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'Generation Z' Already Pushing Millennials Out of Marketers' Focus

14 march 2016

Despite the diamond jewelry industry – along with many others – still being obsessed with the so-called millennials, young people born from around 1980 to 2000, marketers are already turning their attention to the so-called 'Generation Z'. That is the generation born from approximately 2000 onwards which is emerging as the next big thing for market researchers, cultural observers and business trend forecasters.

With the oldest members of this group not yet even out of high school, these teens are set to become the dominant youth shopping influencers of tomorrow. With billions of dollars in spending power, they hold great promise for American marketers who can find the key to unlocking their spending desires.

These tens of millions of adolescents live in a substantially different world to even that of the millennials, according to media reports, and there is considerable discussion about the definition of Generation Z. Demographers place its beginning anywhere from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s. Marketers and trend forecasters, however, who tend to slice generations into bite-size units, often characterize this group as a roughly 15-year bloc starting around 1996, making them 5 to 19 years old now. By this definition, millennials were born between about 1980 and 1995, and are roughly 20 to 35 now.

Even with these narrow boundaries, Generation Z commands considerable attention due to its sheer size. At approximately 60 million people, native-born American members of Generation Z outnumber their millennial older siblings by nearly one million, according to some estimates.

They will ultimately number close to 80 million, according to the U.S. Census. Mintel, a market research firm puts their spending power at close to $200 billion annually when their influence on parental or household purchases is factored in.

Among the attributes of Generation Z is a total immersion in technology and the ability to make and maintain their closest relationships via social media, such as Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook.

Although millennials are fully digitally aware, their teenage years were defined by iPods and MySpace. However, Generation Z is the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones, and many do not remember a time before social media.

Generation Z members are regarded as the first true digital natives, happily simultaneously creating a document, editing it, posting a photo on Instagram and talking on the phone, all from the user-friendly interface of an iPhone. Generation Z is said to take in information instantaneously and loses interest just as fast.

That point is not lost on marketers. In an era of emoji and six-second Vine videos, “we tell our advertising partners that if they don’t communicate in five words and a big picture, they will not reach this generation,” said Dan Schawbel, the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a New York consultancy.

Marketers will need to find a way to communicate almost instantaneously with Generation Z members. They want to hear the whole pitch is just a few words or seconds. Product marketing has to be big, bright and right on the button otherwise attention passes on to a different product or subject. But Generation Z also connects to a completely different approach to life, enjoying the offbeat and raw.

They are also different to millennials in the sense that having been born after 9/11, they have never known a time that the United States has not been at war somewhere in the world. They also came of age during the Great Recession and unlike millennials, have no memory of the free-spending boom times that came before.

They have also experienced two terms of an African American president, and regarded as being more open minded, practical and solution-oriented than the millennials.

There are also big differences in how the two generations view their online personas, starting with privacy. While the millennial generation pioneered the Facebook selfie, many in Generation Z have embraced later, anonymous social media platforms like Secret or Whisper, as well as Snapchat, where any 'incriminating' images disappear almost instantly, said Dan Gould, a trend consultant for Sparks & Honey, an advertising agency in New York.

Reports suggest that entrepreneurship is in the DNA of Generation Z members, aided by their relatively deep knowledge of technology and the comfortable way they are able to adapt and change to new social media and other computer programs.

Although many of their parents may regard the large amount of time Generation Z members spend online digital as being merely entertainment and largely a waste of time, for the teens that entertainment is proving to be a vital component in the creation and maintenance of friendships.

A Pew study found that "more than half of teens have made new friends online, and a third of them (36 percent) say they met their new friend or friends while playing video games. Playing games can also have the effect of reinforcing a sense of friendship and connectedness."

Nearly 20 percent of all teens go on message boards regularly, as problems that were once isolating or suppressed now have a connected community behind them. Because of Gen Z’s willingness to open up online, the Internet has a much greater impact on their lives. Marketers are learning that tightly controlled messages aren’t possible anymore for Gen Z.

It has also been suggested that marketing professionals create items for the communities that Gen Z is a part of instead of injecting messages into them. When it comes to general brand building, it’s better to think about the communities the target lives in and build things that make that community more fun or easier to navigate.

Generation Z also appears to have higher workplace expectations than older groups yet they will become more quickly frustrated, too. Salary aside, for Gen Zers the main attractions to a company are a work-life balance (48 percent), working with great people (47 percent), then flexible working hours, good perks and job security (all 42 percent). Older generations not only demanded less from employers, their preferences also differed with job security being front-of-mind for Baby Boomers and work-life balance for Gen X and millennials.

In addition, more than double the number of Gen Zers are attracted to a company that enables them to feel like they’re making a difference to the world – 34 percent compared with 13 percent of Baby Boomers, 14 percent of Gen X and 15 percent of millennials. And almost three times as many Gen Z respondents are attracted to companies that offer technology to enable people to work more efficiently (28 percent) than those from the older generations (10 percent).

Gen Zers also indicate they will become frustrated far more easily than older generations. Communication is key with 43 percent saying they would be irritated by a lack of communication from colleagues, compared to 19 percent from other generations.

Meanwhile, a third of Gen Z would be frustrated by a lack of information sharing, and the same number by a lack of innovation.

With Generation Z’s appetite for working collaboratively and remotely, across platforms and borders, adopting new ways of working is a must, not least as a measure to ensure competitive edge and attract the best talent. But having the relevant underpinning processes, the foundation for success is crucial.

Surveys also reveal that Generation Z members have high expectations of their own positive impact on the workplace. Most of them believe they will bring new ways of working (65 percent), exceptional technology skills (63 percent) and new ideas and fresh thinking (61 percent).

By our Israel correspondent Abraham Dayan