Millennials are so last century: Latest trends driving the newest generation of consumers
Hardly a day goes by without hearing a marketing expert discussing how important it is to learn how to market to Millennials.
I’ve been hearing this for a good twenty years now—ever since working with an early mobile group texting client in 1999 who wished to promote their service to Gen Y, as Millennials were then called.
As marketers have furiously worked to adjust to the millennial generation, a new generation of consumers is quietly coming of age with a whole new attitude and identity. They have been named Generation Z.
While Millennials grew up surrounded by digital technology and earned the moniker digital natives, Gen Z is the first generation to grow up fully immersed in mobile and social technology. They are the first generation where social media and online connectivity everywhere is a given.
The whole practice of defining characteristics of an entire generation can be scattershot. It is bound to be quite wrong for certain exceptional outliers. However, identifying key trends that drive consumer behaviors and habits can be useful to marketers attempting to connect and create relationships with a new generation of consumers—and Gen Z is currently poised to rapidly become the most sought-after consumers on the planet.
While Millennials have seen a real maturation of professional sports franchises like the NFL and NBA in their lifetimes, Gen Z has come of age as the franchise sports world is seeing some stagnation of interest. Whether due to scandal, controversy or fan fatigue—the big sports leagues just aren’t holding as much interest for Gen Z.
With sophisticated gaming consoles that also operate as digital media centers that allow them to use streaming platforms such as Netflix, a rising portion of Gen Z'ers are cutting the cord from traditional cable TV altogether and not looking back. Why watch a football game on television when you can play NFL football with your friends any day of the year on your gaming console?
In the era of Twitch and YouTube, eSports gamers play online and compete in live tournaments that are watched by millions. In June of this year, E3’s Fortnite Battle Royale Pro-AM Tournament boasted over 2 million live viewers—one of the most watched competitive eSports events in the western world.
With the IOC even deliberating adding eSports to the Olympics, the eSports tipping point is rapidly being reached. Big brands are taking note, with Red Bull signing a growing number of eSports figures such as the popular gamer Ninja. With over 15 million subscribers on YouTube, Ninja offers exclusive access to the coveted Gen Z demographic—access that traditional media simply can’t deliver.
Look for more big brands to find ways to sponsor, advertise and co-promote eSports and gaming events as a means to connect with Gen Z.
Social Experiences Are Key
To a generation that has been immersed in social media since they were brand new little nodes on their parents' social graph, everything Gen Z does has a social component.
But brands who think that ads on Instagram are a slam dunk should beware—Gen Z is the ad-blocking generation—and advertising must adapt.
Social channels offer brands an opportunity—but Gen Z needs engaging content to attract their attention. The experience they have with your brand will largely determine whether you can connect with them or not.
Fast food chain Wendy’s partnered with Kansas City agency VML to create a more engaging and experiential social media presence. With sassy responses to haters on Twitter, the viral #nuggsforcarter retweeting campaign, and the infamous We Beefin? Mixtape, Wendy’s has managed to both increase engagement and sales.
Gen Z Influencers Are All On YouTube
Brands who wish to connect with Gen Z have increasingly found that partnering with influencers can be a way to authentically connect with this media savvy audience.
Ask anyone under the age of 18 to name some celebrities they idolize, and you won’t hear a typical list of Hollywood celebrities or musical artists. YouTubers like DanTDM, ElRubiusOMG, and Pat and Jen of PopularMMOs are the new A-Listers.
These savvy YouTubers are already proving that YouTube success can be a springboard to real brand-building. British YouTuber DanTDM, aka Daniel Middleton, has created thousands of videos that have been viewed billions of times by his millions of subscribers. He’s also written a N.Y. Times bestselling children’s book and performed a live show on a 97 stop global tour that played to sold out Gen Z audiences at ticket prices rivaling those usually reserved for top echelon musical talent.
Much is yet to be written about the evolving tastes, habits and preferences of Gen Z—but one thing is for sure: They are destined to become a significant market that will hold tremendous opportunity for the brands that understand and connect with them.