Creating Programs for the Lady Gaga Generation

I was inspired by an article in Fast Company magazine a few weeks ago. Sarah Nagle, of Smart Design, made some suggestions for those who are designing products for the “Lady Gaga” generation. I have tweaked those thoughts and added some of my own to provide a short list for you who build programs for students. In case you’d like to peer into the brain of that young person you wish to reach, here are some statements that help you understand them and their culture:

1. Everyone is awesome.

Generation Y is a population of self-confident optimists. Why? Helicopter parents, trophies for just playing on a team, schools that won’t say no and TV shows that portray this generation as brilliant. Gen Y was the first group who grew up with reality TV, billionaires, Columbine High School, virtual relationships on-line and 9-11. They soared through each one of them feeling good about themselves. If you want to attract young adults—be sure and communicate belief in them, but be truthful. They now see through hollow flattery and want what’s real.

2. Change is compulsory.

Stop and think about their world. MTV, Twitter, RSS feeds, texting and Facebook updates have transformed these kids into people who expect change and it can’t happen fast enough for some of them. Lady Gaga is a vivid example of this reality. Her ever-evolving persona and costumes are an expression of this fluid ideal. Nostalgia has already set in—some things are constant, and others are constantly changing. Our offerings to Gen Y must exhibit the same—ancient future. Always be re-inventing and always do something new.

3. Sharing is second nature.

This is something older generations don’t always understand. For elders who want to “own” everything, and accumulate possessions, the new generation is used to crowd-sourcing, working in teams, gaining consensus on Facebook and sharing almost everything with peers. Collaboration has shaped their perspective. Inspired by Zipcar, Relayrides – the first peer-to-peer car-sharing site in the nation – has built an entire business plan on this ideal. When you create programs, I suggest you find ways for Gen Y to share—to both give and receive from others in the process.

4. Emotions rule.

Let’s face it. Both programs and commercials on TV have changed over the years. What do scriptwriters and retailers use to sell an idea? It’s emotion, more than logic. They recognize in this world that overwhelms us with information, what really captures the minds and hearts of people is a pull at the heart-strings. When you have an idea or program or cause to invite students into—your best bet is to appeal to their emotions. That is not to say you only use an emotional pull. There should always be rationale behind your idea. But they’ll jump onboard via their emotions.

5. Creativity is worshipped.

Creativity has always been important for youth, but the fact that it plays a paramount role in today’s generation is unique indeed. Programs that seem like imitations of another won’t fly, unless it’s a purposeful parody of the original. What really makes it are creations that are original. Sites like Etsy give the creative people a way to fund themselves and Kickstarter encourages a community to help turn innovative ideas into realities. Be sure when you start something—you are on to something unique and original. Programs must meet a real or felt need and differentiate themselves.

My guess is—you’ve thought about this concept yourself. What have you learned about creating programs for students?  Can you reply to me and share them?


Creating Programs for the Lady Gaga Generation