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Understand gen Z to get ahead of generation Alpha

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Matthew Taylor
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Gen Z, they are set to have US$33 trillion in spending power by 2030. That is big business.

One of the greatest desires of any marketer is to attract a new generation of consumers. While they don’t always have the same purchasing power as older cohorts, they are key trendsetters, representing the customers of tomorrow and offering the promise of longevity.

In the case of gen Z, they are set to have US$33 trillion in spending power by 2030. 

Given that the elder gen Z are in their late 20s, however, the big business has already begun. “They’re saving up to buy luxury products, and they are already spending and buying,” said Jay Richards, co-founder at Imagen Insights, a London-based gen Z-focused marketing insights agency.

While it is true that gen Z is socially conscious, the idea that they care about all social issues is a mistake. As a result, brands should be careful when expressing opinions on social topics in an attempt to get clout from gen Z.

“If you’re a brand trying to engage with this demographic, choose two or three core causes to get behind,” said Jay, citing Black Lives Matter as an example where many brands were wrong-footed, posting black Instagram squares only to later receive backlash for drowning out content from Black activists.

Another example is sustainability, which seems to be a dominating social issue for gen Z. But then why are they buying fast fashion? “Because they’re broke,” said Jay, pointing out that some 43 percent of the generation are primarily concerned about their finances.

This financial worry will shift as they age and earn, with sustainable brands better placed to capture them in time, according to the founder. To effectively market to this generation, it’s important to understand how they interact.

According to Imagen Insights:

  • 95 percent of gen Z say real-life interaction is more important than making friends online, which seems to have become even more important after Covid-19.
  • Gen Z has little patience for influencer-brand collaborations, over-polished social media, and attempts to force them into using new – and dubious – technology.
  • Three-quarters of the generation do not own an AR or VR headset, smart glasses, or NFTs, and don’t envision them in their social lives.

What’s clear is that gen Z wants to be part of a conversation, to co-collaborate and to be dealt with transparently.

To speak to gen Z, brands must build online communities and be responsive to customers. This, in turn, will build a dialogue and make consumers emotionally invested in the brand or product. But companies must have transparency – particularly with crisis comms – to safeguard the emotional trust invested by the consumer.

Just as constant talk about millennials has faded from the headlines, so too will the fascination with gen Z, as it passes to generation Alpha. But who are they?

Generation Alpha are those currently aged 13 or below – 2.8 million of whom are born every week. Of this generation, 65 percent will work jobs that do not currently exist.

Gen Z:

  • Aged 14-28
  • Set to have US$33 trillion spending power by 2030
  • 43% of gen Z are concerned about their finances
  • 95% say real-life interaction is more important than making friends online
  • 72% don’t own an AR or VR headset, smart glasses, or NFTs – and don’t envision a place for them in their lives

Generation Alpha:

  • Aged 13 and under
  • 2.8 million born each week; will represent two billion people by 2025
  • Most diverse generation in history
  • 65% will work jobs that do not currently exist
  • More than 75% of parents share their children’s data online

The challenge for marketers who are used to social media is that most of this generation have essentially grown up as their parents’ personal social media influencers, and with parents who are social media influencers themselves. More than 75 percent of parents share their children’s data online, and eight out of 10 parents have followers they have never met.

According to Jay, this could cause a similar phenomenon to child celebrity – social media could be a traumatic influence in these kids’ lives, leading to a wholesale rejection of it.

If that’s the case, what is the future of marketing?

It’s likely to be a variation on today’s and yesterday’s marketing: building trust through transparency, conversation and collaboration.

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