Could Generation Z put an end to the age of consumerism? Gen Z is very different than the Millennial generation, according to Elizabeth Segran’s article in Fast Company. They are so different that the writer calls them the Anti-Millennials. Both Gen Z and the Millennials were impacted by the recession that dominated the early 21st Century, blessed by escalating information technology and impressed by the Occupy Movement.
Generation Z were children during the great recession, while the Millennials were in young adulthood. Generation Z never knew the world without advanced information technology, while Millennials witnessed its rise. Because of how old they were when the recession impacted them and tech entered their lives, Generation Z views life differently than the Millennial generation, according to Fast Company.
“Millennials came of age during a time of economic expansion and were shocked to find a diminished, unwelcoming job market after college; generation Z has been shaped by the recession and is prepared to fight hard to create a stable future for themselves.”
Generation Z is “frugal, brand-wary, and determined,” says Elizabeth Segran. Gen Z kids are true to the Occupy principles against “corporate greed,” perhaps even more than the millennials who were at these protests. Generation Z values “authenticity and transparency,” and detests corporate advertising. They don’t want corporate logos on their clothing and they are savvy consumers who always read the reviews.
Millennials are still behaving very similarly to previous generations of consumers, despite the Occupy principles. This is not true of Gen Z. Generation Z is so different, marketers are completely revamping their strategies to reach them. Many brands are using a new company called Zebra Intelligence, which was founded by Tiffany Zhong, according to Forbes. Tiffany Zhong, at age 21, is a pioneer of the new targeted marketing strategy that incorporates Gen Z “influencers.”
Kaitlin Keegan and Susie Lau are examples of Generation Z influencers with massive social media followings. Companies seek out their opinions and pay them to feature their clothing lines and other products. Generation Z find products through their peers, not from traditional advertising.
Generation Z grew up bombarded with internet ads and learned to disregard them, but peers seen on social media can impact their purchases, so corporations are seeking out these young “influencers” to guide younger customers to their products.
Generation Z began with those born in the mid-1990s, according to most charts, but there is no exact moment of crossover. It’s more of a flow, from one generation to the other, that coincides with an approximately 80-year social and economic cycle. Millennials, Generation X, Generation Z, and the Boomers are all part of the same 80-year cycle, according to the Strauss Howe Generational Theory, as Forbes reported.
Generation Z, like Generation X, the Millennials, the Boomers, the Silent generation, and even the WWII generation, are each a product of society at the time of their childhood, according to Neil Howe and William Strauss.
The Strauss Howe Generational Theory also explain Gen Z, Gen X, Millennials, and Boomers are representative of an age-old 80-year cycle of archetypes, that mankind has perpetuated throughout history, according to Life Course. As the economic cycle passes through four phases: unraveling, crisis, high, and awakening, over and over, archetypical generations called the artist, prophet, nomad, and hero arise out of their childhood and into young adulthood to meet the challenges presented by the phases they face.
Forbes explains the first part of the Howe and Strauss’ theory as it pertains to Generation Z.
“If our attitudes form in early childhood, then the point in history at which we live our childhood must play a large part in shaping our attitudes.”
Generation Z was impacted by the great recession crisis in childhood, but there is a second formative period that defines a generation, and that is the period of early adulthood, roughly age 20 to 40. The millennials were marked by this crisis period as young adults.
While Generation Z and the Millennials have faced down the first half of the crisis period, another crisis is expected in order to fulfill the 20 years of crisis usually experienced in the cycle. One could note that there are exactly 80 years between the great depression of 1929 and the economic crisis of 2009, but one could also argue that the framework for the crisis had been in play for some time before the official crisis date, and the cycle isn’t always exactly 80 years.
Generation Z, the children of the great recession, are echoing the frugality of the children of the great depression beginning in 1929. The Millennials, however, can remember partying like it was 1999, just like those who came of age before the great depression remembered the roaring ’20s. Therefore the impact on the Millennials is different than the impact made on Generation Z.
Generation Z has its own pattern, created to cope with the unique circumstances of the crisis that resulted in childhood impressions of scarcity, and while some suffered significantly more than others, the recession took a heavy toll on many children.
The trends for Generation Z are both trivial and profound. The Sun pointed out that Millennial pink is being replaced by Generation Z yellow. Yellow, the color of the emoji, the sun, the school bus, and the classic rain slicker, is somewhat telling of Gen Z psychology.
Kelly Jenkinson, a 16-year-old high school student, spoke out on behalf of Generation Z in The Journal, saying Gen Z kids struggle to communicate, to fit in, to keep up and to be heard.
“We feel the pressure to have the newest clothes and technology to keep up with our peers. Most of our generation will wear clothes once or twice and throw them away. One week something is in, the next week it’s not. Buying cheap items on the high street and not thinking about where they’re sourced from or what hands helped make them.”
Generation Z, inverse to those children of the great depression, who believed in owning a few quality outfits and taking care of their clothes, are a product of our disposable time, buying cheap, and discarding quickly. It may not seem very frugal, but it is cheaper than demanding branded clothing, as millennials did.
Kyle Andrews, chief marketing officer for American Eagle Outfitters, agrees that Generation Z simply isn’t spending as much on clothing as Millenials did. Andrews is quoted by Fast Company.
“They’re less brand-conscious and they are not spending as much as millennials do.”
Generation Z cares deeply for the poor and for the earth, according to Kelly Jenkinson, who belongs to the Young Social Innovators. The group recently used up-cycling, a process of refurbishing would be trash and repurposing, to help the homeless, according to The Journal. YSI not only raised money and packed up supplies for the homeless, but they also distributed them on the streets.
Generation Z are stashing back savings, says Fast Company. A survey by Lincoln Financial Group revealed 71 percent of those between 15 and 19 are “focused on saving for the future,” while 60 percent already have a savings account.
Despite their caution and frugality, Generation Z is the most optimist generation on record. A full 89 percent of Generation Z respondents to the Lincoln Financial Group survey reported they were optimistic about their future. Jamie Ohl of Lincoln Financial Group says she saw a strong parallel between the attitudes of children of the Depression and Generation Z. Ohl explained to Fast Company how Generation Z could be so optimistic.
“Part of this has to do with the natural optimism of youth. But I also think it is important that they watched their parents come through the most recent financial crisis.”
Rana Ghosh of Spirit Airlines told Fast Company that Generation Z wasn’t just about low price, they were concerned about value and getting what they paid for.
“It’s not so much that they are price-conscious; it’s about what they are getting for the money they are spending. As an airline, the draw is to get them from point A to point B safely and on time, so providing the same service for a fraction of the price appeals to them.”
Generation Z is very practical, according to Sam Paschel, the chief commercial officer of the Skullcandy brand.
“Technological innovation is no longer an exciting, celebrated thing, as much as it is an expectation. Generation Z relates to technology as a tool, as opposed to an obsession.”
Generation Z seems to be savvy in avoiding the old and obvious methods of marketing, which relied on emotional appeals. They seem less bonded to brands and material possessions. Instead, they are demanding lower prices and more for their money, rather than identifying with various products.
Generation Z is only beginning to come of age, but they are already forcing societal changes.