04/17/2014 05:12 EDT | Updated 06/17/2014 05:59 EDT

Businesses Should Bow to Creator Culture

It is the job of marketers to understand the needs and wants of the average consumer and deliver the products and services that match their everyday needs in a "one-size-fits-all" approach. Does this work today? Absolutely not. Consumers are ever-changing and to match, marketing is doing the same. For example, consumers are sharing real-time feedback on social media so the most agile and reactive brands, like Oreo, are the getting the attention. Why is this? Because consumers are the drivers -- they are telling brands what they want, when they want and how they want it. And thus, a creator culture is born.

How consumers are digesting new experiences and products is changing; they are moving away from passive consumption to active creation. On TV, we see active engagement from fans and viewers to choose their own adventure and drive the storyline with shows like Big Brother Canada or The Voice.

We are actively giving consumers the power to dictate what they want and how they want to receive it. For example, the textile industry is reaching beyond pre-made patterns allowing individuals to be the designer and create the exact pattern they want. Fabric On Demand has an excellent understanding of giving customers the tailored products they crave. They state that "if you can imagine it, you can print it," which perfectly exemplifies exactly what consumers are now looking for. No longer can companies simply push out cookie-cutter, boxed products; they need to focus on the individual, providing a tailored experience for them, not the masses.

What Does the Future Hold?

The individual creator cannot be ignored. The Microsoft Digital Trends report took a deeper dive into this emerging creator culture and examined how consumers are working with and customizing technology. The study found that 37% of Canadian online consumers expressed a desire to learn more about how to make or adapt their own digital devices and services, although a mere 15% are currently engaged with this trend. Although the percentage may be low, this consumer is influential. Young adults aged 18 to 24 are especially important, with 52% stating they would be interested in companies asking for input. Organizations and businesses need to focus on this collaboration and how they can "help me ... help you."

The creator culture is rife in the world of gaming. Games like Minecraft, Project Spark and Rust are notable examples of an extremely popular and growing genre of gaming: the sandbox game. Playing on the concept of children playing in a sandbox together, sandbox gaming is an open world where players can create, explore and possibly destroy their own virtual worlds freely without having to follow a specific mission or objective. With this, gamers are taking on the role of developers, where they can create their own games and experiences, share their worlds and build off others gamers' creations. Imagination is their only restriction.

To truly engage with creator culture, organizations cannot ignore one of the biggest demographics in Canada: the Baby Boomers. This group is demanding innovation in tech, entertainment and in healthcare. Who is to blame them? When innovation is so rampant, this generation is eager to capitalize and test the boundaries and do the unexpected. For example, personalized health care can now go beyond the traditional and should because it is both possible and expected. For example, Reflexion Health leverages the skeletal tracking and depth perception of the Kinect 2.0 sensor in their physical therapy program. Their application, named Vera, allows patients to work on movements, ensure accuracy through real-time feedback and provide data-driven results directly to therapists. By modifying a technology that currently exists, medicine is also able to create new innovations and change the ways in which patients look at technology and health care.

Growing Up with Generation I, the Digital Natives

In my generation, technology was very different than it is today. Observing Generation I, we can quickly see the new realities of creator culture. Born after 2002, this group has grown up with tablets, smart phones, computers, gaming systems ... the list is endless. They have learned to read, play and socialize through technology. Their realities are online. As this generation grows they will become more engrossed in their online worlds and the line between reality and virtual blur. One day they may move beyond the virtual and create a world which blends simulation and reality, where they can plug in and out as required. Creating experiences is second nature, so for marketers, this means we need to be the same. How do we create experiences that consumers want to engage with? Can we allow them to create and shape their own campaigns and products?

For now, companies are capitalizing on the curiosity of Generation I and providing them with the resources to learn and engage in basic computer science. Technology is becoming a very cool, hip space that all generations want to be part of and particularly Generation I. For example, last February this video went viral, featuring some of the biggest names in Hollywood and the tech world, promoting why learning code is essential skill for the job market of tomorrow. Recently they've started an initiative called the Hour of Code which is a tutorial for beginnings showing that anybody can code. Consumers want to know what's going on, but more importantly, they want to do it themselves. We have to give them the tools.

Providing the resources and platforms for consumers to create has become an embedded part of how people consume. Organizations, no matter the industry, cannot ignore the importance of collaboration and co-creation. We are no longer the experts who can dictate what people want. We are now the apprentices to a very large population of mentors.