Understanding & Building for the Dopamine Generation

Median age by country in years in 2017 (U.N.). The youth bulge is evident in parts of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

There is one App that has taken the youth bulge by storm every where, that is TikTok. At its core its simple short-form entertainment that has some Chinese pixie dust(aka Algos) that bring virality to content by creating crazy in-platform exposure. This generation is all about instant fixes, when it comes to tiktok where videos are sub 60 seconds, these short videos have created and curated a new type of addict and addiction masquerading as entertainment but driven by the consumption economy. When your users are spending of 52m/Day on the app clearly byetdance the 70bn$ company that owns tiktok did some thing right.

Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat have a similar but different consumption/virality vibe and also creating their own versions of dopamine filled experiences. So what is it? That is driving audience to this consumption economy?The way it works is simple, Kids these days look up to influencers(we had national heroes, sportsmen/women, business titans, celebrities who took ages to make their mark in a space), the premise has remained the same but the thesis has changed, those people that have millions of followers and can do whatever they want because they have a pretty good amount of money are all the rage. Every one wants to be like them and follow what they do and are led by them like a cult. This is not really promoting scientists or particle physicists, from the outside in, it may even seem like a steady dumbing down of what passes as stuff worth watching or following.

In short, all you need is one hit to get noticed and the kids know that between their chosen platforms, they don’t need any special skill set and “it could happen to them” The definition of a good piece of content is also changing. Also it just doesn’t need to be mindless content, to test this hypothesis I combined some pre existing content on sufi music, I made a short 55-second video about the origins of it and got 6800 views in a day as a first time tiktok user not even having an account prior to this. Truthfully its not a bad place to be, instant recognition by views? In the end it’s pretty simple, all these kids are trying to do the same. Its like one of those toy claw machines where every one wins atleast one prize, for one coin put in you can try till you win a big prize but if you loose you are guaranteed the the base prize always. TikTok has personified and cashed in on this. How hard can that be? There are short form items which tiktok is good for then there is youtube for every thing else mixed with insta and snapchat.

If you don’t know drops and kiks I suggest you familiarise your self here first. Things are changing fast, as are monetisation avenues and engagement platforms. The new normal was barely normal before Covid-19 came around and forced an entire generation to work from home adding crazy growth in online content creation and consumption and in turn fuelling new brand creation and growth avenues. Their perspectives on consumption, education, work, products, content is miles apart from where traditional businesses and marketers are focused. Locally, regionally and globally the trends have fireballed into an ecosystem that most people don’t have a window into. Heres a starter pack that I’ve put together for you. (of all places twitter recommendations)

New Media – Digital Distribution – Engagement Tech

Nerd Stuff – New Tech – Platforms

Content Creators – Content  Driven Merch – Gen D Collectives – Agencies

Food & Nutrition

Misc Stuff

All these are examples of brands, products, icons, influencers that are creating, making, selling and consuming in their own bubble/ecosystem for the most part without outsiders having a real window into the business of GenD(dopamine driven)++. Some have cracked the nut, there are specialists agencies managing “talent” being run by a much younger crowd, not owned by the existing media outlets and brands, they have developed their own origination and consumption patterns, whereby select “merch” is listed and “dropped” to a select audience, and people can pay to queue jump, these things are not sold in stores.

Do you see the opportunity for the post corona world? Do we have our own local versions? Is any one building a list of these influencers? Are our Sahab based agencies that profited off sleaze-ball agency owners and their cronies in tv channels by profiteering off rack rate khanchas, ready to manage this talent and brace for the new era of consumption and influencer driven advertising? Are our less than adequate news channels ready for a generational competitor? Whilst a host of the media end of this landscape is and will remain a fairly western phenomenon, a large part will be our ground reality as well. Most of our influencers are any thing but, due to a lack of original content and programming the audiences they command are a mix of folks with pent up frustration, aggression and voyeuristic tendencies, so not too removed from the stuff being promoted in LA.

In our case the mass market has a window into other peoples/rich influencers lives and some thing to look up to, they feel like they can relate to them, albeit that sentiment maybe universal. But there are major influencers with audience followers in the millions who are not leading or promoting the glamorous life, they are rural tiktokers with massive fan following. The audiences sizes for example give one an idea that if brands were able to harness the raw power of these following and if these influencers were business savvy they could turn their audiences into an economic power house, from brand building, licensing, product endorsements and perhaps money left over for some education. Its a dystopian view when you go to https://www.tiktok.com/discover?lang=en to discover the latest local videos.

Similarly on instagram the following folks, are being followed from Pakistan most, some of them are not even Pakistani. This gives you an idea around the flavour of the content being consumed and what the audiences crave.

Moving on to youtube and looking at audience metrics we see a different kind of trend in channels driving large section of views(some are still traditional). Whilst most aren’t, yet A host of this content is religious or sensationalist news. Not necessarily targeting just the youth alone but a huge chunk of it is being consumed by them whilst a host of it is being created by younger creators. Interesting trends emerge when you go from TikTok to Instagram to Youtube, the audience mix, the monetisation capacity, the content, the demographic mix all changes completely as the format of engagement changes.

So whats the moral of the story here. We like all other countries with a young population and an ageing population have not only social issues coming up, we also have major societal issues, whereby there is zero adult supervision in what is being created, consumed, distributed. This will bring with it, its share of complexities, issues and also opportunities. There is also a real social divide happening where there is a stark socio economic disconnect between the influencers and the people following them that in the current socio economic condition(s) only lead to a bigger online and offline divide between the citizens of the country. With such chaos comes opportunity and we have a host of pre existing examples globally to learn from on how to navigate this complex dopamine powered web. The real winners will be those who can get ahead of the curve and integrate this new reality in their existing and post corona growth strategies. If you don’t get in the line of sight of Gen Z/Dopamine today you will be irrelevant in the years to come.

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