Gen Z: The first truly digital, always on, generation

It seems that most marketers, digital experts, and entrepreneurs have (for almost too long) been talking about millennials. But what about their younger siblings in Gen Z (born 1997-now), who appear to have taken a back seat in these conversations? According to Entrepreneur magazine, Gen Z already have a collective buying power of US$44 billion. That’s only going to increase as more start spending their own money, so understanding their consumption patterns is key to the future of marketing, and that’s why PRISM is already factoring Gen Z into its strategy and structure.

Let’s take a minute to explore how Gen Z differs from the millennial generation. Is it really true that they are, as a JWT Innovation Group Report has claimed, more sensible, more engaged and more ambitious than the rest of us?

GenZ Pie

Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of Innovation at JWT, has called Gen Z “Millennials on steroids”. They are the first generation to be truly born into the digital age we live in. They are the first people to whom a smartphone is the standard and not a novelty. For them, multitasking means “digital multitasking” – being on email, Instagram, a dating app, and Spotify all at the same time, often while a second screen streams broadcast content from the other side of the room. But they also display a love of the analogue that sets them apart from millennials

Looking closely at their behaviour, this is what PRISM believes are Gen Z’s core motivations:

  1. Being Digitally Rational – They use digital tools to acquire practical skills – think “how-to” tutorials on YouTube or Google as their default source of all wisdom.
  2. Being Analog – They are not as stuck to their phones as millennials are, and enjoy board games, photography, and physical activities (or physical/digital blended activities such as the augmented reality of Pokémon Go!). Check this piece by Nate Davis on Medium for more on that.
  3. Being Authentic – They are the most likely demographic to pay attention to brands’ advertising, and are also the most likely to click through to purchase – if they feel the brand is genuine. It’s all about authenticity. If a brand is authentic, it doesn’t matter if the message is commercial.
  4. Being Unique – They want personalisation. And because they’ve crafted their own rich social media personalities, they expect to be treated with an individualized approach, more so than even Gen Y.

At PRISM, we see this generation as really knowing what they want and pursuing it. Rather than saying they have a short attention span, we believe that Gen Z are sophisticated experts at superior efficiency – efficiency to reach their goals through experiences tailored to them, and experiences they choose to live through, rather than experiences forced on them. As Kayee Cheung, Global Head of Trading at Spotify, says: “It is important to make sure the message is relevant – they have a high propensity to explore and flick through [their mobile phones], so having ad formats that cater to that is important because if it’s not interesting, they move on”.

This is one of the key ways we are striving to build relationships with this generation at PRISM. It’s not about mass content, it’s about delivering a personalized experience in the right medium on the right platform to add value to their lives.

This behavior represents a significant shift from millennials and other demographics. For Gen Z, we as marketers need to personalize content and engage with authenticity. It is highly unlikely that Gen Z will expect or respond to a one-size-fits-all approach. The more we align with their goals and lifestyles, the more valuable we become.

This is one reason why PRISM pioneered its award-winning division, the Global Content Network – our team of digital creatives, copywriters, film and video producers, and social managers who are able to create and distribute highly personalized content in real-time. The network has hubs in Asia, Europe and the West Coast of America, meaning it is always open, 24-hours a day, to create and send out our clients’ messages on the platforms that are most likely to capture their targets.

It’s an approach that PRISM pioneered and many have tried to follow. And, as Gen Z grows up and becomes increasingly important to brands in all sectors, it’s the precise approach that’s going to win their attention and engagement.

By Paul Szymanski
PRISM Digital Account Director, Santa Monica, LA 

October 7, 2017