Meet Generation Z: the digital natives

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“Meet Generation Z: Forget Everything You Learned About Millennials.” So begins a provocative new slide deck by New York-based ad agency Sparks & Honey, which argues that Gen Z (roughly anyone born after 1995) thinks and acts differently than the rest of us. Why? Because a steady diet of social media and looming economic uncertainty have really, deeply, shaped this group’s psyche.

At least that’s what the deck suggests. Generation Z includes two billion tweens and teens worldwide—and they’re more entrepreneurial, less self-entitled, and apparently way more plugged into technology than even their Millennial predecessors.

Here, based on Pilot’s own deep dive into the data, are the top five things you need to know about how to communicate with this ambitious new segment of humanity.

#1 They influence household spending more than ever before

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Generation Z are digital natives, meaning they’ve grown up using the Internet and all the modern day devices it enables. They show the least brand loyalty of any generation because they comparison shop online (their preferred place to spend). As such, they’re savvy shoppers who influence household purchases. Point is, don’t discount them, not even for products you might think of as the exclusive jurisdiction of mom or dad.

#2 They’re highly visual 


Gen Z is used to rapid feedback on social media channels, using emojis to express feelings, and are drawn to imagery for maximum shareability. Their Facebook use is declining, while Instagram use is on a steady rise. Gen Z will respond to cultural references, slick photography and consistent communication. Keeping up your social channels and staying ahead of technological trends will impress anyone, but especially Gen Z. Stay ahead of design trends, too: Gen Z is extremely visual and nobody likes an ugly website.

#3 They’re progressive, open-minded thinkers


Gen Z is growing up in the most diverse, tolerant and inclusive society with the widest access to education of all time. Violence, drug use and teen birth rates are down. Many are growing up with first-generation gay parents and interracial marriages. Independence is encouraged and knowledge is valued more than ever before. To succeed in a Gen Z world, companies will need to understand Gen Z values and assumptions, because this generation will have a deep social conscience—and they’re prepared to join forces on social media to take wrong-doers to task.

#4 “Snack media”: They consume media differently


Gen Z lives online and regularly multi-tasks across multiple screens, with 81 per cent currently active on social media platforms. This has resulted in shorter attention spans, and research suggests the Gen Z brain has evolved to process more information at faster speeds, making them the greatest consumers of bite-sized “snack media.” That means content must be ever shorter, more succinct and attention-grabbing—and present across multiple platforms.

#5 They’re activists


Forget slacktivism. Gen Z is out to change the world. More international philanthropic advocacy is being done by youth than ever before. Vloggers John and Hank Green’s Project For Awesome is a good example of how to successfully tap into youth activism. Young influencers Tavi Gevinson, Ann Makosinski, Adora Svitak, Logan LaPlante and Hannah Alper have already achieved viral success. Gen Z is more aware of their freedom of choice, more aware of global issues and most likely to spread advocacy online and crowdsource for a cause. If corporate social responsibility (CSR) was created for any generation, it would be Gen Z—which could mean the business value of CSR is about to skyrocket.


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