06 May Here Comes Generation Z – Who Are They?
Not soon after we have mastered recognizing the habits and values of Millennials, along comes Gen Z. Who are they? While not the “entitled” generation, the media has already labeled them with less than endearing qualities: “screen addicts with no attention span.”
This new demographic makes up a quarter of the U.S. population and by 2020 will account for 40% of all consumers, according to FastcoExist.com. If we as marketers want to succeed in reaching them, we must try to really understand them, rather than slap a label on them.
A recent firm set out to do just that by working with over a dozen 16-18 year-olds with diverse backgrounds from across the country. They utilized interviews, video diaries and interactive exercises in order to try to see the world through their eyes. Here are a few key takeaways from what they learned.
It’s filtering, not ADD.
While many studies say that their attention span has shrunk to merely eight seconds, what was really discovered was an evolved filtering system. Gen Z has grown up in a world with limitless options but not limitless time on their hands, and have had to adapt quickly to sorting through copious and overwhelming information. This filter, not attention span, helps them curate content and information relevant to them and shrink it to a manageable size.
It’s definitely not ADD, because this generation has demonstrated intense commitment and focus when it comes to something that’s important to them.
Gen Z has a carefully tuned radar for being sold to and a limited amount of time and energy to spend assessing whether something’s worth their time. Getting past these filters and winning Gen Z’s attention, will mean providing them with engaging and immediately beneficial experiences. One-way messaging alone will get drowned out in the noise.
Online is a tool for time management, not an addiction. We hear it everywhere: kids today spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME online. They’re wasting their lives. But that’s not entirely true. The reality is, this generation is under pressure to manage both their personal and profession life to “fit in” while simultaneously standing out and being unique. Their peers are on social media and they seek validation and acceptance in a medium that wasn’t part of other generations.
Professionally, they saw the world call Millennials lazy and entitled and want to be known for their ability to work for what they want. It is a fine line to walk; they need social media to build their personal but refuse to be defined by it. Companies should understand this dichotomy and play to it with tools to manage their identity and “brand.”
Overall, this study proved that Gen Z faces many of the same challenges that come with transitioning into adulthood, but they are experiencing them in an ultra-connected, fast-moving digital age. To truly reach them we must empathize and understand where they are, rather than trying to put them in a box.
image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net