As companies are still grappling with how to identify with and relate to millennials, kids born after 1995 and by 2010 will be graduating from college this year and by 2020, the new generation we refer to as Gen Z will make up 40% of our US consumer base. How quickly time flies.

Gen Z

You may be asking, what do we have to look forward to with the Gen Z’ers? What will be the differences between the millennials… (who grew up being taught, everyone gets a trophy, who have been espousing that they are going to quit their job and pursue their dreams since they joined the workforce and who were the first generation born as digital natives) and the Z’ers?

Below is an overview of who these rising leaders are. This may help ease your mind of the coming generation’s priorities and probably scare you a bit as marketers.

Connected since birth to 24/7 digital engagement.

Gen Z is the first generation that was exposed to social media at birth, likely pictured on a social media channel within 48 hours of coming into this world. They have upped the digital nativity to being the first generation born with personalized computers in their pockets, literally connected 24/7 to the information exchange. They do not consider ‘when a store is open’. It is a 24/7 world to them.  By the age of three, they were digital pros and by the age of 12, they were online influencers busy attracting audiences socially. Their life centers around their smartphone. It is their key communication tool to establish and maintain friendships, their primary shopping tool where the bulk of their spending happens, their primary source for news and information and often their source of entertainment. Their world centers around this one device.

Social activism is at their core.

Imagine the impact of having age-appropriate role models like Malalla Yousafzai, who at just 18 years old became the world’s youngest ever Nobel Prize recipient, or Jack Andraka, a high school student who invented a test that can detect early onset pancreatic cancer. These are just two examples of who today’s Gen Z rock stars get to look up to. And they have a plethora of social influencers that are making their voices heard through online channels that amass millions of followers and voice amplification in ways we never dreamed before.

60% of Gen Z’ers want their jobs to impact the world, and 76% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet. These kids aren’t here just to talk about changing the world. They are committed to it.  Look no further than the recent national school walkout organized by fed up students from Florida and the attention it has fostered.

They don’t see boundaries.

In 2020, half of all US children will be part of a minority race or ethnic group. The Gen Z group have been in classrooms that are far more ethnically and socially diverse than their predecessors and these kids have come of age with Caitlin Jenner and with an African American president. The meaning of gender has shifted and subjects like same-sex marriage and transgender rights are easier conversations. These kids are inclusive and accepting and more open-minded. They appreciate individuality and seek that for themselves. They are not as bound to perceived notions of marriage and role expectations and for them, living across the globe doesn’t mean losing connectivity with the ones you love.

Considering that Gen Z will be 40% of our consumer population in 2020, what do we as marketers need to think about when trying to appeal to the Z’ers?

  1. They see a brand as a person, like a friend. Gen Z’ers have grown up ‘liking’ what a brand is saying, connecting with brands on a more personal level from a young age. They feel ‘connected’ to brands they believe in and seek brands with shared values. They appreciate personalized branded content perspectives and are natural brand influencers and brand ambassadors. Brands are friends and actually extensions of their own brand personas.
  2. Be real, commit and be welcoming. Gen Z are more likely to befriend and identify with a brand that is less focused on aspirational messaging and more focused on being ‘realistic’ without any stereotyping. They like it when brands use ‘real’ people vs models and celebrities. 60% support brands that take a stand on issues they believe in regarding race, sexual orientation, and human rights and to really create a connection, your messaging needs to be authentic, thoughtful and inclusive. It’s about including everyone together and not being judgemental.
  3. Even shorter attention span and old is out. Gen Z has an eight-second attention span to ‘get’ the full story. That’s right, nab them online in eight seconds or they’re gone! These folks don’t waste a second. They want it all and they want it fast. And If your brand is not technologically up to par on their mobile device, they take that as you not caring about them as a customer. They won’t give you the time of day.
  4. If you want to become a friend of the Gen Z team, you need to have a socially responsible connection to your brand. They want to see you are like them, authentically committed to bringing about change. You can’t just talk the talk, you need to walk the walk. And when it comes to joining a company, they will expect you to provide a higher purpose to keep them connected to something bigger than ‘the job’ and ‘paycheck’.

The Gen Z’ers are bringing a lot of positive change to the world. They have weathered a lot and have been patiently watching as Gen X has found their footing. They are here to make their mark on the world and it is our job to find the way to their hearts and souls.

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