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May 2012

Gen Z – Not the Youth of the Past

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by Sheryl Doyle

My interest in Generation Z runs deep as I have three of them living under my roof and wanted to see if the experts’ assessments agreed with my own first hand experience.

Generation Z was born in the early to mid 1990’s through 2010. Although there are many fascinating traits associated with this group, their most defining characteristic is that they are digital natives. This group has never known a time before the Internet. They are the most tech-savvy, digitally connected, and smartest of all generational groups who preceded them. Generation Z are typically the children of Generation X.

With the oldest of Generation Z barely out of high school and the youngest still toddlers, why should we as marketers care about understanding this group? Here are a few reasons that might convince you:

  • Tweens have $43 B in spending power and influence an additional $600 B of family spending.
  • Kids now influence more than 70% of family food choices and 80-90% of products bought for them.
  • Nearly two-thirds of parents say that their children have influenced vehicle purchasing decisions.
  • Children are now able to recognize brands from the age of 18 months.

Do you know what makes this group tick? You see them attached to an electronic device at all times – playing video games, listening to or downloading music, watching online videos and shopping online, texting and interacting with social media, usually while watching TV or doing homework. These behaviors are just the natural result of the technology-laden environment they are growing up in. Here’s what might surprise you.

Generation Z embraces traditional beliefs and values the family unit. They are smarter at a younger age, self-controlled, flexible and more responsible. They have liberal social values, are tolerant of diverse cultures, are environmentally conscious and value authenticity. Peer acceptance and the need to belong are very important to this group. They are excellent problem solvers, likely due to their early gaming experience. Due to global terrorism and economic uncertainty, they highly value security. They are confident and optimistic, ready to take on challenges and feel they can make an impact on the world.

What does that mean for marketers? Here are 10 ways you can best market to Generation Z:

  1. Develop high value-for-money products that are multi-functional and simple. Generation Z is not as brand loyal as their peers in the past. They judge each product based on its own merit.
  2. Adopt technology-based marketing and sales channels such as SMS, mobile Internet, social networking portals etc.
  3. Do not focus on email, as it is not an effective channel for Generation Z.
  4. Enhance virtual world presence with online product information and online purchasing.
  5. This group researches before making purchasing decisions and they share results. Don’t try to control conversation about your product or service, encourage it.
  6. Don’t underestimate the maturity of the Generation Z customer. The most effective marketing will be calculated and practical.
  7. Do be environmentally conscious in the products you develop and the way you manage your business.
  8. Generation Z likes to help others and has a strong sense of right and wrong so include messaging that is civic minded.
  9. Focus on visuals in your creative messaging and offer interactive elements. This group prefers visual learning.
  10. Be ready to adapt and change your marketing strategy to keep pace with this demanding segment.

At the end of the day, as I prepare to say good night to my own personal Generation Z focus group, I will shut off televisions, pick up iPads, power down computers, unplug abandoned chargers and gently remove head phones from young ears. But most of all, I will be thankful that the future is in good hands.

References Used
“Marketing to the Generations,” Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business, April 2011
“Consumers of Tomorrow, Insights and Observations About Generation Z,” Grail Research, November 2011
“Tapping Into Generation Z,” published in the Charlotte Observer, February 2012
“Three Ways Companies Can Reach Generation Z,” Mashable, April 2011
“Digital Youth,” Adweek, April 2012
“What You Need to Know about Generation Z,” iMedia Connection, August 2012

Whatever. A Gen X perspective on the rest of them.

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by Beth Seitzberg

Boomers are incredible. They make very interesting parents and are changing the way everyone views aging. And Millennials? My god, they’re changing absolutely everything and aren’t they just fascinating with the totally new ways that they think?!

Sick of it.

There, I said it, and I know you agree with me. That’s right, I’m looking at you, fellow Gen Xers. Sandwiched on both sides by the self-indulgent and the over-parented, we managed to shed the slacker image of our teenage years only to remain the middle children of history (with thanks to Tyler Durden). Maybe it’s working in marketing, but over the last few years we’ve been bombarded with information about Millennials attitudes, tastes, personalities, and work styles. Boomers are freaking obsessed with them. Or maybe just using them as an excuse to reshape the world yet again. Marketers are making up whole new disciplines just to try to talk to 22 year-olds, who, like all 22 year-olds throughout history, are completely self-centered and insisting that they are special. Boomer employers are worried about how to make their business more hospitable to the up and coming youth. Remember what they said to us when we were entering the work force? “About time you got a job, slacker, now grow up.” So we adjusted. We fit in or we found paths that let us do it our way while still getting the job done. We did it quietly, on our own, and for the most part we’ve turned out pretty well despite what they told us.

