Rise of the Gen Zers

Why brands need to adapt in order to communicate with this growing generation

Public Relations and communications agency

Now that the oldest millennials (or Generation Y) are fast approaching their 40s, brands need to start familiarising themselves with the next up and coming generation - Generation Z (or Gen Zers). As this new generation grows up and joins the job market, brands will need to adapt rapidly should they want to grab Gen Zers’ attention and disposable income. According to reports this generation is global, social, visual and technological, and is the most connected, educated and sophisticated generation to date.

Although there still seems to be some confusion about exactly where the millennial generation ends and where Gen Zers begin, the majority of sources state that individuals belonging to this group were born between 1995 and 2012. Apart from age difference, there are very clear dissimilarities between the two generations’ behaviour, including their attitudes towards communication, privacy, marketing and technology.

In the US, millennials are slowly being replaced as the nation’s most sought-after consumers and the group which brands most want to influence. Gen Zers are now taking over this privileged position, and as a result there is much conversation and debate around how to effectively communicate with these youngsters.

So what is the main difference between these two generations and how do we need to adapt our communication and marketing strategies in order to talk to them?
After trawling the internet I have identified a few traits which we should sit up and take notice of. Gen Zers comprises of nearly 2 billion people globally, and therefore brands looking to influence this huge group of consumers will need to adapt strategies in line with these traits and characteristics should they want to be heard.

- Gen Zers are typically mature, entrepreneurial, hyperaware and technology reliant multitaskers.
- Individuals that belong to this age group generally have a very short attention span, so communication and messages should be short, punchy and to the point. Anything too lengthy will fail to capture their attention and be a waste of effort and marketing budget.
- When it comes to shopping, this generation prefers eCommerce channels and online portals over physical brick and mortar outlets. Retailers are therefore advised to consider a multi-channel approach in future which can be accessed via smartphones, computers or physically.
- As this generation was born into the crisis period of terrorism, the global recession and climate change, they are more conscientious, care about the world and want to make a difference and an impact.
- Due to the way in which Gen Zers’ childhood is shaped and family life becoming more diverse in many households, gender roles and norms are evolving. This will impact the way in which household purchasing decisions are made when this generation ‘grows up’.
- Gen Zers belong to a group that has never known a world without screens and connections, and as a result can be very distracted. This generation is therefore the ultimate consumer of bite size information, and brands may find it challenging to hold their attention.
- The group is definitely more private compared to previous generations, who have been keen to share, like and discuss opinions in public forums. Brands therefore need to choose social media channels carefully, and opt for platforms which provide anonymity, or the option to erase content once read. The fact that 25% of 14 - to 17-year-olds left Facebook in 2014 highlights the shift towards more private platforms.

Since South African research on Gen Zers is still very limited, let’s take a look at American research conducted by Sparks & Honey on individuals that belong to the age group:

- 57% would rather save money than spend it;
- 41% spend more than three hours a day on their computers for non-schoolwork–related purposes;
- The average attention span in the US in eight seconds, which is down from 12 seconds in 2000;
- 52% make use of channels such as YouTube and other social media sites for research purposes;
- 76% are concerned about humanity’s effect on the planet and 78% are concerned about world hunger.

This research highlights that creating communication strategies aimed at the younger generation will require much trial and error, and a lot more effort compared to previous generations. We therefore suggest that brands start planning communication strategies and channels sooner rather than later, as this group of consumers are likely to be tough nuts to crack.