By Natalie O’Brien
Gen Z is the latest generation. While many are still in school or university, or now entering the workforce, they are acknowledged as the most technologically savvy generation and as consumers wield significant spending power.
According to an article produced by McCrindle Insights,Gen Z will be the largest generation ever, comprising 20% of Australia’s population and almost 30% of the worlds. By 2025 Gen Z will make up 27% of the workforce globally.1
Baby Boomers: born 1944-1964 – currently 55-75 years old.
Generation X (aka Gen-X): born 1965-1979 – currently 40-54 years old.
Generation Y (aka Millennials): born 1980-1994 – currently 25-39 years old.
Generation Z (aka Gen-Z): born 1995-2015 – currently 4-24 years old.2
Much has been written about Millennials (also referred to as the ‘smashed avo’ generation) and their buying patterns, including their reluctance to commit to houses or cars, while at the same time willing to buy high-quality goods and experiences.
I am keen to uncover more about Gen Z. For me this is personal. It represents my daughter, her friends, my nieces and nephews, our future workforce and customers.
Gen Z has grown up with technology. They have been Googling,linking, clicking, posting and liking their entire life. They are more globally connected than any other, not only through music and movies but equally through food, fashion, social trends and the environment. I see Sophie set up Spotify for her grandparents, communicate by texts and Instagram and face time holiday updates.
As the pace of change accelerates and people live longer, I am keen to understand how they will influence current systems and beliefs.
Being so globally aware Gen Z has experienced more diversity than past generations. In their lifetime they have witnessed acceptance of gay marriage, the global war on terror, and the push for gender equality.
I first recognised the collective power of Gen Z at recent rallies when students all over Australia abandoned their classrooms to demand action on climate change. The placards and social media posts expressed articulated views on saving the planet, demonstrating their passion for social change.
Mikaila Ulmer was four years old when she made her family’s flaxseed lemonade recipe as part of a children’s competition, naming it Me & the Bees after a sting encouraged her interest in bees. Now 14, she is a social entrepreneur, bee ambassador and educator, donating a percentage of profits to organisations fighting to save the honey bees.
To explore more on Gen Z, I have Googled, read online articles and insights and viewed podcasts and YouTube. Mark Beal a columnist at Grit Daily wrote about how to effectively market to Gen Z and some of the preferred platforms, suggesting we will need to demonstrate a commitment to their social causes and, in return, earn loyal advocates and customers. Climate change, and the honey bees, are just two strong examples of a priority agenda in which Gen Z is asking the community to engage.
There is much to learn. As well as vocabulary there is the visual language of the emoji which includes facial expressions and pictures instead of typography. I’m still working my way around the language, while exploring with emoji on Instagram.
Gen Z has grown up in a world where they have personalised just about everything. Our own experience of this was selecting a Florrie doll for which Sophie had to choose hair and eye colour and outfits that would suit the doll’s hobbies. This extends to technology games and apps where Sophie can select the car model she would like to drive, the accessories to wear and the home and furnishings she would like to live in.
It is well researched that YouTube and Netflix are the predominant source of both entertainment and education for Gen Z – the two are interchangeable. Videos tutor any topic you can imagine: braiding hair, making slime and bath bombs, how to play netball and stories about plastics destroying ecosystems. Producing a meaningful tutorial on YouTube is a proven tool of connecting with this market.
Samsung boosted visibility for its mobile devices with a YouTube series targeting Gen Z by showing how to use the Galaxy smartphone to film and edit videos. 78% of viewers said they wanted to see more episodes of the “make” series helping the brand reach its goal of connecting with Gen Z creators on YouTube (which has 1.8 billion users worldwide).3
As well as understanding the best platforms to communicate with Gen Z, research shows they have short attention spans. With the introduction of six-second commercials on television as well as social media platforms including Snapchat, the attention span of Gen Z was determined to be eight seconds or less. As customers, Gen Z need their attention grabbed in the first few seconds.
Events and experiences, especially pop-up interactions, strongly appeal to Gen Z. A Ted X talk by Jason Dorsey described Millennials as dependent on technology but for Gen Z technology is the experience. Fully immersive,multi-sensory experiences that are engaging and can be captured and shared through social channels resonate strongly. One of the most popular birthday parties we hosted was a silent disco where 20 girls wired with individual headsets and 3 music stations danced, sung and played games in our suburban backyard– definitely a fully immersive experience.
The Museum of Ice Cream is an experiential installation which has been successful in appealing to both Millennials and Gen Z. Influenced by the founder’s childhood dream of jumping into a pool full of sprinkles, this experience was born from the premise that ice cream is a universal symbol of joy. The museum creates oversized ‘insta’ worthy back drops – an ice-cream playground, immersive videos, art installations,tasting rooms and a fun merchandise shop.
Cultural trends reported by Endeavor Global Marketing suggests there will be less emphasis on ‘food-porn’,with Gen Z more interested in the back story. Increasingly chefs and food influencers are establishing a culture in which personal stories are a big part of the experience. The report continues, “Expect to see a shift from photogenic food to emergence of the stories behind these dishes”.4
Hawk Communications ran a survey showing that Gen Z identified disruption as taking the time to break their fast-paced tech way of living to return to the past. This included purchasing clothes at second-hand shops, hand-written notes rather than email, and real cameras rather than mobile phones.Introducing a little bit of nostalgia maybe a way of setting an offering apart and attracting Gen Z customers.
According to the same Gen Z survey by Hawk Communications, when it comes to content on social media, friends and family (27%) have the greatest influence, more than social media influencers (23%), subject matter experts(14%) and celebrities (12%). This creates an opportunity to embrace Gen Z as change agents, while providing valuable learnings of past generations.5
We need to work hard to foster important generational links and learnings that will balance the world in which Gen Z knows and lives. This generation will have an extraordinary effect on all of us and I look forward to learning more and integrating the best parts of all generations as customers of each other.
Natalie O’Brien & CO are focused on identifying the needs of new and emerging customers and understanding their relationship to your product experience. View our services.
1. Ref: McCrindle.com.au/insights/gen z-alpha infographic update
2. 3 Ways Millennials Differ from Generation Z in 2019 Trends by Melanie Curtin writer, activitist@melaniebcurtin
3. Samsung’s ‘/make’ series on YouTube wins over Gen Z By Robert Williams Published April 22, 2019
4. Ref: Mark Beal a columnist at Grit Daily 19 Tips to effectively market to Gen Z
5. Ref: 2018 survey of Gen Zers by Hawk Communications, the student-run public relations agency at Montclair State University