Covid-19 has changed the way we live in a very broad sense, but in a more subtle way as well. When you think about how your individual behaviours and actions have evolved over the past three months, you’ll be surprised to see how much has changed. Dr. Marcus Ranney believes that Covid-19 will create a new anthropological group of individuals which he has termed ‘Gen C’.
How did you come up with the idea of Gen C?
My role at Thrive puts me in a position where I get to engage with a lot of leaders and corporations. It allows me to get insight into the different cultures and behaviours that are beginning to mushroom due to various external effects. This pandemic is unique in that there is so much change happening, without things changing very much!
I started observing not only what was going on in the press but insights from organisations and that led me to think through some of these aspects.
Who comprises this group and how will Gen C behave differently than their predecessors?
For the first time in history, since the world wars of the 20th century, the entire world is going through the same thing at the same time. This pandemic crosses every border and affects each person in the world. If you look at Gen X, who dealt with 9/11 and the 2008 recession, they might be able to deal with this situation with more resilience however they are also most likely to be the person running a household, providing for their families and caring for children and older parents.
Baby boomers, born between 1944 and 1964, might have lived through more but are at the age where they need to think about their own health first, along with the health of their children and grandchildren. They are now considered a high-risk population which can be difficult to ingest for many.
I feel like Millennials and Gen Z might respond with their own unique coping mechanisms such as nonchalance or 'staring down' at the problem. This was demonstrated in the first few weeks of the pandemic where young people took to travelling and throwing 'quarantine' parties.
Key characteristics of Gen C will include a shared loss of confidence, a more virtual future, enhanced capacity for self-generation and self-care along with a focus on community building and collaboration.
The erosion of this confidence will make trust more important than before. The focus will move towards confidence-building narratives, making justifiable optimism a strong selling point. All of this may change the nature of what we regard as premium products and services.
Next is the migration to virtual activities from Zoom calls to working remotely. We've seen a huge increase in people studying outside of physical institutions, employees working from home, online recruitment and on-boarding and online transactions. This generation promises to be one for whom the online space will become incredibly important.
The third characteristic is a high sense of self-awareness, a strong priority on well-being and sustainability. With almost half of the world’s population, now living under lockdown, the World Economic Forum has described this period as the largest psychological experiment ever conducted and we are already witnessing a huge surge in mental health conditions (stress, anxiety, addiction, domestic violence and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Sustainability (business and climate) will redefine itself in the Covid-19 era as businesses increase CSR budgets, adopt employee-lite operating models and travel and supply chains looking to fundamentally change for years.
Finally, I feel like this generation will place a renewed emphasis on building and staying connected to communities - both online and physically. As people’s movements restrict themselves to smaller and smaller perimeters, our awareness of 'local' (people, events, infrastructure) will become more meaningful and important. ‘Know thy neighbour’ will be invaluable.
"I think we need to reinforce the idea that we are in this together, reminding people why we need to stick together and extending the story of mental health now as well."
What can brands and businesses do to adapt to this new generation of customers?
If you look at each of the four characteristics mentioned, you can potentially find ways to work with those parameters. I think there will be a migration away from the unknown and toward the familiar with brands who display trust and nostalgia seeing good results. The idea of going back to safer, more secure times like our childhood, is one strategy I have been seeing a lot.
Many brands are moving as much of their business online as possible which is a smart move, as well as using their platform to engage and interact with customers. I think we need to reinforce the idea that we are in this together, reminding people why we need to stick together and extending the story of mental health now as well.
Working on the frontlines, how has the pandemic changed your own worldview? How does it feel to be practising medicine again?
I have definitely gone from being a global citizen to one who is much more locally cognisant. Previously it was all about business travel, holidays and an international outlook. What this time has taught me is how important the things around me are such as the people I live near, the access to services available nearby, the support structures, the outdoor spaces, etc.
Working in medicine has reignited a part of my passion and brain which I haven't had the opportunity to exercise in the recent past, and it's been a fascinating journey. When the pandemic hit, I had many invitations to speak on panels and various platforms, however, now being on the frontlines I have become so much more appreciative of all the work our essential workers are doing. You really understand the nature of solving a multi-stakeholder problem and learn how to be more human.