Millennials make way for Generation Z

Millennials make way

Graphic by Kristy Pan

Millennials make way

Annabelle Lee and Trey Stepeck

  With the oldest of its members nearing graduation and the youngest barely entering elementary school, Generation Z – the group born from just before the new millennium to today – is quickly becoming a new key demographic for everything from business to entertainment. Now numbering over 60 million people in the United States alone, Generation Z is outnumbering the ‘millennial’ generation by one million, according to recent census data.

  While people all hold varying ideas of what de nes Generation Z, market researchers and trend forecasters are taking a much closer look at how to characterize and appeal to the growing demographic.

  “Generation Z can be more con- servative, better long-term plan- ners and are more entrepreneurial-minded, so businesses that did not target millennials or Generation Y are looking at Generation Z as customers right away,” business teacher Je Daddio said.

  Strategist Jeremy Finch of Altitude, Inc., a Massachusetts-based design and innovation rm, shared similar ideas of Generation Z’s growing role in the market as well as society as a whole.

  “Gen Z makes up a quarter of the U.S. population and by 2020 will account for 40 percent of all consumers. Understanding them will be critical for companies wanting to succeed in the next decade and beyond,” Finch said.

  Many believe that the ubiquity of technology since youth to be one of the strongest in uences on Generation Z. According to Daddio, technology is quickly becoming a primary method of accessing information, and that information is shi ing to be more engaging and portioned into small chunks.

  A 2013 study from the National Center for Biotechnology Infor- mation found that attention spans for Generation Z have shrunk to eight seconds on average, and that they’re unable to focus for extended amounts of time. While some may see the decreased attention span as a bad thing, Finch sees it as an adaptation to an ever-changing digital environment.

  “We found that Gen Z actually have what we’re calling highly evolved ‘eight second filters.’ they’ve grown up in a world where their options are limitless, but their time is not. As such, Gen Z has adapted to quickly sorting through and assessing enormous amounts of information,” Finch said.

  Both he and Daddio attribute this shift to shorter bursts of attention to the rise of social media outlets such as Twitter and Instagram, which are based o of sharing snapshots of information with a social network.

  Marketers and businesses can now also harness the power of social media to appeal to Generation Z by reformatting their content to shorter clips of information. Many companies, such as Starbucks, DreamWorks Studios and even Kelloggs have made the transition to more Generation Z-friendly platforms in order to expand their consumer base and draw more people in.

  However, many people still view Generation Z’s media habits as erring on the side of being disconnected, no matter how many online social platforms they are linked to. Sophomore Timmy Nadel believes that kids are less social and less verbal in comparison to older generations, mainly due to the preva- lence of technology.

  “We look at devices more instead of physically interacting with each other. And we’re di erent [from other generations] because we’re easily distracted and can’t just work by ourselves. We have to talk to someone instead,” Nadel said.

  Senior Nathan Koziol agreed, citing the iPhone as one of Generation Z’s hallmark products.

  “[Technology] is essentially what our whole life is defined around,” he said.

  But when it comes to careers and long-term goals, Generation Z’s media-centric lifestyles have the possibility of either helping or hindering their professional prospects. With the power of social media and being constantly connected also comes the responsibility to manage the persona that is being presented online.

  On a personal level, Generation Z “curates different social media personas in order to please each [different] audience and minimize conflict, controversy, and trouble,” according to Finch.

  However, in professional settings, Generation Z has witnessed the mistakes of the millennials – for example, sharing sensitive or damaging information on social media that led to professional consequences.

  “As a result, [Generation Z] are aware of the perception of their millennial predecessors, and they’re committed to proving that they are different,” Finch said.

  Finch also believes the importance of finding online personal-professional balance is what drives the creation of new anonymous social media platforms, which essentially provide a “safe haven” for Generation Z to share their thoughts with little consequence.

  “Gen Z are under immense pressure to simultaneously manage their personal and professional brands to help them fit in while also standing out. Mainstream social media may have to provide alternative options that mimic the anonymity of Yik-Yak or the temporary nature of SnapChat in order to help Gen Z feel safe enough to truly engage on their platforms,” he said.

  However, Finch and many others are also finding that commitment and drive runs deep in Generation Z. According to a 2014 study by Millennial Branding, a New York research and consulting firm, Generation Z has grown up watching older generations struggle through recessions and hardships, and thus “appear to be more realistic instead of optimistic, are likely to be more career-minded.”

  “Don’t assume Gen Z is lazy. In fact, quite the opposite is true. They will work incredibly hard at something as long as it feels valuable and worthwhile. They crave deeper levels of engagement, but the value for their time must be clearly demonstrated early on,” Finch said.

  Daddio echoed this as well, saying that “Generation Z tends to be a bit more cautious and inquisitive so the “why” not just the “what” needs to be available for those who are interested,” adding meaning and value to both their work and play.

  While it may be hard to pinpoint exactly what Gen Z is and how they will shape the future of society, trends are already shifting to accommodate changing behaviors and aptitudes.

  “As Gen Z enters young adulthood, they’ll face the same challenges that everyone faces in that stage of life—transitioning from school to work, separating from parents, forming their own identities, and developing relationships with others,” Finch said.

  How Generation Z deals with those challenges is completely up to us.