I’ve never taken much notice of generational categorisation and the study of behavioural patterns across different age groups. In fact, there have been times when I’ve been positively turned off by the number of references to ‘Millenials’ on social media sites.
However, the latest category to be defined, Generation Z, really resonates with me, both from a business perspective but also when I observe my own children’s traits and behaviours. So, I wanted to share a simple introduction to some of the defining characteristics of Gen Z.
Whilst date ranges for generational categories are never wholly agreed upon, most people agree that Generation Z was born in the mid-1990s. I like this train of thought, the idea that Gen Z began in 1996 because that was the year Google was founded. This makes sense to me because it is safe to say that they are the first truly connected generation who have grown up with the internet as a constant.
Connectivity is about access to news, social networks, and the world in general and no other entity has driven as much significant technological and communication change as Google.
But it isn’t just this connectivity that defines Generation Z. The smartphone ultimately underpins what is now the age of information. Google once highlighted that ownership of a mobile phone is one of the most important life events for Gen Z, not just because it ‘connects’ them but also because they believe that they need one in order to belong.
So, it’s not just my business that relies on technology to operate and exist. A survey carried out in 2011 suggested that over half of teens would rather give up their sense of smell (yes, you read that correctly) than their mobile phone. Gen Z are technology dependant.
Add the above two defining characteristics together and out pops another. Generation Z have never known a world where they cannot find the answer to any question almost instantaneously. Being able to ‘google it’ or check out ‘How to’ videos on Youtube makes Gen Z the first understand everything generation. The ramifications of this are considerable.
According to Awesomeness, 68 is the number of videos Gen Z watch on at least 5 different platforms in a typical day, and, 71% of their entertainment consumption is streaming. Gen Z have an immutable preference for video, specifically when it is streaming. They are all about real time video.
My son is seven. He’s been studying the ‘deadly 60’ at school which is all about the most dangerous animals in the world. Over dinner, he was sharing his new-found knowledge for great white sharks and so on. During the conversation, Mummy just happened to ask him what the most deadly animal is…
His answer shocked us both for his sheer brilliance but also because he’s so much older than his years which is both good and bad - can you guess what he said?
Being able to understand the darker side of our existence makes Generation Z realists and in some cases worriers. The oldest of Generation Z have only been out of University since summer 2017, and typically won’t have experienced the harder sides of human existence first hand.
But their no holds barred state of connectivity means they have done so virtually. Gen Z worry far more than previous generations about everything, including getting a job, debt, climate change, finding happiness and, as our little boy proved, war and global terrorism.
It’s the age of information and connectivity. Globalisation means young people are growing up immersed in the same global brands, in love with the same icons, enjoying the same TV or sports coverage and are exposed to all the good and bad in the world. Gen Z are the first truly global generation.
From a business perspective we need to understand Generation Z so that we can market to and engage with them as they start to enter the workplace and develop their own buying power and decision-making ability.
Outside of work, this understanding can only help me as a parent when dealing with this generation at home, which definitely brings its own set of unique challenges!