Grouping an entire generation of people into a single marketing segment has its pitfalls. Not every member of any group or demographic segment can be expected to see the world from an identical perspective and follow a single behavioral pattern. However, generational differences and behaviors are influenced by disruptive events. The Great Depression and World War II had a dramatic impact on baby boomers, both in the way they saw the world and their role in the future. The technology revolution is generating much of the same impact on Millennials, and to an even greater degree, Generation Z. Such dynamic experiences tend to not only alter established patterns of process but often disrupts the way people reinterpret and redefine fundamental societal norms.
Marketers found measured success in developing strategies that connected with Millennials only after struggling to fully understand the impact of the technology era on those born and reared during the years that saw unprecedented disruption in traditional communication processes. Millennials were the test subjects for social media platforms that were born and that matured during their formative years. Both Millennials and the generation that followed became accustomed to fast paced growth of new technologies and the impacts they have on the world.
Generation Z consists of those born in 1996 or later. They make up 25.9% of the United States population and will account for one-third of the U.S. population by 2020. The most tech savvy and information consuming generation in history, Generation “Z’ers” tend to be less focused on a single thought but are demonstrating an amazing ability to multitask and a lack of patience with a single subject. Since 2018, members of Generation Z spent up to $143 billion and will represent 40% of consumers by 2020. In order to successfully market to this generation, it is important to recognize how this new set of consumers differentiates from the previous generation. While Millennials learned to coexist with the development of digital devices, Z’ers are perpetual in their use and have demonstrated a mastery of everything smart and mobile.
Marketers are experiencing a massive shift in advertising methods and content messaging in order to successfully connect with Generation Z’s shifting values. “When it doesn’t get there fast they think something’s wrong,” said Marcie Merriman, executive director of growth strategy at Ernst & Young. “They expect businesses, brands and retailers to be loyal to them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they’re going to move on. It’s not about them being loyal to the business.” Like their predecessors, this new generation values authenticity. However, Generation Z’ers desire even more transparency from companies requiring brands to alter their approach to focus to a greater degree on social media influencers. This generation of shoppers indicates they are more likely to be motivated by social media influencers than by celebrities. Four out of five Generation Z members say they allow social media to influence purchasing decisions.
Contrary to digitally honed social insights, Generation Z is more socially diverse and conscious than former generations. They are more likely to appreciate face to face relationships, be willing to do great work for an employer and are predicted to be willing to invest years in a job that propels them forward to achieving personal self-development. According to Generation Z marketing strategist Deep Patel, “the newly developing high tech and highly networked world has resulted in an entire generation thinking and acting more entrepreneurially.”
It would be easy to button-hole this newest generation of consumers into one market segment, but care must be exorcized to understand that each new generation is influenced by those that have gone before. In reality, while greatly impacted and honed from a lifetime of technology, this new generation may be much more diverse having been influenced by interactions with each preceding generation.