Many marketers and their media agencies are understandably focused on 18-34-year-old millennials, and developing strategies to lure them in as customers. But Ford’s 2015 Trend Report also offers up a compelling picture of generation Z, and how these youngest consumers, the oldest of whom are in their teens, are already inspiring attitudes and behaviors among older folks that are impacting the sale of merchandise across categories.
The report, the motor company’s third annual, offers insights beyond generation Z and provides a look at trends expected to influence products and brands for the year ahead, rolling out a wide assortment of data that paints a picture of the thinking that motivates each demo group. But it zeroes in on gen Z, pointing out that the demo coming right after millennials in terms of age will total more than 2 billion and account for more than 20% of the world’s population this year. More pointedly for marketers, they’re also the first global generation that was born into an on-demand, technology-driven culture.
“The emerging gen Z consumer is already inspiring attitudes and behaviors in consumers of all ages,” says Sheryl Connelly, Ford global consumer trend and futuring manager. “We saw similar traits with millennials, but gen Z consumers—being much more connected and aware of the options available to them—are the global go-getters who have a link to each of our 10 micro-trends for 2015.”
Connelly says while gen Z kids “are still too young to be universally recognized as a traditional cohort, their point of view is compelling, and despite their youth, they are helping to shape the world we live in today.”
Connelly understands this personally, from her own unofficial demo lab at home. “I have spent more than a decade researching trends and exploring how they might shape the future, and yet, for years, a treasure trove of information about the future has been right in front of me—my daughters, now 11 and 13,” she says.
Among the data from the report with regard to gen Z: 52% use YouTube or other social media platforms for school research assignments; 33% watch lessons online; 32% work with classmates online; and 20% read textbooks on tablets.
Compared to the millennial generation or gen Y, gen Z kids are 55% more likely to want to start a business and hire others and 54% are more likely to say they want to have an impact on the world.
Another interesting stat from the report: 58% of adults age 35 and older agree that kids today have more in common with their global peers than they do with adults in their own country.
The report also highlights the achievements of some gen Z teens. One, 15-year-old Glynn McGarry, built a high-tech kitchen in his home and now operates his own supper club with tasting menus at $160 per person.
Three others are Google Science Fair Grand Prize winners: Ciara Judge, 16, Elmer Hickey, 17 and Sophie Healy-Thow 17, are the Irish scientists behind the discovery of Diazotroph, a bacteria that helps increase the yield of crops such as barley and oats.
The efforts of these and other exceptional teens cited in the study offer evidence that gen Z members are not only impacting society, but are also worth reaching out to by brands.
Ford lists 10 trends that it expects to influence consumers and brands in 2015 and beyond. At the top of the list: Make Way for Gen Z. The other expected trends are:
2.Rally for Renegades and Rebels. Society has always loved risk-takers but the marketplace has never been more receptive to those who push boundaries and break molds.
3.Flaunting Failure. The stigma of failure is quickly eroding. In an era of constant change, the only true failure is a failure to try, to improve and evolve.
4. Carry-less Movement. Today’s consumers don’t want to carry things and increasingly, don’t need to. New technologies such as wearable gadgets and smartphone apps are transforming the mechanics of how those consumers pay for goods and services, how and where marketers reach their customers and who people trust with their most valuable information.
5. No Strings Attached. In a world where innovation moves so rapidly, no one wants to be left behind with a product that has become outdated or obsolete. The result is an emerging a la carte mentality that trumpets access over ownership.
6. Expanding Next of Kin. As traditional families and communities become less the norm, the concept of family is adapting, expanding and evolving in a most personal fashion.
7. Give and Take of Privacy. Privacy has become a delicate balancing act, and there is a trade-off between information consumers are willing to share and the benefits they receive in exchange.
8. Elusive Health. A decentralized effort to inform consumers about healthier lifestyle habits has led to confusion and a global population getting fatter and sicker. Consumers need a clear signal amid the noise to translate the information into action.
9. Escape Artist. In today’s 24/7 culture, the desire to get away mentally and physically remains compelling. People are increasingly seeking out immersive adventures, elevating escapism to a fine art.
10. Many Faces of Mobility. In an age of constant innovation, mobility is outpacing the definition of the word as the concepts of transportation and communication converge.
The report offers an assortment of data from a variety of sources to support each of those trends.
Also included in the Ford report is the company’s own “Blueprint for Mobility” for the next five to 10 years. This blueprint includes:
1. The introduction of semi-autonomous driving technology, including developments that will provide improved accident avoidance and driver assistance features.
2. Heightened interactions between individual cars on the road through computing power and vehicle sensors to reduce the number of accidents at intersections and enable semi-autonomous and autonomous highway lane changing and exiting.
3. Vehicle-to-cloud and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications enabling vehicles to recommend alternative transport options when congestion is unavoidable, and pre-reserve parking.
4. An integrated transport network featuring cars plugged into public databases.
5. The introduction of more one-, two- and three-passenger vehicles to help maneuver on city streets.
“A rich understanding of our customers’ ever-evolving needs, priorities and desires, both today and tomorrow, is key to our everyday business and global product development strategies,” Connelly says. “These trends and insights help us at Ford in our role as an innovator to create products that not only exceed expectations but push the boundaries of imagination.”