Watch out, Generation X, Y and Z – a powerful new force in culture and commerce is emerging: Generation C. User generated “Content”, “Community”, “Creation”, “Connection” and “Curation” are its defining features. Spanning the generations its members are digital natives and exceptionally tech-adept, using the web to search for and create new content across all platforms – everywhere, everyday.
Within Generation C everyone is a blogger, everyone is an artist and everyone can be a designer. This phenomenon leads to an increasing dilution of the distinction between audience and speaker, consumer and creator. Therefore the desire for personalized products and services has never been greater. Tapping into this trend companies like M&M or Nike provide their customers with the opportunity to adjust designs and colors to their individual needs and thereby create their own personalized product versions within a given framework. Meanwhile mass customization is commonplace.
The need to express individuality particularly applies to high-involvement products like art or design. Many trends, such as the DIY (“Do-It-Yourself”) movement, also build on this phenomenon. DIY communities provide inspirations, guidelines and advice to create individual items, without any commercial intermediaries involved. But even if the creativity of Generation C members seems to be endless, their skills and also their time are finite. Productivity is restricted by the technical skills of the creator.
The business landscape is gradually adjusting to these developments. Companies are trying to make use of the creative potential of this new generation by providing them with the means to create, produce and participate. The Boston-based start-up CustomMade, founded in 2009, created a platform that engages customers in a revolutionary way to change rules back from mass production to custom made products. It connects people who seek unique one-of-a-kind goods made just for them with a local community of professional manufacturers, who can bring those ideas to life. Buyers submit pictures or descriptions of the desired product and interested makers reach out by sending their concept proposals. Today, the CustomMade community includes thousands of manufacturers of custom furniture, jewelry, leather, ceramics and textiles. In this way CustomMade overcomes the weaknesses of mass customization and DIY, by not restricting the buyers creativity in any way and making the skills of professional manufacturers available – to help Generation C members to create anything they can think of.