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Generation Z: the savviest consumer yet?

Generation Z, the group made up of individuals born between 1995 and 2010, currently accounts for around 26 per cent of the US population, and has been called the fastest-growing consumer demographic.

And while it’s always important to clarify that such broad age ranges ignore other factors like race, gender, location and socioeconomic background, certain generational traits do exist which marketers can build on. For instance, the millennial demographic has been frequently described as craving authenticity and having a low tolerance for BS, and it is beginning to look like Gen Zers are the same. What’s more, they are just as cognisant of their worth as consumers — if not even more so.

“Generation Z, more than any other age group, is viscerally aware of the value of its attention,” writes the Memo’s Geraldine Bedell. “Young people understand instinctively how much tech companies want to keep them looking. So, despite the assumption of the internet safety industry – that technology is corrupting the innocent – the young may yet prove themselves to be more mature than any other group. Generation Z have grown up with the full panoply of tech opportunity.”

Some millennial marketing has been criticized as shallow and focusing too much on hipster stereotypes and the notion that “millennials love experiences” — an unsustainable approach, especially when it comes to this younger group. The brands that figure out how to relate to Gen Zers on their own terms, and meet them where they are, will be the ones who secure that sought-after attention.

For example, Hootsuite seeks to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs with its League of Innovations programme. Considering that around 70 per cent of Generation Z hope to own their own business, and 75 per cent would like to turn their passion into a career, the League of Innovations is a natural brand fit, offering tools and guidance in a way that yields genuine value.

However, Andrew Mulgholland, Managing Director of The Gild, is quick to point out that falling into the trap of generalizing is a folly. “Within each generation there are wide divisions in politics, culture and taste – and across generations there are attitudes that bridge young and old together,” he says. “Treating the attitudes typically associated with terms like millennial or ‘Gen Xer’ as belonging strictly to one age range shows a lack of awareness of who people really are and how they really behave, in all their nuance and variety.”

The Empowered Customer Segmentation by market research group Forrester offers an alternative to broad generational marketing, instead building profiles of consumers based on how they respond to products and technologies, like “progressive pioneers,” who are early adopters and lead demand. “There’s a type of behavior that isn’t just a function of age or even a life stage,” says Forrester analyst Anjali Lai. He suggests that the way consumers interact with brands isn’t necessarily a product of their age, but rather of the evolving tools and experiences that are available to them.

So perhaps demographic data provides marketers with an outline of their target consumer, and behavioural data is needed to colour it in.

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