To understand Gen Z —defined as the generation after Millennials who were born mid-1990s to the early 2000s — businesses must first understand their lives, digital habits, struggles, role models, cultural touchstones, how they manage Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and figuring out where they fit into a rapidly changing world. However, most of what sets this generation apart is an unrelenting relationship with information, media consumption and mobile technology.
Gregg L. Witt, youth brand strategist and Chief Strategy Officer of Engage Youth Co. has conducted hundreds of interviews with Gen Z kids, tweens, teens and young adults and has distilled his findings into a list of youth culture attributes. These generational markers are the identifying traits of what will be the most significant global demographic shift in history.
Gen Z Generational Markers:
• Independent: Gen Z is willing to work hard for success vs the ‘be discovered’ mentality prevalent among their older Millennial siblings.
• Diverse: As a global cohort, Gen Z is open to all ethnicities, races, genders and orientations. They expect to see those values reflected in their brands, classrooms and media.
• Engaged: Gen Z is very politically aware and actively involved in supporting environmental, social impact and civil rights causes. They are focused on making the world a better place and want to align with organizations dedicated to making a difference. Activists like Malala Yousafzai are their role models.
• Knowledge managers: Often misrepresented as having a ‘short attention span,’ Gen Z has developed an ability to quickly filter the mass quantities of information that appear on their screens and decide what is worthwhile and what should be filtered and discarded.
• Pragmatic: Raised by Gen X parents who experienced a similar childhood shaped by the recession, Gen Z are choosing more pragmatic careers (for example, selecting a legal profession instead of trying to be a YouTuber influencer), are financially conservative and are avoiding the social media privacy pitfalls of Millennials.
• Personal brands: Unlike Millennials who tended to overshare on social media, young people are managing their presence like a brand; privacy matters and contributes to the popularity of ephemeral social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram.
• Collaborative: Whether it is in the classroom using Skype with students in another country, playing Club Penguin or team sports in their backyard, Gen Z has learned early in life the importance of collaboration in both local and distributed (or virtual) environments.