Gen Z isn’t your grandfather’s generation. Then again, it kind of is.
A multi-ethnic, pansexual generation that has grown up in an era where social media has brought extreme connectedness, Gen Zers embrace diversity and transparency. The Gen Z CEO probably won’t look anything like Warren Buffet.
But they were also raised amid a recession by parents continually stressed about money. That anxiety, coupled with the vast reaching social capabilities of the digital world, has given them an unfiltered view of the harsh realities of the global economy. As a result, Gen Z is pivoting back to the traditionalist, success-obsessed work ethic that older generations prize.
Because of this tension between responsibility and radicalism, we’re calling Gen Z the Pivotal Generation.
Our research unlocked this and many other surprising insights about today’s teens. Get the full download from our latest research report: Getting to Know Gen Z: How the Pivotal Generation is Different from Millennials.
In addition to the report, we’ve created a handy infographic that includes the most important takeaways from our research to help marketers and communicators win the trust and confidence of this next wave of consumers.
(Click to enlarge the image)
Overall, the Pivotal force resides in the tension between Gen Z’s traditionalist drive and its yearning for pluralism.
A few key points:
- We want to work for our success, not be discovered.
Whereas Millennials were labeled — fairly or not — as slacktivists spoiled by being given trophies just for showing up, Pivotals have learned that success can’t be taken for granted. Pivotals will work hard to earn grades that will get them into college and onto a prosperous career. They also outpace Millennials by 10 percent when it comes to valuing success as the most important thing in life.
- We believe that equality is non-negotiable.
Pivotals have grown up amid peers who are of mixed race and fluid gender identities. Yet when they tune into the media, they’re bombarded with stories of discrimination and marginalization enacted by older generations. While Millennials pushed for a cleaner planet, Gen Z will take up the battle for human and civil rights. Brands that fight alongside them will win big. Those that don’t, or that are tied to anti-equality causes (such as the North Carolina LGBT law blocking statewide protection for sexual equality and gender identity), will miss out on their hard-earned dollars.
- We want brands to be real so we can be unique.
It’s been trending for a while, but Gen Z is pushing transparency over the top. Seventy-seven percent of teens today prefer ads that show real people in real situations and 61 percent want diverse families in advertising. As they mature and enter the consumer economy, Pivotals will rally to brands like Southwest that have “nothing to hide.” They also expect brands to depict people like them — who look like them and share their beliefs — in their creative messaging.
Taking it a step further, Pivotals embody the “curated identity” — the notion that one’s social self-portrait is pieced together out of elements from culture. A teen’s social feed might be laced with trendy Adidas shoes alongside outlandish pop-culture memes. Brands should seek to create experiences and artifacts that Pivotals can use when forming of their own personal identities.
- We have our own system of rules and etiquette for how we use social media.
Get it straight, marketers: Instagram is for conveying carefully manicured style. Snapchat is for in-the-moment messaging. Twitter is for real-time talk around trending events, and Facebook, well, that’s for Warren Buffet. (JK, as the kids say.) As social media becomes ever more ingrained in daily life, it’s critical for communicators to understand how young users interact across different media and to handcraft messages that abide by the rules of each platform.
And all of that is just the beginning. As Pivotals graduate college and enter the workforce, the media and cultural landscape will grow ever more complex and diverse.
Worry not, modern brands — we’ll keep you posted on the latest consumer trends as they develop.