Introducing Cohort C
By Ross Ashcroft
When you were born is irrelevant – how a mixed cohort now thinks — is about to change everything.
When making the film Four Horsemen we regularly heard a glib reservation about our efforts: “you will never get young people interested in business and economics”. We ignored this. How do you define ‘young people?’ Why are we just speaking to ‘young people?’ Are business and economics the preserve of people who are ‘older?’ Hubris and youth obsession are lethal especially when you examine what has happened over the last twenty five years.
The people who made these dismissive statements turned out to be spectacularly wrong. Four Horsemen played at forty or so festivals globally which afforded us the opportunity to actually meet our audience or ‘market’. We talked to our crowd – found out about their hopes and fears, discovered what made them tick, understood their worldview, asked their ages, enquired about their passions, associations, media consumption etc. The only problem defining this merry band came about when we tried to shoehorn them into a generation, social group, age based demographic or other prosaic social construct. The more we tried the less we could do it. Now we were interested — so who are they?
“It’s a Mindset”
Four Horsemen opened and sold out the imposing Tuschinski 1 in Amsterdam. After the inaugural screening Megan — the producer — made a seemingly innocuous comment: “our audience isn’t an age group or a generation – they are a mindset”. Intuitively the team knew that she was onto something.
So who are our ‘market’? Let me introduce them to you – we have called them Cohort C. And now let me add a gentle warning. If you operate in business in any capacity you write these guys off at your peril.
Cohort C is, in short, a collective who are becoming the tastemakers. With the deluge of content released hourly into the cloud it is these guys who decide what is relevant, fits their worldview and then pushes the social narrative forward. They’re not activists or yogurt knitters nor are they celebrity obsessed consumers. They are empathetic pragmatists. They are global citizens. They are the connected creators who strive to express themselves and improve their /our world.
You cannot lie to these people you cannot market at them nor can you use reductionist aspirational imagery to sell them your prestigious tat. Their definitions of wealth, prestige and success differ from their predecessors and here is the thing – Cohort C are not going anywhere. They are not a marketing fad — they will only grow — in fact by 2018 YouTube research claims they will account for around 40-50% of every major market.
And here is the other thing – they want you to meet them, talk to them, embrace them, enhance their lives and increase their understanding. Why? Because that’s what they are doing for others. Tough crowd? No — an engaged crowd is a better description.
This cohort could comprise of a seven year old with a bike puncture, a silver surfer with a cause, a banker who isn’t going to take it anymore, an empty nest mother who wants to re-engage, the crazy YouTube foraging auntie who is sick of mainstream media, the overqualified university graduate who shudders at the thought of twenty-five years in a monochrome corporate monolith.
In short Cohort C is probably you.
Make no mistake this varied, mentally adroit audience have very clear views about themselves and their world. These people will define the next quarter of a century and if you genuinely meet and listen to them there are no better allies to have.
We speak from experience.
A Big Moment in Business
Companies who have a marketing department that is an addendum to their core activity are in for a shock. This weird silo mentality pervades many businesses and is a remnant of left-brain management dinosaurs. In times of transition management often deploy a ‘let’s save costs and wait and see’ mentality. This is regressive.
It’s a fear based response so logically many opportunities fall through the gaps. Let me give you an example.
We took a Renegade Economist television pilot to many of the organisations who had told us “young people weren’t interested in business or economics”. The stock rebuff for the new idea was this: “It doesn’t fit into our entertainment category so we sent it to factual. Factual then reply “this should be in entertainment”. Awesome creative leadership from people who still judge their audiences by the year in which they were born.
See the opportunities that the fear based silo mentality missed? That is the Cohort C market.
Broadcasters along with so many others are so far off the ball. Their unconscious chosen response is to do nothing and hope this turbulence passes so we can all return to ‘business as usual’. Deluded.
So we are happy to introduce and be part of Cohort C. The digitally able ‘generation’ who demand relevance and originality. We want cooperation and community. We chose depth over unfettered growth. We cannot be tricked or cowed. We think profits are a byproduct of good business not an end in themselves. We favour a network over steep, alienating, hierarchies. We demand meaning and purpose and we use the wisdom of our trusted crowd to help with our decision-making.
Be excited about this emerging ‘market’ – they are progressive. The question many businesses now face is simple: are you going to embrace Cohort C and genuinely meet them or will you – Canute like – rely on your monopoly to stick to the old way of doing things? Go to them and enquire then serve or try to make them come to you to ask for your permission?
Ross Ashcroft is, amongst many things, an award winning film director, the co-Founder of production company Motherlode and the anchor for the rather brilliant Renegade Economist.