If you’ve managed to get a handle on how to connect with the Millennial generation, give yourself a pat on the back, then get ready for round two. That’s right, there’s a new challenge ahead and it’s called Generation Z. Marketers and PR professionals are already starting to put some heavy muscle behind figuring out what makes this next cohort tick.
Gen Z is loosely defined as those between the ages of 5 and 19. There are about as many of them (82 million) as there are Millennials (83 million). They already have $44 billion in purchasing power, according to the New York advertising agency Sparks and Honey — and that buying power is only expected to grow. No wonder communications professionals are starting to take notice.
What Sets Them Apart
They are the first generation to grow up in a world where internet connected mobile devices have always been a thing. They are the first “digital natives.” The Millennial generation has provided them with something of a “what not to do” playbook for managing social media and personal brand, causing many of them to move from networks like Facebook to more privacy friendly apps like SnapChat and Whisper.
Beyond technology, Gen Zers are growing up in a nation that is far more culturally diverse and racially mixed. They have witnessed the harm of the Great Recession and tend to be fiscally conservative, but still optimistic. Their parents have largely abandoned the “helicopter” approach that was prevalent in the 90’s, so they tend to be independent and confident.
The Communications Challenge
Gen Z takes in information in an instant and gets over it just as fast. They communicate in emoji’s and 6 second Vine videos. Dan Schawbel, the managing partner of Millennial Branding, told the New York Times, “We tell our advertising partners that if they don’t communicate in five words and a big picture, they will not reach this generation.”
Smart brands will leverage this generation’s love of interactive experiences to make them part of the telling of the tale. Converse’s “Made by You” campaign is a great example. The campaign spotlights lived-in, personalized Chucks from the celebrities and the regular folks. Across art installations in cities all over the world, Converse is showing how creative people customize their sneakers into one-of-a-kind works of art. The goal is not only to get teens to buy and decorate sneakers, but to photograph them, post the photos, and share the pictures with friends.
Tom Gerace, Skyword’s chief executive, explained to the Boston Globe, “It used to be that companies spent a little money making the advertisement and a lot of money distributing it. Now, brands will spend a lot more money to create the stories and spend less on distribution.”
It is a bit early to put the Millennials out to pasture. They have over $200 billion in annual buying power, after all, but it does make sense to keep our eyes on the horizon and prepare for the rise of Z.