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We know how important Gen Z is to you and your brand, but what actually makes them different to generations gone by?
It can be tricky to get your head around Gen Z’s defining characteristics as there’s so much contradictory information online, so we decided it was time to dispel some of the most frequent misunderstandings. For more insights on Gen Z from the people who know them best, be sure to attend our upcoming Youth Marketing Strategy events, YMS22 LDN and YMS22 LA.
The 10 myths about Gen Z
1. Millennials and Gen Z are the same generation
WRONG! We always cringe a bit when we see someone saying that ‘Generation Z’ is just another term for Millennials. Actually, Gen Z is the generation AFTER Millennials. While Millennials were born between 1985 and 1995, and came of age in the new millennium, Gen Z were born in 1995 or later.
The two generations have loads of differences due to the fact that they grew up in different times. While Millennials reached adulthood expecting the same privileges as their Baby Boomer parents and got a shock when they struggled to find stable careers, Gen Z expect to work hard because they grew up in a recession. Growing up in a time of uncertainty has also affected Gen Z’s behaviour and beliefs around money, health and the environment, causing them to be more in touch with their emotional wellbeing and generally more passionate about protecting the planet.
2. They don’t care about politics
WRONG! Young people are becoming more and more invested in social and cultural issues, and as a result, know a lot more about politics than you may think. Whether they’re feeling angry after Boris Johnson’s 2020 lockdown parties or are standing up for their reproductive rights following the overturning of Roe v Wade in the US, Gen Z are mad, and they’re getting mad loudly.
From petitioning online to sharing powerful messages on social media and even physically taking their protests to the streets, Gen Z are a generation of politically aware activists (70% would describe themselves as such).
Other issues they feel strongly about include human rights, diversity and gender equality.
3. They aren’t into the brands their parents like
WRONG! Today’s young people are cautious spenders, which means they like to buy from trusted global brands and established names, who they can rely on to offer quality products. As we revealed in our Youth 100 report*, their current favourites are Netflix, YouTube, TikTok, Nike and Spotify.
4. They care more about playing on their phones than working hard
WRONG! Most of Gen Z may still be at school, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t already working towards a bright future. They aspire to work in creative, interesting and rewarding roles, and recognise that they need to work hard to achieve this goal. Therefore, many teenagers have developed an entrepreneurial spirit, and are creating their own companies, creative projects and community initiatives, even before they graduate. In fact, a recent Voxburner survey revealed that 60% of young people would describe their generation as entrepreneurial.
5. They aren’t prepared for the business world
WRONG! If you’ve worked with members of Gen Z you may have found that they struggle with some business skills, such as a professional phone manner and email etiquette. However, they have many other valuable skills that give them an edge over older employees, such as technical knowledge and creative vision. They may not even realise that their hobbies, such as running a fan account or creating memes, could help them get a job that they love. Combined with a drive to succeed and earn more money, these abilities make Gen Z very appealing to forward-thinking employers – just take a look at Zaria Parvez, the Gen Z face behind Duolingo’s hugely successful and viral mascot, Duolingo the Owl!
Higher ed brands have also got on board with employing Gen Zers via their social media channels, with Edinburgh Napier setting a great example of how to let students run your TikTok channels (with huge success!). You can read more about this in our Voxburner+ Marketing for Higher Education report.
6. They prefer a digital lifestyle to physical possessions
WRONG! Millennials are known for prioritising experiences over ownership, spending their money with companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Deliveroo, but research has found that Gen Z have a different perspective. Gen Z prefer a cool product to a cool experience, and this is evident through the increasing popularity of the metaverse and NFTs.
Growing up in a time of financial uncertainty means they like to save money and dream of owning their own home in the future. As we wrote in our US Youth Trends Report 2022*, 83% of 16-24s say that owning a home is important to them.
7. Their idols are just ‘famous for being famous’
WRONG! Older generations may struggle to see the appeal of YouTubers such as Zoella and PewDiePie, who seem to simply be famous for being themselves. Indeed, the most successful digital influencers have created a cult of personality through being relatable and charismatic. And whilst lifestyle influencers such as Molly Mae and Emma Chamberlain are still leading the way, environmental leader and Gen Zer Greta Thunberg and altruistic footballer Marcus Rashford are very popular.
Teens who look up to social media stars aspire not to be ‘famous for being famous,’ like the reality TV stars loved by Millennials, but to be appreciated for their talent, innovation and creative work.
8. They don’t like socialising in person
WRONG! The typical image of teens today is that they’re glued to their phones, and it’s true that most of their social communications take place online, with 71% of young people admitteding to using Instagram at least once a day.
However, despite the forced online connections of the pandemic, a recent Voxburner survey revealed that 81% of UK Gen Zers prefer to socialise in-person as opposed to virtually – most likely due to the fact that this opportunities were taken away from them for a couple of years.
According to influential researcher Danah Boyd’s book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, the problem is that due to a lack of mobility and parental concerns about safety in public places, opportunities to hang out in person are limited. Teenagers are obsessed with their phones because social media and messaging apps allow them to connect with their peers and be part of a social group.
9. They don’t watch TV
WRONG! As we’ve already mentioned, Netflix is Gen Z’s number one brand (and has been for quite some time!), a number of series exclusive to Netflix reaching viral status, Stranger Things – throughout the six years that it’s been on the air, it’s grown massively in popularity, and according to one source, the show helped to bring Netflix’s subscriber count to 158.33 million.
Interestingly, TV (and films) are permeating culture at an alarming rate, with moments and audios from shows going viral on TikTok and inspiring fandoms across the world. A recent example is singer Kate Bush’s 1985 hit Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God), which appeared on the show and has since trended on TikTok and climbed transatlantic charts.
Netflix (and TV in general) is a good companion to pass time, helps young people escape from the predictable world outside and is also a way of being part of a wider online community.
10. They don’t have much money to spend
WRONG! Regardless of how much pocket money or allowance individual teenagers receive from their parents, they influence a much larger amount of annual spend. According to one report, 90% of parents say that their kids influence their purchasing decisions. This includes money spent on food, events and outings household goods and more items that teens and children are increasingly consulted on. Therefore, getting the approval of this discerning and demanding demographic is key for brands of all kinds.
However, this doesn’t mean that Gen Zers aren’t savvy with their spending, with young people spending a considerable amount of time watching ‘finfluencers’ online (finance influencers) and being more open and honest with their friends about their spending habits. Make sure you check out our blog to find out how you can make the world of finance and money more accessible to Gen Z.
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*Read our full Youth Trends Reports and Youth 100 report (plus much more!) at Voxburner+. Subscribe today to join our leading youth marketing community.