‘Millennials on steroids’: Is your brand ready for Generation Z?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article published with permission from Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Born between the mid- to late-1990s and 2010, Gen Z is coming of age in the era of Instagram, coming of age post-the Great Recession, and coming of age when an African American president and multiple women running for the title is a political reality.
It’s still early days for Gen Z, but already one defining characteristic is abundantly clear: This generation is WiFi enabled. If the Millennials are the "digital natives" — so named because of their comfort and seemingly innate facility with digital technology — then this age bracket might be the "internet-in-its-pocket" generation, according to David Bell, professor of marketing at Wharton.
"The big difference between this generation and others is the fact that kids today carry personalized computers around with them in their pockets all the time," he says. "They can exchange information, communicate and share ideas, and [companies and brands] have 24/7 access to provide them with opportunities to shop."
While Millennials don’t remember a world without computers, Gen Z does not know a world without constant, immediate and convenient access to the web. Their ease with digital technology presents both opportunities and challenges for the companies that want to reach them. On one hand, companies have a lot more information about these young people whose digital footprints are rich with data, although marketers are still challenged on what to do with that information.
There’s another problem, too, says Keith Niedermeier, an adjunct professor of marketing at Wharton. Gen Z is elusive. "Traditionally, brands love to target people in their teens, despite their lower purchasing power, because they want to lock in loyalty early in the game," he notes. "However, the conventional wisdom now is that Generation Z is fickle, harder to reach and harder to lock in.? As a result, there seems to be a lot of inaction inertia on the part of companies."
Companies may have to put more resources toward managing and influencing opinions online to build exposure, brand awareness and loyalty. Yet members of Gen Z are not wedded to any one form of internet-enabled self-expression.
The fragmented media use presents a challenge for companies trying to reach members of Generation Z, says Prof. Niedermeier. "It’s not easy to get to them in a mass way," he says. "They use so many different social networks and they’re also highly influenced by others’ opinions and word of mouth, which makes it much harder to spin a brand story."
Do you see greater challenges for retailers and brands attempting to reach Gen Z versus Millennials? What obvious and less obvious challenges will this more digitally rooted generation present?