Generation Z: Ignore This Next Influencer Demographic At Your Peril

The Boomers and Generation X grew up pre-internet, comfortably straddling the line between the digital revolution and the days when telephones were still attached to walls. Then came the Millennials, feeling slightly self-important as their numbers grew, raised with flat screens, WiFi, tablets, and laptops. Well, look out, Millennials. There’s a bunch of scrappy youngsters nipping at your heels, and if you think you were the original “digital generation,” just wait for Generation Z.

The cohort of kids born after 1998, Generation Z has no memory of a pre-9/11 world. They’re the youngest generation to own top of the line iPhones and Androids, usually around the age of nine. And most toddler Gen Z’ers know their way around a tablet better than their parents do.

They live for video, SnapChatting, live streaming, and Instagramming. And while Facebook is starting to smell like a place where the parents and grandparents hang out, with the social platform’s forays into video and live streaming, Gen Z haven’t jumped ship just yet.

Speaking of video, according to a recent study by the marketing and insights agency Fluent, video is indeed king for this group! Thirty-two percent of their respondents watched video for at least an hour a day, 30 percent for two hours, and 21 percent have their eyes on the screen for three hours every day. Where are they watching? Eighty percent are glued to Youtube, something marketers should take note of.

Oh, They’re Just a Bunch of Kids…

Sure. They’re just a bunch of kids. Highly influential kids! And all those weekly allowances, cash birthday gifts, and part-time jobs add up to a rather healthy $44 billion per year of buying power. According to The Canadian Marketing Association, “…93 percent of parents agree their Gen Z children maintain some influence on household spending and purchases. Boomers and Gen X may have the buying power, but those with Gen Zs under their roof are being swayed by the younger generation’s preferences.”

And there are a lot of them. By 2020, Generation Z will constitute 40 percent of all American consumers, and, considering they grew up in the midst of heavy economic uncertainty and global conflict, it’s not surprising that they are seen as very mature, pragmatic, and in control. Most are highly entrepreneurial, with upwards of 70 percent of teens under 17 already working for themselves, whether selling jewelry on Etsy or starting a tutoring business.

What Does This Mean for Marketers

While marketers have for years now been focused on the highly lucrative Millennial set, it’s time to start shifting gears and thinking about how to shift your marketing strategies to reach this important population (who, remember, will grow up and keep buying!). The Generation Z audience is confident and committed—and understands the power of the internet to self-educate and do research. They don’t take statements at face value, and they are highly conscious of the impact generations past have had on the planet.

They are huge multi-taskers, across many platforms, from wearables to tablets to smart watches to mobile phones. In fact, they might be the most mobile generation ever, with smart phones virtually an extension of themselves. Messaging platforms abound, and that’s where Gen Z stays connected to their communities. They are without a doubt the most socially connected generation ever, with 81 percent of Generation Z using social media daily. This a statistic that cannot be ignored.

Favored social channels lend to visuals and privacy, hence the popularity of Snapchat and Instagram Stories . Others include YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Yik Yak, Pinterest, and Tumblr. And they are on the cutting edge, diving headlong into the latest social platform innovation.

With their short attention spans, they want a story but they want it fast, especially if it involves video, images, GIFs and emojis. And they don’t want to be treated “like kids.” They can smell condescension a mile away, don’t take kindly to being talked down to, and most were taught at a young age to view advertising with a critical eye.

Generation Z is an extremely interesting and unique group (as any of you with a teenager at home right now already knows!). They are mature beyond their years, have grown up knowing global strife and chaos as “the norm,” watched their parents struggle through economic downturns and job losses, and have always had a world of information at their fingertips.

Today’s teen is nothing at all like the teenagers from 20 years ago. And they are going to have a massive impact on the future of our world. Marketers wanting to connect with this group have their work cut out for them, but what an exciting and innovative challenge it will be!


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