As a Millennial, I hate to admit this – but my generation is out. Generation Z, those born between the mid-1990s to early 2000s, is moving up in the world and they will soon be the reigning authority. How can I make such a blasphemous statement? Because research shows that by 2020 Generation Z will have more buying power than any other generation.
Gen Z accounts for up to $143 billion in direct spending, but that number increases when you consider that 93% of parents say their children influence their family’s purchases. For marketers and communicators who want our brands to thrive, this means we need to know what Generation Z likes and what they are willing to invest in – essentially, we need to know what they think is cool (aka “lit”).
I recently did a deep dive into a study by Google called It’s Lit: A Guide to What Teens Think is Cool, and I even looked at some of our own Ad Council research into what makes Gen Z tick. Here’s the five things I think every person should know about Generation Z.
Their Childhood is More Serious
The Ad Council did some research involving teens for our Bullying Prevention campaign, and what we found was startling. Generation Z is not able to focus on the care-free aspects of childhood. They’ve grown up in the age of school shootings, terrorism and natural disasters. Family and societal pressure has pushed Generation Z to be responsible and prepared above all else.
They Want to Be Changemakers
On the other hand, our study with teens found something very optimistic as well. Generation Z is not interested in waiting for teachers, parents or other leaders to do something. In their eyes, adults have had their chance to fix the world but they’re not getting things done.
Teens know they have power and they are going to take advantage of it – a perfect example of this is the #NeverAgain movement sparked by students across the country to end gun violence in schools.
Generation Z believes action makes a difference – and they believe only they can create the world they want to live in.
…And They Want Their Brands to Be, Too
According to Google’s It’s Lit study, what’s cool to Generation Z is having peers and brands who hold their same altruist and creative values.
“Gen Z believe and relay on brands to shape their world. They also have high hopes for the brands they choose. From Nike to X-Box, they expect big things. As professionals, we should see this as our challenge—to live up to the standard Gen Z has set for us and to continue to inform, inspire, and create products and marketing that facilitate the world they want.”
They Crave Authenticity
Generation Z frowns upon anybody trying too hard or being overly professional on camera. In a world where filters are commonplace and catfishing is a problem, Gen Z wants their friends and idols to be down-to-earth and their true selves. Ultimately, it’s cool to be you who are and being beautiful is being you.
In fact, stars that top the charts of cool celebrities are those who are philanthropic and genuine, including Stephen Curry, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Emma Watson and Chance the Rapper.
They Value IRL Connection
Although Generation Z is constantly streaming and viewing on-demand content, most teens know that social media is the worst way to truly connect with their friends and family. They are cautious of their dependence on technology, and many see face-to-face interactions as the best way to deepen a relationship.