You remember what they told us, right? First of all, the cold war was going to get very hot and the Soviets were going to make sure most of us didn’t live past 1982. We learned U.S. geography based on where the nuclear missiles would be most likely to hit first. Based on where I was living at the time, I had something like 8 hours from initial strike. And then suddenly, all of that was over. “It’s fine now, ha ha, didn’t mean to scare you kids, drink more Pepsi. Oh, and here’s a key to the house because mom and dad will both be at work when you get home from school. Watch TV or play Nintendo or something. Oh, and by the way, did you know you are the first generation that won’t be better off than your parents, no matter how hard you try? Ok, good, as long as that’s clear.” Whatever.

No wonder we started ignoring them. And yes, we pouted for a while.

There’s something like 50 million of us Xers in the world, which is paltry when compared to the 70+ million members of the generations on either side of us. We’ve been busy building lives for ourselves, mostly without the benefit of anyone paying much attention. Along the way we’ve managed to change a few things. Work schedules are more flexible, comic books get more respect, video games are better and technology has advanced because of them, and kids have all the toys we always wished we had.

We’ll see if the Boomers can change the world for the Millennials. My guess is that the kids will change more than the world will, just like it always happens. It’s probably ok if they both keep ignoring us. We’ll just be over here, playing with their toys. Because, as much as we found a way to fit in when we had to, we’re never going to grow up.

Stop Hating on Millennials

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by Jordan Bainer

I’m getting a little tired of all the Millennial generation hatin’. Boomers say that Millennials don’t take things serious enough; Xers say that Millennials won’t stop talking about themselves (which ironically, I’m currently doing). We Millennials just can’t seem to find the love.

Below are several common complaints that people bring up when talking about the Millennial generation.

Millennials all have a misplaced sense of entitlement

Before jumping on the “all Millennials have a sense of entitlement” bandwagon, just remember that this generation has been recently knocked down a few rungs of the success ladder (much more than other groups). Because of several years of poor employment conditions, many Millennials have delayed major life decisions:

  • 44 percent will delay buying a home*
  • 28 percent will delay saving for retirement*
  • 27 percent will delay paying off student loans or other debt*
  • 27 percent will delay going back to school/getting more education or training*

Sure, we have a bit of an entitlement complex, but maybe it’s just us having a positive outlook on life even if trends show us behind our parents when it comes to major life events. As long as individuals are willing to work to make those high aspirations come to life, so what if we sometimes come off as snooty?

*Source: Rob Bluey, How the Debt and Economy Are Reshaping Millennials’ Life Choices, The Foundry – represented from research conducted by Generation Opportunity

Millennials can’t make decisions on their own

We’re bombarded with research saying that Millennials can’t make a decision without buy-in from friends and family. For example, research states that 84% of Millennials rely on user-generated content when making purchase decisions versus 70% of Boomers.**

Some construe this as lacking individual leadership and decision-making ability, but shouldn’t this illustrate that Millennials understand how to make INFORMED decisions. Just because you can pull the trigger on a decision doesn’t mean it’s a good or valid one. We just like to collect the appropriate data before making a decision. To me, that screams collaborative learning – something progressive institutions have been advocating for quite some time.

**Source: BazaarVoice Report: Talking to Strangers: Millennials Trust People over Brands

Millennials don’t have a long attention span

Well, this may be a complaint I can’t defend very well. When writing this article, I stopped to change my Pandora station three times and checked my email five times. I think many of my Millennial brethren have a similar problem when it comes to focusing on a single task. For example, a recent study (through Time Warner’s Time Inc. and conducted by Boston’s Innerscope Research) found that consumers in their 20s (“digital natives”) switch media channels about 27 times per nonworking hour. That is about 13 media switches during a standard half-hour TV show.***

We have more information at our fingertips than any previous generation. To not constantly explore that information through social media, blogs, content sites, e-readers, etc. would be ignoring what makes our generation special.

***Source: AdAge, Brian Steinberg, Study: Young Consumers Switch Media 27 Times An Hour

I’m not saying that Millennials should be pitied because of their situation; I just think it’s important to remember what we grew up with and how that shaped our attitudes, aspirations, and choices.