The Edge
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The Edge

Why Gen Z is a generation unlike any other.

Insights into Gen Z behaviors with Dr. Kenneth McKenzie, Behavioural Scientist & Research Portfolio Lead, Human Sciences Studio at The Dock, Accenture’s Global Centre for Innovation.

In Marketing, brands look at what people are trying to achieve in their lives. So, understanding the aspirations and motivations of people has always been a goal for the marketer.

Most brands target a range of people, either based on their age, their social role (moms, or doctors), or their hobbies (runners, or outdoor fans) but there are very few brands that can rise above demographic and generational divides.

Ikea is a good example of that because Ikea services change in people’s lives. We need Ikea when kids go to college when people get married, when they have kids, someone gets a promotion, or they get divorced. This makes Ikea a brand that speaks to all generations of people, and that is very unique in marketing.

Marketing is based on the idea of change

Marketing is based on the idea of change and that’s why we spend so much time and resources trying to understand people. A useful way to segment people is based on grouping people based on the time they were born because they share specific social, cultural, and economic trends.

You are probably familiar with Baby Boomers born 1946–1964, Gen X born 1965–1980, and Millennials born 1981–1996.

Gen Zers were born between 1997 and 2013 and they are unique in very interesting ways.

There are two theories to consider when trying to understand Gen Zers.
The first one is Cohort Effects and this happens when a group of people shares a certain time, region, or event which influences their identity, development, and perceptions.

This is what happened in England in 1963 with the sexual liberation movement. Being 18 years old during the emergence of the social movement meant having a completely different view and experience of sex. But a 30-year-old, born just 10 years earlier, would have had a more conservative, traditional, and totally different experience of sex at 30 years of age during the same period. Belonging to the 18-year-old cohort of adolescents in England in 1963 gave you an identity that older people couldn’t understand.

A generation rips culture apart intentionally to set a clear distinction between them and previous cohorts.

The second effect is called Period Effect, and it refers to all events and changes experienced by all groups in the population regardless of age.

War is a great example of this type of social effect, where an entire population of a region or continent is affected by a war crisis. More recently COVID serves as a great example of a health crisis having a global effect that influenced the entire planet’s population.

Imagine a 7-year-old today, two years of COVID represent almost 30% of their life.

Another good example of localized Period effects affecting all ages of the population is the economic collapse of Argentina in the 80s.

Basically, Period Effects mean that everyone who lived in that period is changed by that period but in a different way.

With Gen Z we see an interesting and perhaps unique situation: this generation has lived through two events on a global scale (Period Effects): the 2008 financial crisis and the 2019–2022 Covid Pandemic, and one vital tech change (Cohort Effect) Micro Publishing which is this super interesting phenomenon where they say:

My opinion about anything is interesting, and it matters to some people so I am going to publish it.

So you see the fast growth of a platform like Tik Tok happening for a reason; They are more self-aware than previous generations, they have the technology, they have the channels and they have the audience. They are ready to publish!

That’s why it’s easier for them to understand the faster speed of culture and pace of trends. Time moves quicker for them.

We have to remember too that every generation needs their own clear blue water. Their need to create their own cultural preferences that separate them from previous generations.

Let’s look at identity for example; today identity is harder to negotiate than before. It’s harder to define who I am today because of social mobility, and globalization… There are fewer things that hold us together.

That’s why trying to categorize Gen Zer’s identity is a more complex exercise than with previous generations.

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Iñaki escudero

Iñaki escudero

Learning Designer. Curator. Writer. Futurist. Marathon runner. 1 book a week. Father of 5.