Move Over Gen XY, Here Comes Generation "Control Z"

About three weeks ago, my wife was hemming her pants. When she accidentally made a stitch larger than she wanted, her first thought was, "Control Z". When it didn't undo, she almost choked from laughter at her own techie-ness. Feeling really geeky, she went to work the next day and started telling her co-workers: "…and you know what I thought?", to which one chimed in, "Control Z." It wasn't a question; apparently, all her co-workers have had similar experiences and don't think it unusual.

Marketers can now name their next segment to spend billions targeting - Generation "Control Z". This consumer has grown up not just with computers, but with their operating systems allowing them to fix any mistake they make. They submit hastily completed work that if it doesn't auto-correct or underline itself with a squiggly red line, it's perfect.

This consumer does multi-task, consume multiple media simultaneously, and control how marketers reach them - but they're also less careful, less accountable to anyone, and generally not interested in anything if it doesn't happen in less than a second (i.e. they expect immediate response from clicking on an icon or link, whether or not the computer they're using processes as fast).

To this consumer, Microsoft isn't a global software company, they're a force like religion or government - they're an ancient part of the culture that's not to be questioned, simply accepted it for what it is. (Our problem with spam and spyware isn't just due to overzealous marketers, it's Microsoft's fault for crappy software. However, rarely is Microsoft acknowledged by this consumer for the security flaws on their browsers and operating systems that permit malicious scripts to sneak their way onto their computers [1].)

This consumer doesn't make the rigid distinctions between the different ways marketers target them - they're all ads to be ignored or avoided. Unless the ad is interesting, in which case, it's worth talking to their friends about. The old concepts of reach and frequency still (and will always) work with them, and their interest isn't difficult to get; it's just a matter of simplifying everything for them (because they need [not want] faster-than-instant gratification).

This consumer has a million choices in life - and most times, they want to explore all of them. They're not aware that they can't, but they are constrained by time and other obstacles to exploring their choices. As a result, sampling is the fastest way to get them interested in a brand experience. A great experience will make them a passionate advocate. A bad experience will keep them from ever trying it again (this consumer just doesn't have the time to bad-mouth you to their friends, as is commonly thought by "expert" marketers.)

Further, because they're so accustomed to undoing their mistakes at will (or worse yet, having auto-correct undo it for them, making them oblivious to their own errors), they're lazier than any other generation before them (sorry, but it's true). Backtracking, proofreading, and "never making the same mistake twice" is anathema to them. No other generation before this one was has been so culturally excused from actually learning (except for you, sweetheart), thanks to the technology around them functioning as a crutch. It's not too fantastic to claim that Microsoft Word and Google Calculator are the cyborg implants of our time.

Generation Control Z's behavior will not be dictated by rational thinking (i.e. this is how individual technology is used, so this is how they will act). Their behavior will be dictated by the way they use their technology together, including the interface, without regard to the way it was intended to be used: consumers use their wireless handsets' display to illuminate the dark; consumers with Palm Pilots also use notebooks; computers ended up being able to rip DVDs, when they were originally intended to just type documents faster.

Not part of any particular age, ethnic, gender, generational, or even geographic group, this is the "Control Z Culture" and it encompasses everyone who occasionally asks, "What did they do before they invented ________?" Is this you? Now that you know what's next, don't screw it up.

Write to Al Berrios at


1 "The Apocalypse Has Come, And Thy Name Is Pop-up"


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