yThe trend to characterise and stereotype entire populations of people based on their year of birth can be the marketing equivalent of astrology.
It’s important to keep a sense of perspective – individuals and sub-groups will have extravagantly different characteristics – whether they are Boomers, Gen Z , Millennials or Gen Z.
Each generation has specific concerns based on their experience of the world from technology to political influences. Members of every cohort will be influenced by the same factors to a greater or lesser extent – but the current generation will have had a far more concentrated dose and will be the canaries in the coal mine for social shifts ahead. They have the greatest vested interest in the future – so we need to pay attention to their characteristics, wants and needs; because they will shape and influence the society we will live in. Just as baby boomers were the first generation to be described as teenagers – with a rebellious attitude that horrified their traditionalist parents, Gen Z demand to heard and have the most at stake in a future with climate change and sustainability issues pressing down on them. Ignore them at your peril.
Who are GenZ?
GenZ is a term that describes people born between 1994 and today. They are the sequel to the cohort known as Millennials, who have been fetishised by marketers in recent years.
GenZ has been subject to myths and stereotypes such as: they have an 8 second attention span, they are addicted to their screens and personal devices, they are more entrepreneurial and, boy, do they love a cause. A survey of the literature by BBDOKnows* suggests it might be time for a debunking or at least a closer look at Gen Z and their likely impact on society – though obviously with a close eye on marketing and consumption.
Follow the money.
GenZ will represent 40 percent of the global population by next year. They will have a $143bn(US) direct spending power; $127bn spent on them by their families; $333bn indirect influence on household expenditure. That means they will soon be the most powerful global consumer group.
GenZ have been heavily influenced by being the first cohort born into a world with the Internet and connective technology – but also into a world of ‘instability, poverty, recession and corruption’ (according The Drum – 2016). They distrust large corporates and government.
Attention span of a goldfish?
Rather than being the generation of ‘Blink, share, laugh and forget’- it may be that Gen Z are more discerning, used to reading and evaluating fast…they aren’t obsessed with contiunal stimulation – on the contrary they are paying attention to ‘the long game’ including their financial wellbeing. In the UK a study by Kantar.com revealed 66% plan to put money away for their family’s future. 62 percent are constantly striving to improve their abilities and self-improve; 71 percent say they look for new experiences and sensations (vs. 58 percent of global adults) – they are eager to learn through discovery.
Far from being gormless screen addicts Gen Z use the web and social platforms for news, inspiration and discussion. They’re well informed, thoughtful and equipped to take control of their own world and the world around them. They are possibly more careful with their use of social media – more likely to self-censor; they don’t want to express offensive views; in their spare time 57 percent say they are developing. Skill sets and professional currency. They are more likely to define themselves by their values and interests rather than class, race or sexuality.
The entrepreneurial urge
Unlike previous generations Gen Z would rather work for themselves than for a large business, they distrust traditional structures and have seen their parent’s vulnerability to corporations. They express quite conservative values (contingency planning and self-reliance) – but they are open-minded about what their future employment might look like.
There’s a perception that Gen Z just love a cause – but it’s more nuanced than an idealised view of the world. 67 percent of US Gen Zs have stopped buying from companies who stand for something or behave in a way that isn’t aligned to their values. They distrust brands that target them through ‘purpose branding’ and have a highly discerning filter that is attuned to authenticity. But beware – brands that espouse their authenticity without walking the talk will be rejected by GenZ. The terms ‘authentic, craft, artisinal and legacy are considered irrelevant by 72% of UK Gen Z. 82 percent prefer genuinely helpful products and sustainable brands and a colossal 94 percent believe companies have a duty to address critical issues – they want and expect solutions.
In a nutshell:
1. Definitions of Gen Z differ but essentially, they are the upcoming consumer group after Millennials.
2. Their huge spending power means that they are beginning to dictate how brands behave.
3. The context in which they have grown up – of political, global instability and extreme technological change – have inevitably shaped the way they view the world.
4. They are four myths which are often discussed in relation to Gen Z as a result – that have short attention spans, are addicted to screens, have entrepreneurial spirits and love a cause. A different way of looking at them is that they have a discerning filter and are playing a long game, are personal brand managers, have conservative values, and don’t like purpose for purpose’s sake.
6. Gen Z crave control over their surroundings, and brands need to consider how they are giving Gen Z control over their lives.
7. This can be through either helpful products/services, or helpful brands.
8. Essentially, Gen Z need to know what your product does for them and why they should buy into it,
9. In other words, the product needs to be designed for their needs and the brand needs to enhance their personal brand.
If you would like a copy of the full BBDOKnows report: Debunking the myths of Gen Z -get in touch.
*BrandWorld is a member of the BBDO network of companies.