Generation Z. You may have heard of them: they’re the generation who come after millennials, but before the one nobody has come up with a good name for yet (Generation Alpha, anyone?). They’re among the most influential and important consumers around today – with lots of brands keen to understand more about them. So, let’s look at seven things we know about Gen Z – and shatter some myths along the way.
They were born sometime between 1995 and 2005
We’ll start with the big one – how old is Generation Z? The answer might not be what you think. Some people have the idea that anyone under the age of 20 instantly qualifies as a millennial (or – groan – a ‘snowflake’) but in fact, today’s millennials are actually in their late 20s onwards and their successors, Generation Z, are somewhere in the region of 14 to 24 years old (it’s hard to pinpoint exactly because there is no overriding consensus on the generation’s birth years – some have them being born as late as 2012). They’re also distinct from millennials in some of their values and behaviours, which we will touch upon in the rest of this post.
They’re fast becoming the largest generation of consumers
Some studies show that by as early as next year, Generation Z could become the largest generation of consumers, outweighing antecedents such as the aforementioned millennials, or Generation X or Baby Boomers, in number, influence and buying power. According to research from Bloomberg, Gen Z will surpass millennials this year as the most populous generation, comprising roughly 32 percent of the population (in the UK there are around 17 million people falling into the Gen Z age range). Overlook this fast-growing segment at your own risk.
Their spending power is already pretty big
While Generation Z are on their way to becoming the largest generation of consumers, their spending power might already be bigger than you think – and it only gets bigger when you take into account their influence over other people’s buying decisions. One study from the US found that just from the money in their own pockets, Gen Z has buying power somewhere in the region of $30 to 40 billion, the majority of which will come from those above working age with income at their disposal (with some pocket money factored in for the younger members of the cohort). However, when you take into account the influence held by members of Generation Z – whether that’s over household purchasing decisions, based on the brands with which they feel they share an affinity, or through advocating their favourite products across social networks – this buying power grows exponentially, with one report from IBM crediting them with $1 trillion of indirect spending power. So, while you might not be transacting directly with Gen Z, appealing to them can be big business.
They care about brand values and stories
How can you appeal to Generation Z? One of the qualities that typifies them is their placing importance on what a brand stands for, or the causes it supports. Diversity, inclusivity and sustainability are some of the things at the top of the list of Gen Z concerns. It seems this generation’s buying decisions are less superficial and more based on how well they feel your brand’s values reflect their own. Just as good as their ability to understand and engage with a brand’s story, however, is their ability to sniff out anything lacking in authenticity – for example when we see a brand seemingly adopting a cause because it’s currently fashionable to do so, without actually practising what they preach as a business. One example might be a company who does a social media campaign around sustainability and reducing plastic waste, without actually taking any significant steps to reduce their own environmental footprint. So, while it might seem tempting to capitalise on zeitgeisty causes, if you’re not living and breathing those values beyond your marketing collateral, it’ll do more harm than good with this audience.
Their attention-filters are finely honed
Generation Z gets a lot of stick for being easily distracted and having short attention spans – as short as eight seconds, some suggest (which is four seconds shorter than the 12 second span millennials apparently have) – but, to characterise it in a way that doesn’t just seem like more moaning about young people, what we might be seeing is evidence of an incredibly well-honed attention filter, capable of sifting through mountains upon mountains of information, engaging with and retaining only that which is relevant, interesting or entertaining to them. For those who were out of their teen years when they first experienced such modern wonders as smartphones and high speed internet connections, it can be hard to comprehend the amount of sheer noise Generation Z have grown up around. Against that backdrop, their attention filter looks like an essential cognitive safety net, without which heads might explode. It isn’t impossible to capture the attention of Gen Z, as long as you’re a) committed to being relevant, b) willing to reflect their values and c) basing your content strategy around things that are either useful or entertaining to them. Which means by extension you need to be d) not boring.
Some of them are experienced brand managers
For a lot of Generation Z, chances are that by the time they reach working age they will already have a few years of work experience under their belt – even if they don’t realise it. This experience comes from managing their own personal brands across different channels and media, which for some of Gen Z is like a full-time job. They direct photo shoots, then sort, select and, if necessary, retouch the approved shots for use across social media. They publish their own stories and video content (which they can also edit, by the way). They create the very memes your mum will share with the family WhatsApp group, in the wrong context, two or three years from now. The more high profile among Gen Z may be involved in some form of community management, especially if they have large social followings. They’ve been called the most creative generation ever – and not without reason. And whether you agree with that sentiment or not, to underestimate Gen Z’s understanding of the uses of digital and social within the brand ecosystem would be a mistake.
Privacy is important to Generation Z
According to a report by n-gen, an overwhelming 88% of Gen Z agree that “protecting my privacy is very important to me”. While previous generations may have unknowingly given away their data or accepted it as the ‘price’ of being able to use certain apps and social media, Gen Z is much more concerned with privacy and the handling of their data (which perhaps stems from a combination of the value they place on both the ethics of business and their own personal brand protection). They’re much more guarded and savvy when it comes to understanding the value of their data and the importance of privacy, with the use of anonymous social networks and time-bound content a far cry from the free-flowing Facebook photo fests of their millennial forebears. Meanwhile, last year’s Kantar social media report found that people between the ages of 18 and 24 were 22% more likely to use ad blockers than the average person in the UK.
So, there we have it. Generation Z: older and wiser than some people think, with huge amounts of social and economic sway. And if you can understand, respect and reflect their values and behaviours, the potential to become incredibly valuable customers in future.
Stay tuned for more from us about Generation Z and how they could change the shape of marketing as we know it. As ever, if you have any specific challenges around engaging this audience, or even if you’d just like to pick our brains, you can call us on 0800 0149 884 or send us a message here and we will be in touch.