The Next Target of Our Discontent

Blog - Gen Z

Meet Gen Z, the cultural punching bag in waiting.

The new year is still, well, new(ish) and there’s still time to reflect on our past experiences and plan for the future. In the spirit of preparation, let’s take a moment to get to know Generation Z, the next demographic that we, as a culture, will blame, scapegoat and beatdown in an effort to account for cultural shifts that are perfectly normal and expected. Oh, and by the way, we will also need to recruit this generation and target our marketing campaigns toward them.

Plus, we need to realize that we can’t continue to blame Millennials for everything much longer. Mostly because Millennials are, for the time being, the largest demographic in the workforce and unlikely to bear the slings and arrows of unreasonable Baby Boomers (sorry!) for too much longer. If they aren’t already, Millennials will be soon be completely in charge and likely to remove the bullseye from their backs.

So, Gen Z, you’re up.

What is Gen Z?

Members of Gen Z have the distinct honor of being the generation that follows Millennials — you hate them already, don’t ya? Also known as Post-Millennials and the iGeneration, the earliest Gen Zers were born in 1995 (though some say it’s 1999, but like most generational bookends, the years are fluid) and are now headed off to college. As a whole and unlike its predecessors, members of this generation have spent their entire lives immersed in technology — they basically came out of the womb and made a Snapchat story about it. And they are currently the second largest generation, after Boomers (76 million), with 69 million among their ranks.

So, yeah, maybe it’s time we pay attention to them and, of course, start finding ways to blame every cultural stumbling block on their very existence.

So how does Gen Z differ from Millennials?

If you have an issue with Millennials, Gen Z is not going to be the cohort that redeems your opinion of young people. (Not that Millennials or Gen Zers are concerned with that, nor should they be.) That said, Gen Z is different from Millennials, even if subtlety. Here’s how:

Technology — Millennials are, indeed, tech-savvy but even they (or, many of them) remember a time without the constant draw of technology… Gen Z? Not so much. The whole generation grew up with technology. After all, if the iPhone were a person, it’d be a part of Gen Z. This generation came of age in a world of notifications, incessant updates and information overload. The downside? Attention spans are shorter. The upside? Even more so than Millennials, Gen Zers can multitask and complete projects across a variety of different platforms.

Higher expectations — Millennials came of age during the Great Recession and, if we’re being honest, that sort of economic trauma will have an impact on anyone’s expectations. Gen Z has come of age in better, more economically stable times. Technology has expanded exponentially. Social media, for good or ill, seems virtually limitless. Even things like wi-fi and phone chargers are everywhere. It’s no wonder (and no surprise, really) that expectations are higher.

Independent — Maybe it’s because the world is so connected or because the previous generation favored collaboration, but Gen Zers are highly independent and fiercely competitive. If given the option to do things their own way, Gen Zers are more likely to take that route. This can also be linked to the individual nature of the digital landscape and, as a result, the inclination toward being unique is reflected in the brands and even employers that Gen Z is drawn to.

Looking ahead

At this moment, the oldest members of Gen Z are nearing the end of college and will soon enter the workforce. This means that they will need jobs and, subsequently, will be spending money. That presents two clear challenges that our culture will need to address: 1. How to recruit/employ them and 2. How to market goods and services to them. These are two pretty basic necessities in our culture and, even more so, in our economy: getting people to earn money and then getting them to spend it.

Recruitment and employment

If the Millennials taught us anything, it’s that employment and recruitment efforts are evolving… and Gen Zers are no different. Now’s the time to consider recruitment tactics for the next wave of hires, and there are some unexpected twists when it comes to future employment trends. Studies suggest that when it comes to careers, Gen Z will be:

Early starters — File this under things we didn’t expect, but studies suggest that Gen Z might take a different approach to higher education if they even go at all. This means there’s at least the intention of going straight into the workforce rather than pursuing a traditional four-year college degree. Who can blame them either? Their predecessors are leaving college with five and six-figures in student loan debt. This will require different recruiting techniques, though. Recruiting someone straight out of high school versus a college-educated 23-year-old (with debt) is a different animal.

Entrepreneurial — Perhaps the first thing to know about Gen Zers is that they have the entrepreneurial spirit. Part of this is because of the high-tech, interconnectedness of the world we live in, one where the future generations will live on a global level and no longer be restricted to work by geography. Plus, recent surveys show that current teenagers would like to own their own business one day.

Marketing to this demographic

By 2020, it is estimated that Gen Z will account for 40 percent of American consumers. That’s almost half, so maybe it’s time to think a bit about how brands and marketeers can reach this group. Here are few things Gen Z values in brands and what drives their purchasing decisions:

Brands that are loyal to them — Gen Z, not unlike Millennials, wants brands that represent them and makes business and marketing decisions based on what they believe is the right thing to do. This means brands have to adapt — and quickly — to the audience, because they have a ton of options and more exposure than ever to different products.

Authenticity — Succinctly put, Gen Z isn’t here for your bullsh*t. Gen Z is socially aware and can sniff out thinly veiled marketing ploys in the form of social awareness campaigns. Right, Pepsi? This means that rather than talking at them about what a focus group says they want to hear about, you may have to include Gen Z in the conversation. Who knows? Maybe even give them a voice in the matter.

Here’s to a better inter-generational relationship

We have data and insight into the next generation of employees, consumers, and movers and shakers. And Millennials, a demographic that may be sympathetic to the shifting demands of a younger generation, are taking on decision-making roles. So there’s a chance for better synergy between generations. Plus Millennials, a generation that has been largely vilified, could take a softer approach to the changing needs and desires of Gen Y. You know, instead of blaming them for the fall of Western Civilization (You can’t blame Millennials for everything, Baby Boomers!). We will see, though, but with the cultural overlap, we’re predicting a more copacetic relationship between Millennials and Gen Z.


Need some help flushing out the right audience? Looking to launch a recruitment campaign that brings in the right talent? We can help! Just reach out.

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