There's lots being written about how marketers can best
reach Generation Y consumers, the group of young adults described as
millennials who are between ages 18-34. But another group of young consumers will
present a great challenge for marketers now and going forward: Generation Z, or
kids 16 years of age and under.
To aid in that process, research firm the Intelligence Group
recently released a massive 221-page survey that is based on its Cassandra
Report, which included 800 online interviews with kids 7-13 and their parents
from spots all around the country. The main conclusion is that, much the way
some parents already regard their tween kids, Generation Z will be marketers'
most challenging generation yet.
The survey delves into what makes this generation of kids tick
right now, from the perspective of both the kids and their folks, and then projects
how Gen Z will behave as consumers as they age. The report encourages marketers
to get some in-depth understanding of this group, which will need to be
targeted much differently.
"We are witnessing a shift towards a more gender-neutral
approach in which the pink-and-blue polarities of the past are considered
outdated by these next-gen parents and kids," the survey says. "Brands of the
future will need to rethink gender-based marketing to help build a more
With tech advances continuing to speed along, and kids
growing comfortable with them at an ever-younger age, it's no surprise that the
report tells marketers Gen Z kids, "are already having online conversations
about your brand, making it even more necessary for you to consider how you will
engage them in the future. These empowered, impatient and discerning new
consumers will demand a more intimate relationship with the brands they love.
Brands that can speak directly to this generation's unique DNA can start
connecting and building the lifelong relationship now."
The report says Gen Z kids are already participating in household
decision-making and it predicts they will be smarter than marketers when it
comes to technology and information gathering.
"This generation is very comfortable in the adult world, and
the X/Z generation overlap means they are sharing more brands, entertainment
properties, activities, technology and experiences with their parents than did
past generations. Z kids are feeling empowered and they know that their
opinions and talents are more valuable and relevant than ever before."
The report also says Gen Z kids will become "a generation of
self-starters, multi-thinkers and pioneers, who will want to carve their own
individual paths to success."
In that regard, the report predicts Gen Z kids will not only
"embrace a new, constructive spirit of rebelliousness to define themselves and
make an impact, they'll also seek out extreme experiences, products and content
that will set them apart from the crowd, and will make an effort to put the
stamp of their individuality on everything they do, say and share."
Backing Up the Claims
To back up such far-thinking claims, the report points out
that Gen Z includes some of the first children of Facebook parents who have
been documenting their children's lives "since they were in utero. Their
identities have thus been virtually pre-established by their parents, their
likenesses and behaviors and habits broadly shared with friends and strangers
even before the kids were themselves cognizant of these characteristics."
As a result, the report predicts, Gen Zs will "take great
stock in Web esteem," adding, "they've been taught their entire upbringing that
online sharing is natural, and that how we present ourselves online is
important. Consequently, this generation will seek personal validation through
their social media presence and popularity. Brands can encourage Zs'
self-realization by giving these young consumers even more platforms and
opportunities for sharing."
Since Gen X parents and Z kids are closer than previous
generations, the report says that they will share more together. "We expect to
see an upsurge in entertainment that simultaneously appeals to both parents and
kids," the report says, "like a new spate of family movies, TV shows and even
music, and a less pronounced adult/kid divide out in the real world."
The report also points out that Gen Z kids have
unprecedented access to multiple cultures, religions, lifestyles and ideas, and
"exposure to mix-and-match culture has made them incredibly open-minded."
And the report adds that "to an even greater extent than
their Y predecessors, Zs fail to see the online and offline worlds as separate
and distinct from one another. For these young consumers, online has become a
natural part of their offline experience."
The report advises marketers to be ready to deal with the
rebellious nature of Gen Zs. "As Zs come of age, their rebellious spirit will
only grow stronger and their willingness to buck the status quo more
deep-seated. Brands should not only ready themselves to contend with this
questioning generation, but should take a cue of their own from Zs' purposeful
As such, marketers who offer original and innovative
products and ad campaigns "will be prized above all" among Gen Zs, the report
states. "Inauthenticity will be sniffed out, and imitations derided as mere
parlor tricks. Truly rebellious brands will abandon the playbook and build
their identities from scratch -- just as Apple once did."
The report cites some examples of current campaigns that
might appeal to Gen Zs as they grow. It also offers a list of "Zs to Watch,"
and contains many pages of survey questions about Gen Z opinions, habits and
thought processes, and also those of their parents, and how each perceives the
The results for Gen Zs are broken out both by gender and
also by age groups: 7-9 and 10-13.
And in a helpful summary, the report contains 10 tips for
marketers who want to begin working on developing a relationship with Gen Zs
1.Tap Into Their Entrepreneurial Spirit
Zs are self-starters,itching to make an impact, a change and a name for
themselves. Brandscan be a resource for insights and investments that
start these youngindividuals on a groundbreaking, innovative path.
2.Listen and Respond to Them
Gen Zs' multitasking, multi-think mentality keeps them tuned into various
streams of content all at once -- and they expect brands to keep up with their
rapid-fire pace of conversation, content consumption and Q&A. Marketers
need to embrace and embody the real-time turnaround that Zs crave.
3.Invite Them Into Your Decision-Making
The real-time pace of online interaction has led Zs to expect to be heard by
brands, whether they're voicing a complaint, asking a question or giving a
compliment or suggestion. This generation wants to feel that its input makes an
impact, and Zs love to have their ideas considered and realized.
4.Let Them Try Before They Buy
Gen Zs are uber-researchers and bargain hunters, and they expect to be able to
test out products before they commit to buying anything. Brands should provide
these savvy young consumers with opportunities to try, play and experiment
pre-purchase, both virtually (through augmented reality) and physically
(through trial periods and sample offerings).
5.Make Sure You Are Innovating and Digitally
Gen Z sees little distinction between their digital and physical worlds. They
aim to seamlessly engage with both. Marketers should begin to think about ways
to further integrate their digital and physical communications, creating
products, content and games that feature both tangible and virtual elements
working together and well.
6.Encourage Them to Get Creative With Your
Zs are always seeking new opportunities to display their most inventive,
beautiful and brilliant creations. Brands should give them platforms upon which
to share their projects, get ideas and inspiration and interact with likeminded
young people and prominently feature their best works to give them a moment in
7.Make Them Feel Secure
Growing up in the wake of 9/11 and in the midst of a recession has made Gen Zs
inherently security-minded. Brands should feature marketing messages that speak
to Zs' and their parents' desire to feel safe and secure, and partner with the
right causes to remind them that you're working to make the world a better and
8.Inspire Them to Change the World
Gen Z considers it a given and a necessity to recycle, conserve and make green
choices, and they are participating in some form of community service through
their school, family or church in disproportionate numbers. Brands can be great
resources for information and motivating young people to improve their schools,
communities and their world.
9.Build a Relationship Early On
Since trust and transparency are such important social markers for Gen Zs,
marketers should engage them on their level and offer experiences they can
enjoy at their current age -- even if what they're selling doesn't seem
imminently useful to kids. Earning their trust now will have sticking power
when these young individuals enter adulthood.
Them the Bright Side
Gen Zs may be born realists, but they still desire and respond to messages of
hope and optimism. Brands can enhance Zs' outlook by showing them the brighter
sides of life, and encouraging them to find and share the bright moments
themselves. Marketing messaging can remind them that, in a sometimes-scary
world, they can still find positive people and opportunities.