Generation Z are the New Kids on the Block. Be Gentle.

June 30th, 2016 in Views 4 minute read

We ‘tech-savvy,’ ‘open-mined,’ ‘bratty’ Millennials are stepping aside for the new cash cows. Generation Z. Such is the inevitable passage of time. Take a teaspoon of salt, and listen to these ever-evolving theories about them…

Generation Z refers to those born between 1995 and 2015, the oldest of who are now adults. They’re newly-financed at that. Your fresh-faced consumers of tomorrow, today’s 16 to 20 year olds, have had a distinctively digital childhood. For better or worse, they’ve never known the world without the internet, unlike the me-me-me-Millennials.

From when they were learning to ride their bikes and write their names, to leaving home and earning their first pennies, Generation Z have grown up in a world marked by war, steep economic decline, increasing inequality, and turmoil. On top of that, they live under the internet’s mighty microscope. Oh yes, it is invisible, yet it feels tangible to most.

Millennials had MySpace and MSN, the generation before that had carrier pigeons. Yet this pales in comparison to having SnapChat, Periscope, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, among others all at your fingertips while you’re still wearing a school uniform. The high-school need to be popular has taken steroids since we were young.

Generation Z’s hobby of choice? Time-consuming personal brand management. Underperforming Instagram posts with the fewest likes are deleted from accounts all the time.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that these globally conscious, ethically-minded, liberal individuals crave clarity, control, and predictability, with a healthy side order of peer acceptance? They aren’t as brash or as pushy as us Millennials, it seems. But the marketers among you will struggle to pull the wool over their eyes.

Generation Z have trained themselves to filter content at warp speed. They’ve evolved a highly efficient (read: spine-tinglingly ruthless) 8-second average attention span, from checking their phone 387 times a day, five times more than us ‘mobile-obsessed’ Millennials. Bad luck. You and I have four more seconds to entertain goldfish than these people.


David Ogilvy’s words, “The consumer isn’t your moron; she’s your wife” ring truer still.  Generation Z’s blood hound like sense for sniffing out your biased and inauthentic offerings is a rallying call to up-the-ante. Eye-roll-inducing ads and patronising tones go down like a lead balloon.

Think that’s bad? Huffington Post takes it further still, with regards to larger purchases:

“On a limited teen budget, they’ll [Generation Z] only spend on brands that reflect their values — and will ravenously research a company’s history to ensure it does.” — Huffington Post

Of course, Starbucks, McDonalds, and Primark are still very much in business.

If anything, their comment should really hammer home the importance of authenticity, honesty, and transparency. Every generation deserves it, but Generation Z expect nothing less. They’re wise to your spin, Photoshopping, and sponsored content. People assume that Generation Z are less brand loyal than their predecessors. But don’t let that spook you. Pick up the gauntlet.

Some will call for an immediate rethink on marketing strategies to reach Generation Z. By all accounts, these ‘screenagers’ demand more than their predecessors. But don’t let them smell your fear. At least not immediately.

They’re an oxymoron, these young adults. They value individuality over conformity, yet seek wider acceptance and popularity. Messages of exclusivity typically go down like a sinking ship with this generation. Remember Abercrombie & Fitch? Larger people were unfit to wear their clothes, according to their CEO. The deserved backlash marked something of a U-Turn in values among the young – empowered by feminism’s new lease of life, and social acceptance for all.

Give them content which shakes their imagination by the shoulders, adds value to their lives, and teaches them something relevant. The more visual, the better. Think spontaneous and genuine ‘how-to’ or ‘behind-the-scenes’ videos. Well-thought through, not overly planned. Things they can engage with on the go – 90% of these young guns watch YouTube daily.

Tell an attention-grabbing story on Vine, Periscope and Meerkat. Announce your flash sale on SnapChat. According to Adweek 50% of young women primarily shop at sales.

Ask for Generation Z’s opinion and contribution. Go-Pro, for example, share user-uploaded videos on their channels. It’s ruddy effective! This can raise their digital profile, and yours, while making them feel more like partners than targets.


Starbucks’ secret menu, with its cotton candy Frappuccino and rainbow-coloured drinks, goes down a treat. They’ve almost gamified their menu, and whipped up some much needed, if short-lived, fun and excitement. It’s won them 1.3 million likes on Instagram.

Generation Z are raised on social media. Millennials came to it later. So strike conversations across platforms.

Since Mum joined Facebook, they’re spending more time on other platforms. That said, mobile-only Facebook ads and 15 second promotional videos on Instagram are very much viable. Place emphasis on uplifting and positive images.

Nailing down your target market, their wants, their needs, and their desires is the crux of your advertising efforts. Bulk-branding entire generations with sweeping generalisations, like this, is nothing if not a starting point for you to dig a little deeper.

This is merely food for thought. Generation Z are only just starting to burst onto the scene in their own right. Their youngest members are still wearing nappies. Depending on your business and your audience, it’s worth keeping these people in your thoughts, while they come into their own over the next decade.

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