Gen Z – Not the Youth of the Past

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

Sheryl Doyle

Sheryl is vice president of client services at d.trio.

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