We are delighted to present a blog post from Joeri Van den Bergh, co-founder & NextGen expert at Insites Consulting and author of How Cool Brands Stay Hot: Branding to Generation Y & Z. Read on for his insights into Gen Z:
Born after 1996, Gen Z-ers are the next kids arriving on the block. It’s a given that this generation is going to become highly influential, as there are already over 2 billion of them globally, while they already possess an estimated $44 billion of annual purchasing power in the United States.
Children of Generation X
First, it’s important to understand where these digi-social kids come from. While Gen Y-ers were raised by group-minded Baby Boomers, these Gen Z-ers have been nurtured by the more individual Gen X-ers. This has made for a drastic difference in parenting styles. When comparing the qualities that parents deem most important, Gen X parents tend to rate inner-focused qualities like “hard-working”, “confidence”, “independence” and “organized” higher compared to their Baby Boomer counterparts.
On the other hand, outer-focused qualities such as “honesty”, “respectfulness”, “trustworthiness” or “ethical” are rated less important by Gen X-ers compared with their predecessors in parenting. The individual-focused qualities carry over to the Gen Z-ers themselves as well, with them citing qualities like “creative” and “independent” as important to develop, rather than “dependable” and “respectful”. Gen X parents experienced a significant rise in the number of divorces and therefore try to focus strongly on family values, while they also strive to teach their children about classic concepts like ‘work ethic’, ‘etiquette’ and ‘resilience’.
Gen X parents also fed their Gen Z children with a harder sense of realism. While Gen Yers were always encouraged to follow their dreams and aspire to become anything they wanted, Gen Z-ers got the advice to focus on becoming great in something you’re actually good at. Closely related to this is the idea that nowadays, you have to be the best in something to be considered a winner, rather than the ‘everyone wins’ attitude that was taught to Gen Y-ers.
A snappy generation
Research in the United States has shown that the attention span of the average American has been reduced to just eight seconds, which is just two seconds more than the maximum length of a video on the popular short video platform Vine.
The snappy way in which Gen Z-ers approach life consequently means that companies have to compete for a spot in that short attention span, even more so than in other generations. Generation Z loves to snack on different, little pieces of entertainment. They enjoy quick bursts of communication. Popular platforms of these tech-savvy consumers only allow very short-length content to be posted, in some cases simply disappearing after a certain amount of time or views. This renders the communication short, ephemeral and exciting to Gen Z-ers.
Dreaming of a better world
Generation Z are realistic, but they are also dreamers striving to make their world better for them and for future generations. Global issues are very important to these Gen Zers, being brought up in an era of economic crisis, ‘the war on terror’, and debates about equality and diversity. The digitally interconnectedness that features this generation plays a large part in this, as they have been able to see and experience people ‘fighting the good fight’ on the internet from a very young age. What’s even more striking is that Gen Z-ers aren’t just talking about what they would do, they are also already doing it. Almost 1 out of 4 Generation Z-ers claim to actively volunteer, trying to help various good causes.
Gen Z entrepreneurs want to make it
The New York Times put it well when describing Generation Z: “These children are so mature and they learn so fast, they might just be ready to take over by the time they’re 22.” Their independence at a young age is remarkably high and they don’t wait to go out and discover things on their own, as proven by the creation of a ‘Generation Z Conference’ at the American University in Washington.
Generation Z is filled with achievers, striving to make a personal impact through their work. Gen Z-ers disapprove of the classic hierarchic model that still rules a lot of workplaces and put less importance on qualifications compared to having a network of people around you. Compared with other Generation, the Z-ers desire to start their own business significantly more, while working for others is much less popular compared to their predecessors. In fact, 42 per cent of Gen Z-ers have made plans to actually start a business. Above all, they feel ready and have started preparing for later professional life: 80 per cent of students in high school believe that they are more driven than colleagues, while over half are actively doing internships and gaining professional experience during high school, often advised by their parents.