Generation Z

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If you are still trying to figure out how to market to Generation Y, now would be a good time for you to move on to Generation Z. Being in the education sector myself, the idea of marketing to this next generation of consumers has been on my mind a lot lately.

Generation Z generally refers to those born in the late 1990’s – which means that the first cohorts have now reached the age of majority.  US Census predicts Gen Z will ultimately reach close to 80 million, which means that by 2020, they will account for 40% of all consumers.

Much like the previous generation (known as Gen Y or ‘Millennials’), this generation will grow up around technology and most likely be even more tech-savvy as a whole.  This will influence the way they communicate, how they interact with one another and with brands and how quickly they process information.

Every year, Beloit College (Wisconsin) produces the Beloit College Mindset List, a list that examines the ‘cultural touchstones that shape the lives of the students entering college’ that Fall.

“The Class of 2019 will enter college with high technology an increasing factor in how and even what they learn. They will encounter difficult discussions about privilege, race, and sexual assault on campus. They may think of the ‘last century’ as the twentieth, not the nineteenth, so they will need ever wider perspectives about the burgeoning mass of information that will be heading their way. And they will need a keen ability to decipher what is the same and what has changed with respect to many of these issues.” – Charles Westerberg, Director of the Liberal Arts in Practice Center and Brannon-Ballard Professor of Sociology at Beloit College

I can imagine how such a list would be helpful to professors, instructors and educators so that they can better connect with their students.  Especially for this generation of shortened attention spans, 24/7 connectivity and instant messaging, educators will have to make sure they remain relatable and relevant.

The list offers a glimpse of what Generation Z is like- here are a few interesting facts:

  • Google was founded in 1998 so Gen Z has never known a world without the tech giant
    This offers a glimpse of the type of access to information that Gen Z has and how integrated Google can be in their lives. After all, Gen Z grew up with YouTube, Gmail, Google Talk / Hangout in their lives
  • Email as a way of communication
    Even more so than Gen Y, this generation grew up using email as a way of communication that is socially accepted (if not encouraged). Where as email was seen as a more informal way of communication, email has become the new ‘formal’. Texting and tweeting are now considered ‘informal’. So – if you are wanting to market to this audience, get ready to text… and be available around the clock!
  • Wi-Fi as an entitlement
    This generation has been the most connected generation to date. Wi-Fi, connectivity and access are to be expected and not seen as a luxury.
  • Access to the Internet
    Instead of parents having to encourage their kids to explore the ‘net’, modern day parents are now finding themselves having to limit access, sometimes even using it as leverage.
  • Cell Phones… in the Classroom
    Cell phones (which is now the same as a smart phone) have become so ubiquitous that teachers are now challenged with how to do deal with them in the classrooms. Lessons here is that it is probably better to incorporate them into the classroom rather than banning them.

Marketing to this generation will require an openness to communicating in different ways. Whether it is over text or on social media, there is an expectation of instantaneous response and interaction. One way marketing will fall on deaf ears.

Growing up in an age of information and sensory overload also means that this generation will be the most adept at filtering out unwanted messages.  To get through all the clutter, a brand will have to be authentic and relevant, taking care not to be too overt in its advertising.

Just like the Millennial generation, it can be easy to make assumptions about this generation – assuming they are socially-inept, entitled, and lazy.  In fact, this generation is turning out to be quite the opposite.  What the challenge will be for brands and employers is distinguishing between their online identities and who they are ‘in real life’ – offline.  Understanding this difference will be key for companies that want to be successful over the next decade.

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