It may have started with the Baby Boomers, but it is a rare generation these days that isn’t somewhat narcissistic in its youth. Most young adults get over themselves as they get older, but the challenge facing dog fanciers is how to reach these potential fanciers while they’re still young.
|There are six living generations in America right now, and broadly speaking, three of them, the “Gen-X-ers, “Millennials” and “Boomlets” don’t remotely communicate with others the way veterans in our sport did at the same age. These people have never known a world without computers, and some of them haven’t known a day without a cell phone. Cursive writing, now regarded as anachronistic, hasn’t been taught in many school systems for years. Newer generations don’t use a phone if they can e-mail, and they don’t e-mail if they can text. They get their news on-line, their gossip on Facebook, their entertainment on Netflix, and visit You Tube for instructional videos. WebAssign assesses their school assignments, they use Photoshop and InDesign to express creativity, and for inspiration, they go to Pinterest. “Selfies” are the new autobiography, and Instagram is the new family photo album. Sixty percent of the time they spend watching a TV program is “time-shifted,” meaning that they’ve programed a DRV to record something they’ll watch at a time that suits them, not a network.
This is not written as a “slam.” Today’s young people are curious and creative and they pursue their eclectic interests with passion. The fact is, however, that because they’ve been using the latest in technology since infancy, they expect things quickly, and that includes knowledge. They are “on-demand “consumers who learn by doing, not by investing precious time reading instruction manuals or listening to lectures. These are the young adults whose interest we must pique if we’re to have any hope of passing the torch to people who will protect our breeds when we’re gone.
Lest you think these are sweeping generalizations, consider:
The people who frequent these sites see what they want, when they want to see it, and wherever they happening to be standing at the moment. That’s a lot of self-indulgence, and writer, Joel Stein, probably had it right when he described Millennials in a recent TIME magazine cover story as the “Me, Me, Me Generation.” It’s doubtful that Stein wrote this description to “dis” this demographic, however, because he goes on to explain that these people “aren’t a new species; they’ve just mutated to adapt to their environment.” That environment is cyberspace.
Sadly, the fancy has been slow to create a dynamic presence in their environment, and it still hasn’t tackled in practical terms how we’re to market ourselves to a demographic that doesn’t need us as much as we need them.
Many of us still don’t have an Internet presence through which the public might learn about our different breeds, nor have we as individuals done a good enough job in giving compelling reasons why a prospective dog owner should opt for a purebred dog over a mixed breed from a shelter. The fancy is unlikely to make in- roads, let alone an impact, if potential puppy buyers find substandard breeders easier and faster than they can find quality breeders dedicated to their breeds. Long overdue is the time when we as individuals, and the sport as a whole, repackages itself and competes head to head in the marketplace with unethical people selling unsound dogs that doom both owner and dog to misery.
Make no mistake, we are also in competition with rescue groups that have become a cottage industry onto themselves. Promoting ourselves on-line isn’t selling out our dignity; it’s protecting our dogs and a venerable sport. Not to promote either amounts to selling out our breeds.
If Millennials, the biggest age grouping in American history with some 80 million people, is visiting You Tube, iTunes, Instagram and Pinterest, then each breeder, fancier, and club needs to be there, too. It’s never been easier to create a video or podcast, and who better to speak with passion about the “selling points” of our respective breeds than the people who love them? Podcasts and videos of interviews with the “elder statesmen” of our respective breeds need to be put on iTune, You Tube, Vimeo and Twitter now. Every breed club should consider adding a “Social Media Committee” now, not just to ensure the club’s presence on-line, but to actively and aggressively promote the unique and predictable attributes of their breed. The material writes itself when we look at what we admire about our dogs.
The National Study of Youth and Religion study found the guiding morality of 60% of Millennials in any situation is that they just want to be able to feel what’s right. This plays perfectly into our message. “Heritage breeders” are, in reality, conservators preserving their respective breeds, many of these breeds at risk of vanishing in our lifetime. Owning a breed outnumbered by Panda Bears is a “feel good” act that holds its own when the sentence, “I saved this dog from a shelter” is met with, “I saved this breed from extinction.”
It won’t be a tough sell.
|This article first appeared in the January, 2016 issue of Dogs in Review under the title, “Making Ourselves Relevant”|