Hudson River State Hospital Exterior-3Understanding the aspirations and expectations of the emerging “millennial consumer” can no longer be considered a peripheral concern. The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States was accelerated by the tremendous energy and commitment of a new generation of voters. Exit polls indicate that Obama received 66% of the youth vote and 68% of the new voter vote.

And while the Obama campaign has successfully employed a wide range of communication devices and technologies, the political party machines are streets ahead of the majority of social institutions. Government departments across the world still largely struggle with technology and integration, businesses outlaw the use of social networks in the workplace and education institutions offer courses that are outdated by the knowledge and skills that students can obtain online.

This fascinating post by Alana Taylor, an NYU journalism student and blogger clearly demonstrates the gap and the sense of frustration:

What is so fascinating about the move from print to digital is the freedom to be your own publisher, editor, marketer, and brand. But, surprisingly, NYU does not offer the kinds of classes I want.

Where once innovation occurred mostly from within the walls of the enterprise, consumers are now iteratively experimenting with technologies and applying them to their real world problems. This means that businesses and brands are struggling to keep pace with the changes that are occurring within their marketplaces. It also means that there has been a role reversal in the dynamic in what marketers traditionally call “B2C”. The same applies to other “institutions” such as universities, colleges and government departments.

Despite the economic slowdown, it is clear that behavioural patterns have shifted. Institutions will continue to struggle in the face of this widespread change and the gaps will widen between brands, consumers and the “promise” that should bridge the two. There are very interesting times ahead of us all.