The Pivotal Generation: Just in Time For an Era of Change

Posted by: Skyler Huff

Download the latest Gen Z research now

Predicting the future is impossible, but there is no doubt that our country is in store for significant changes – and soon.

The same rings true in regards to the marketplace. No longer will the Millennial generation reign supreme as the most influential and vital consumer segment. Instead, it will share influence with the up-and-coming Pivotal Generation, often referred to as Gen Z.

While there is no universally defined age range for this generation, we consider them to be teens younger than 18-years-old. According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), there is an estimated 82 million of them in the U.S. today, equating to 23 percent of the total population. Because of this, Pivotals today are becoming one of the most powerful forces in our market. As they continue to form their own brand preferences and buying behaviors, separate from that of their parents, businesses will need to be on the forefront of this generation’s expectations for brands if they hope to succeed in the future.

What makes this generation pivotal?

It’s time to get rid of the assumption that Gen Z will be just like Millennials. While Gen Z demonstrates similarities with Millennials in the areas of technology, digital and social, their beliefs and value systems are reminiscent of Generation X and Baby Boomers. We are seeing the pendulum swing back towards a culture that is more revolved around personal success and branded material than the experiential currency introduced by Millennials, which will greatly impact the way they interact with society and the market.

They are also battling the duality of traditional and non-conformist. Earnest, hardworking and driven by traditional views of success (money, education, career), Pivotals resemble Boomers in their attitudes. However, don’t expect them to be conservative in their beliefs. This generation is writing new rules that favor liberal – almost radical – viewpoints on things like race, gender, identity and sexuality.

This is what makes them pivotal. Socially and technologically empowered, they are effectively harnessing a lever that will move the world forward just as we are reaching a crucial moment in history. Whereas Millennials dreamed of changing the world, Pivotals will actually do so through a grounded and practical approach driven by their traditional work ethic and radical liberalism.

This will require brands to take a stance on the issues that matter to them. No longer will “staying out of it” or “playing both sides” suffice. Brands will need to align their business in the right way with the pressure of being held to the same standards for equality and acceptance that this generation holds for one another. The brands that achieve this through supporting Pivotals’ ambition and following their rules will win their love and loyalty.

What makes this generation unique?

Pivotals also exhibit defining characteristics unique to their generation. In our latest research, we explored the behaviors and attitudes of teens today through a nationally representative quantitative study, ethnography across ethnic and income tiers, and a deep-dive into credible secondary research. From that research, we determined six key insights that Gen Z wants brands to know:

1. They want to work for their success, not be discovered

2. They believe that equality is non-negotiable

3. They want brands to be real so they can be unique

4. They have their own system of rules and etiquette for how they use social media

These insights will not only guide brands as they begin to tap this generation, but will also serve as a roadmap for understanding the complicated inner-workings of these consumers as they come to age in the changing post-digital era.


To learn more about the Pivotal Generation and their impact on the market, download our latest research report Getting to Know Gen Z: How The Pivotal Generation is Different From Millennials.

Download the latest Gen Z research now

About Skyler Huff

As a Content Specialist at Barkley, Skyler combines a fervor for strategic communication with a passion for serving others to create in-depth research reports and insightful trend-based material to help marketers understand modern consumers. Her...See Skyler's full bio.

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