“Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

This quote from Orwell really does seem to sum up how we feel about the generations before and after us… and this was before the internet changed everything. Differences between generations are not only more apparent, but are developing much more quickly. Different ‘Generations’, from a marketing perspective, are being identified as appearing over much shorter time periods; Generation X: 1961–1981, Gen Y (Millenials): 1982–1995, Gen Z: 1996–2002 and the all-new Generation Alpha from 2003.

Like many of those in marketing out there, we are still coming to grips with understanding and working with Millennials — the 20-somethings being courted by media and marketing alike. But already we need to understand and court a new Generation. This Generation will become the most important in terms of scale and therefore marketing spend over the coming years. They already command more share of wallet through online channels such as iTunes than the Generation before.

Who is Gen Z?

Gen Z is widely seen as the first generation born into a digital world.They are true digital natives who have grown up in the age of technology. The only world they know is a digital one — where they can connect anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. They are therefore very fickle in terms of loyalty to any one online channel. It also means they have access almost unlimited access to the world around them. Their values and opinions are being formed by this information and not necessarily by their family unit.

This generation has also grown up in a world of war, distrust of brands and extreme economic volatility. They are far more socially conscious than the generations before and will connect with brands who promote fairness and developing a ‘better world’.

Why should we care?

This generation will very soon (if not already) be entering workforce. They are financing more of their own purchasing decisions and experimenting with new products and brands. Brand loyalty will be relatively high so the opportunity to build long-term relationships is now. However, brands must be willing to put in the work. This generation wants to be valued, they want brands they can trust and they want brands to engage with them on a personal basis. Once trust is lost, research has shown, that this generation are less likely to return to a brand than any generation before.

How can brands engage with them?

Gen Zers are looking for brands to build relationships with them, so long as those brands are authentic and live up to their high expectations.

Participation NOT persuasion. Gen Z grew up with two-way brand conversations, so a traditional one-way sell just won’t work. Innovative brand experiences that they can participate in and provide a fresh experience will build trust. Coca Cola have recently been creating this conversations brilliantly through some very innovative ideas. Take a look at their recent dancing vending machine in South Korea.

Omnichannel is a horribly ‘marketing’ terminology, but brands must embrace what is at its heart in order to connect with Gen Z. Brands must ensure that the experience Gen Z have online is as fruitful as the one offline. This generation does not see any difference between the two and expect the same brand journey and to be valued in exactly the same way. It’s worth noting how the retail world is currently looking to move in-store away from a pure purchase journey to become ‘experience lounges’ with the ability to purchase experience the product and the brand, but able to purchase online.

The futurists out there are predicting Gen Alpha to be ‘Gen Z on Red Bull’ — brands must make changes now, they must adapt or disrupt the market to accommodate the future consumer to stay in touch.

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