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What you need to know about Generation Z

(August 20, 2010) Article Highlights:
  • Generation Z is not as skeptical of advertising as previous generations, but they are smarter and savvier
  • They have grown up in a world that is all about connecting through technology
  • They are a generation of self-branders

  • Who is Generation Z?
    To them, CDs are vintage ephemera. Friendships are quantifiable by Facebook, and Foursquare isn't a schoolyard game. Welcome, Generation Z. Different sources define Generation Z according to varying dates, but for the purposes of this article we will define them as born approximately between 1994-2004. The oldest among them are taking to the roads with glossy new driver's permits, and the youngest are just now entering first grade. Their children's books are read from Kindles and iPads, their nursery rhymes downloadable at $.99 a pop on iTunes. They're a bevy of group-oriented individuals. A tough crowd of skeptical idealists. They're smarter than us, and they're demanding we take them seriously as future consumers.

    To say Generation Z is well-integrated with technology is to say marketing flirts with consumer needs. Generation Z is technology. They have been growing up on websites designed specifically for their consumption since before they could even speak. Generation Z-ers are also bred early to be social-media savvy by parents who witnessed social networking shift from embryonic and faulty, to stalwart and unavoidable. These parents are often co-curators in their children's online personas, monitoring their entry into the world of social networking sites. In short, from the very beginning, Generation Z-ers have grown up in a world that is all about connecting through technology.

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    Branding 101 is happening before they hit middle school
    When looking at Generation Z, brands and marketers need to recognize that the prospective consumer has become an expert brander themselves. Generation Z understands the implications of tagging photos and detagging others, and that endorsing products with a simple "Like" button can bring either scrutiny or praise. Generation Z is a generation of self-branders. They're not easily impressed with old marketing tactics because they themselves are realizing that there is a new way that is more effective: viral, a self-defining endorsement. In this new world, simplicity and transparency will reign.

    What does this mean?
    This isn't necessarily bad news, and it certainly looks like we have some things on our side when it comes to communicating with them. Generation Z is not as skeptical of advertising as previous generations, but they are smarter and savvier. They are multi-taskers, and they are evolving to cope with the ever-increasing volume of media byproducts by becoming astutely skeptical and relentlessly discriminating. We do not need to defend ourselves or mask our intentions; we simply need to smartly compete for their fleeting attention.

    Social media as a platform to mobilize efforts
    Generation Z saw the first president within their lifetime become elected through the mass efforts of the social networking technorati. They understand that 140 characters is not just a word count, it's a call to arms. And perhaps this is one of the most defining features of Generation Z: the pragmatism of their socialization. While there are certainly legitimate concerns around kids spending too much time interacting online vs. in the real world, one can also ask if this is necessarily a bad thing.

    Thanks to Facebook, Skype, Facetime, etc., they are communicating in a "real" way with family members and friends across the country, or even around the world, without being in the same physical space. In fact, you could argue that the many ways that they are communicating -- with IM, constant updates, thousands of texts a month, etc. -- all add up to a continuous stream of real-time dialogue that also often includes actual visual interaction throughout. Compare this to when I was a child and occasionally chatted on the phone or saw my grandparents and summer camp friends during a rare visit. These relationships were much different than the long-distance relationships that exist for kids today, thanks to technology. Generation Z has begun to redefine "face-to-face" interaction, and they know how to maximize it, too. (Read more at iMediaConnection)
    Article written by Angela Cross-Bystrom

    Colleen Gildea

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