Gen Z is the first generation to only know a world with the internet. They’ve been plugged in and connected from the moment they were born. And as this generation comes of age – they’re in their early twenties or they’ll be matriculating soon – it’s important that marketers know what they’re interested in and why they’ll buy.
This generation, those born between the mid-1990s to early 2000s, differ from their older peers, the so-called “Millennials”, in many different ways. Just as they’ve never known a world without the internet, they also don’t know a world without global warming or terrorism. Because of this, Gen Z is a generation more woke than their predecessors.
"As a result, Gen Z is the most informed, evolved, and empathetic generation of its kind," says new research by Think With Google.
"They value information, stimulation, and connection, evident by their affinity for YouTube, Google, and Netflix. They also have high hopes for the brands they choose. From Nike to X-Box, they expect big things."
Also known as Founders, a nickname given to them by MTV, Gen Z pay attention to and get excited about brands they think are cool.
So, what do they think is cool?
According to the research: “Teens feel something is cool if it’s unique, impressive, interesting, amazing or awesome. Something becomes ‘cool’ when it brings joy or happiness or is unique enough to stand out from everything.”
And how do they find out about the next cool thing?
The most important factor influencing their decision is whether or not their friends are talking about brands. Next up is if they see an ad about it, particularly if it’s one that’s personalised to them. Says 17-year-old Cyan: “When someone your age is doing something in the ad or it pertains more to you personally, those strike me.“
For this generation, the top milestones they’re looking forward to are finishing school, getting their driver’s licence and having their first phone. Not surprisingly, they're getting their first phone at an earlier age than ever before. They’re 12-years-old when they get their first phone. And it’s their smartphones that provide them with the content they’re consuming. They’re spending more than three hours daily watching videos, staying up until the early hours of the morning before dragging themselves to school the next day.
What are local young people interested in?
Locally, this generation is not very different to their international peers. Smartphones are their highest value purchase. And, interestingly, they spend more than the average South African, pointing to their high levels of disposable income. Student Village’s most recent Student Spending Report, released earlier this week, shows that they’re increasingly spending on clothing and footwear, with their spend in this area almost tripling. And, aside from making sure they look good, they’re focused on spending money on experiences and creating memories. “They are also less accepting of information presented to them and challenge the status quo, making brands work much harder for their attention,” says the report.
This, according to the research, is a challenge to us as marketers. We need to live up to the standard that Gen Z has set for us. It’s up to us to inform and inspire. It’s our responsibility to create marketing that gets them excited. They’re ambitious, engaged with the world around them and feel they can make an impact. It’s up to us to find ways to communicate with them about what they value.
*This article originally appeared on Media Update.