Generation Z Characteristics

A Marketer’s Guide To Understanding Generation Z Characteristics

By Kathleen Battin
In February 18, 2015
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Their preferred form of communication involves pictures, not words, the chances of them ever having to use an encyclopedia is slim to none and they are somewhere between the ages of eleven and twenty (depending on which article you read). The people I am describing are of a new generation, Generation Z, and they are quickly becoming the new focus for marketers. That’s right, just when we all started to understand Millennials, we are faced with a new species to try to understand and relate to. And it gets worse. If you thought getting through to Millennials was hard, this new demographic, by nature, turns a deaf ear to advertising making a breakthrough almost as unattainable as world peace.

So what makes Generation Z characteristics so vastly different from Millennials’? Well, for starters, they grew up with the Internet. In fact, a world without the Internet is completely foreign to them and their online vs offline buying habits support that. But what else makes them so different? Here are a few more characteristics of Generation Z to sink your teeth into:

  1. Generation Z makes up more than a quarter of the current U.S. population.
  2. They have been raised by parents who push for professional experience at a young age which has resulted in an overall more mature generation.
  3. Given that Generation Z grew up during one of the most severe recessions in our history, they are extremely conscious of the future of our economy. They are also concerned with world issues like man’s impact on the environment, world hunger and world-wide infectious diseases.
  4. Because they have witnessed hardships on the economy, and perhaps within their own families, they have a strong “make a difference attitude.” Because they have been witness to Millennials struggling in the workforce and having no choice but to move back home, Generation Z is determined to not acquire this same fate.
  5. Unlike Millennials who are text communicators, Generation Z prefer to communicate through pictures. They also aren’t huge proponents of Facebook despite what you may think. In fact, they have a more heightened sense of privacy and would rather engage in social media platforms where information self-destructs as fast as it appears, like SnapChat.
  6. When it comes to what they want to be when they grow up, the answer is whatever they want. Generation Z encompasses strong entrepreneurial characteristics. 42% of them want to own their own business according to a study conducted by Northeastern University and 63% strongly feel colleges should be teaching entrepreneurship. Quite frankly, who could blame them? They are surrounded by DIY education. Do yourself a favor and check out Logan LaPlante–your mind will be blown. He was a 13-year-old speaker at the 2013 TEDx Conference who spoke about “hackschooling.” Though we all may perceive hackers as a bad thing, Logan defines hackers as innovators who think creatively. According to him, virtually anything can be hacked, even our education system, which happens to be the topic of his speech. Logan, a now home schooled student, is living and breathing the “hackschooling mindset” by making education the practice to prepare him for a happy, motivated and creative life…not for preparing to make a living for the future. Pretty deep for a 13 year old. See below for the entire “Hackschooling makes me happy” video:
  7. Generation Z takes multitasking to the extreme and have incredibly short attention spans. In fact, researchers believe that the brains of Generation Z have evolved to process more information at faster speeds. As our friend Logan states in his speech, he is not afraid to look for shortcuts or ‘hacks’ to get a better and faster result.
  8. Marketers refer to Generation Z as ‘snack media consumers’ and their need for speed outweighs their desire for accuracy.
  9. Internet is in their blood. They don’t know a world without it and use it for research, lesson plans, taking tests, reading books, gaming and so on. According to an awesome slideshare from sparks & honey, an agency out of NYC, 41% of Generation Z spends more than three hours a day on their computers for non-school related activities. They hugely rely on the Internet for instant gratification which in turn has caused them to lack situational awareness. Who needs to ask for directions when you have Google Maps?
  10. They happen to be extreme believers of equality whether it be same sex marriages or equal rights for transgenders and have a strong desire to ‘give back’ to their communities.

Wow. Pretty different from Millennials, isn’t it? So how can marketers use these Generation Z characteristics to better target and reach this new group of influencers? We need to gather up everything we ever learned about targeting Millennials and throw it out the window. Generation Z is the exact opposite. Thinking of running Facebook ads? Try Instagram instead. When crafting your message, remember that despite their ages, they are actually quite mature and smart, so you should talk to them like they are adults and not kids. Finally, think integrated. Remember, Generation Z is made up of extreme multitaskers and are hard to reach. An effective strategy should be an integrated one where your message exists via several touch points. It may take a few segmented views (the average attention span is 8 seconds), but with the right messaging, you’ll get through to them.

Kathleen Battin

I have a male cat named Bella. My response to people’s reaction is, “To me, he is beautiful.” But truth is, I was told he was a girl when I first got him and it wasn’t until months later when my brother said, “Your cat has a package,” that I found out my Bella was a Bell ... o? Aside from my confused cat, I am also a new mommy to a handsome baby boy, and as a new mom, I have learned three valuable lessons: 1. Always have a burp cloth handy. 2. Make sure the diaper is properly secured at all times. 3. Mom is always a phone call away if you are having a freak-out moment.

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