a whole generations’ mouth and the ideas behind Bitcoin scratched some pretty serious itches.
Forget about the speculation and the get-rich-fast stuff. I know that’s how most people know the Bitcoin. In fact, forget about Bitcoin entirely — the whole project may crash and burn. That’s just noise. The technology that powers bitcoin — blockchain — is where it’s at. Blockchain is the true game-changer and the big opportunity.
Changemakers are seduced by the principles behind the blockchain? Don’t believe me? Hear it from Bloomberg. Blockchain resonates with them because of a few powerful features:
- It is decentralized. That means it runs on millions of different machines that have nothing in common; This also means that:
- It is censorship-resistant. No-one can shut down a blockchain. Not governments, not companies. Unless they shut down all the nodes (machines) at once, the blockchain will survive;
- It is open source. No-one owns the code. There is no IP. There is no small script. No funny code running in the background spying on you.
- It is community managed— there is no CEO, no bosses. If a project has value, a community emerges that will help the whole thing evolve;
- It is un-hackable. Once something has been committed to the blockchain, it cannot be changed anymore. No-one can hack or modify any entry on the blockchain;
Impact on the blockchain
So why should anyone care about all this? Why is it relevant to everyday non-tech companies? I believe that smart companies across all sectors and categories can benefit hugely by adapting their offering to this new consumer segment. This is a once-in-a generation opportunity and it works like this:
Successful companies need to please the Changemakers
Successful companies need to have a clear purpose
Successful Companies need to prove their impact
Changemakers will not trust unverified, company-driven narratives. They need transparent, trust-less proof
The most elegant solution right now is for companies to objectively verify their impact and record it on the blockchain.
This will allow anyone (consumers) to verify any company’s impact claim. It will become the mechanism by which Changemakers will choose which brands to embrace and which to turn their backs on.
Millenials did not kill Blockbuster or the taxi industry. These companies got complacent and they failed to see the fundamental change in consumer needs. It happened with every generation, and it will happen again.
Companies who understand this new categories of fundamental needs will leapfrog past large “social” incumbents, just like it happened every time the rules changed.