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You're Powerful and They Know It


You're Powerful and They Know It

Power is shifting in our society and you have everything to do with it. You’re creating social networks and communities that are redefining our cultural reality.

The relationship between two basic frameworks — affluence and influence — is changing as Generation Z uses digital connectivity to be heard in a world that has traditionally reserved that privilege for the elite.

This profound societal transformation is described by Thomas Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen in their book, “The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business.”

We met with Koulopoulos, Bentley University alumnus, former Bentley faculty member, and current president of the Delphi Group, to learn more about what this power shift will mean for you. Here are a few things to consider:

1. Influence is the new currency and you possess it.

“Influence becomes a form of affluence. It is a currency, and it can be used as a currency. And in some cases, it can be a more effective currency than the dollar or the euro or the yen. There are ways to create megaphones without necessarily having the affluence to do so.” — Koulopoulos

It’s all about connectedness. You are using online worlds to join communities that you’ve chosen to be part of out of a desire from within rather than an external pressure. These form an important piece of your identity. They draw you into a global set of communities, a worldwide network.

That is a powerful thing. You’re changing the nature of advertising as brands work to align with your causes or issues or campaigns in a genuine way. You have the power to change the tide of opinion in both commercial and political realms. For instance, youthful organizers of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which criticized widespread corporate practices, inspired similar protests in more than 80 countries in less than three weeks.

2. The wealthy and powerful are losing their longstanding grasp on influence.

“Up until now, the currency of influence was tied almost exclusively to affluence. Now we are disconnecting those two. Influence is no longer synonymous with affluence. Influence is itself a separate currency, and the affluent are realizing this as well.” — Koulopoulos

We didn’t see influence become a purchasable commodity until the rise of the media in the early 1900s, say Koulopoulos and Keldsen. Then wealthy people learned they could reach the masses and change public opinion by buying the opportunity to impress an audience. Now the democratization of media is changing that dynamic.

As the authors tell business leaders: “If you still think the only way to keep your brand, goods, or services in people’s heads is to pay to put it there, your business is in more trouble than you might realize.”

3. As the power of personal influence rises so does the attention paid to your behaviors.

“The reality is that we’re all becoming transparent, whether we like it or not, we’re all naked in the eyes of the Internet.” — Koulopoulos

Measuring influence has become a science in itself, say the authors. Marketing algorithms and experimental campaigns help track influence as it spreads across a population. Now Big Data, which analyzes the flood of information created by our social interactions, is enabling businesses to create profiles of us.

Marketers aim to track what’s most likely to influence you. Some people are persuaded by scarcity, for instance, say Koulopoulos and Keldsen, and are more likely to respond to dwindling availability when shopping for a flight online.

For example, RetailNext is measuring the behavior of more than 800 million shoppers per company by collecting data from more than 65,000 sensors — Wi-Fi, video cameras, point-of-sale systems, Bluetooth, and other sources.

This type of influence-driven digital marketing is focused on understanding which data have predictive value over time, say the authors. Would you rather go buy something from a friend who has known you for a long time or not?

“Gen Z is starting to expect this sort of intimate understanding of their behaviors and the resulting precision, which allows retailers to provide them with an experience that aligns with their needs, values, and behaviors,” say Koulopoulos and Keldsen.

4. So where is the shift from affluence to influence leading us?

“Greater transparency does create a degree of risk. It’s a threat. But at the same time, it also enables this new currency of influence to play a much more critical role, in some cases more critical even than affluence.

“It’s not just 500,000. It’s not just a million. It’s not just a billion. It’s every person on the planet being able to influence and somehow participate in defining this new trajectory of humanity. That’s a pretty cool thing.” — Koulopoulos

We are moving toward a far more transparent society where our behaviors are mined and analyzed continuously. We fear losing anonymity but gain the power to exert greater influence, say the authors.

Now more than ever we have a greater ability to challenge the status quo and to participate in establishing global priorities for all types of organizations from private to public.

“We don’t necessarily fear marketers understanding our behaviors,” say Koulopoulos and Keldsen. “What we fear is being misunderstood by technology.

“However, the fear of technology is something that Gen Zers don’t bring to the discussion because their lives have always been made transparent by technology.”

Are You Ready for Gen Z?

  • What will you do to increase the attention you pay to influence over the next five to 10 years?
  • Does your career currently depend on the affluence pyramid or the influence pyramid?
  • If you shift more toward using the influence pyramid, what would you expect your career to look like in five to 10 years?
  • Is your business leveraging the concept of an influence pyramid?
  • Does your company target marketing and sales efforts based on behaviors, demographic data, or both?
  • Has your company identified buying patterns or stages of the buying life cycle through the use of Big Data?

Find out whether you’re ready for the Gen Z Effect by taking the full assessment at

The Gen Z Effect Series

Read all of the installments in this series:

We Are All Gen Z

What Comes After Gen Y?

Ride the Technology Wave or Drown
Are You Ready for the Gen Z Slingshot? 
You're Powerful and They Know It
How Online Learning Will Change the World
Lifehacking: A Playbook for Gen Z
Gen Z Will Make Life Better for All of Us


by Kristen Walsh May 6, 2019

The Black United Body fashion show, organized and put on by students, provides an outlet for students' fashion creativity and highlights on-campus diversity at Bentley. 

TOPICS: News, Campus Life


Boston Business Journal | May 5, 2019
The Chronicle of Higher Education | May 2, 2019
Monster | April 29, 2019