5 Things to Know about Generation Z

TL;DR: The newest generation, Generation Z, is poised to become the largest consumer group in the U.S. in three years. Brands who believe that marketing tactics that have worked with Millennials will work with the latest generation will end up playing catch up to appeal to this new-age, no-nonsense group.

The older members of Generation Z — also known as Post-Millennials, the iGeneration, Founders, Plurals, or the Homeland Generation — are poised to start graduating college and become the latest independent consumers. Fast Company found that by 2020, you can expect Generation Z, those born in 1995 and later, to make up about 40 percent of all consumers in the U.S.

Many have assumed the up-and-coming generation can be lumped with Millennials. They don’t know life before social media and some don’t even remember a time before smartphones. However, globalization, world-wide conflict and having Generation X parents, Generation Z has more of a practical and skeptical view of the world than its predecessors.

Here are five things marketers need to know about the upcoming generation:

  1. They have a shorter attention span: Gen Zers are said to have a shorter attention span compared to other generations, but the time they’re spending skimming articles or watching videos is actually more of a filter. As the first true digital natives in a world of infinite options and information, this generation can decide what’s worth their time in about eight seconds. Brands will need to rethink how they introduce new products and services to uniquely appeal to this group.

  2. They’re pragmatic and practical: Similar to their parents, Gen X, Generation Z is growing up in turbulent times and that affects their view on the world. They’re planning ahead to avoid the mistakes of Millennials, who have been plagued by a highly competitive job market following the Great Recession, booming and busting housing market and mounting student loan debt. They’re choosing majors with distinct career paths, or forgoing college all together to join the workforce or start their own companies. They’ve been closely compared to the Silent Generation, which was largely shaped by the Great Depression and sought risk averse opportunities. Gen Z will be particularly interested in practical products and services, but not necessarily concerned about cost, like Millennials.

  3. They see themselves as a brand and they’re actively managing it: Unlike Millennials who overshare on social media, Gen Zers are managing their presence like a brand. “As far as privacy, they are aware of their personal brand, and have seen older Gen Y-ers screw up by posting too openly,” Dan Gould, a trend consultant for advertising agency Sparks & Honey told the New York Times in an interview. Some teens have even gone as far to create second accounts on some platforms to engage with friends under their parents’ radars and also keep a polished look for future employers. Not surprisingly, this makes social media with anonymous and disappearing content popular among the upcoming generation, like Snapchat. Because of this...

  4. They’re internet savvy and have high expectations online: Brands looking to break into the Gen Z market will need to carefully choose their branding, mission and messaging and invest more in their online presence. A generation that has never known the world without the internet won’t be interested in poorly designed websites or tacky tones.

  5. They’ll be the most global minded and the most diverse generation: The New York Times reports, “Between 2000 and 2010, the country’s Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total population, according to the Census Bureau. The number of Americans self-identifying as mixed white-and-black biracial rose 134 percent. The number of Americans of mixed white and Asian descent grew by 87 percent.” And growing up in a digital age, this generation has never known anything but instantaneous and many time free communication no matter where they are in the world. Instead of targeting specific locations, brands need to consider how their products and messaging fit into the global picture to not only capture the largest audience, but to also stay relevant with the up-and-coming consumers.

As this generation continues to age, new trends and behaviors are bound to surface. Instead of guessing, some companies have instead decided to go straight to the source to understand what teenagers are looking for, like House Party and Music.ly. Gen Z is looking for easy, free ways to stay in touch, gravitating toward messaging apps like WhatsApp and Kik. They’re also keeping social media of yesteryear alive, like Twitter and Tumblr. But the closest they get to Facebook is Instagram — Gen Zers love the photo sharing app, but steer clear of the social media giant where all their parents seem to be.

It’s not easy to consider those beyond your own circle — we’re definitely aware here at Sparkloft. To help you see and plan for the consumer to come, check out our five steps to burst through social filter bubbles.