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Getting a handle on Gen Z

News, 07 January 2016

LONDON: Marketers cannot expect to make glib assumptions about Generation Z as this age group often displays contradictory attitudes and habits while their culture is ever changing.

Such traits make long-term planning problematic according to the Warc Toolkit 2016 which quotes one researcher as saying five years is too far ahead. (Non-subscribers can download a sample of this Toolkit chapter here.)

Evidence of their sometimes contrary nature comes in the research which found 86% use their smartphone several times a day, but 79% agree that people their age spend too much time on digital devices.

Or the fact that 69% watch more than two hours' television a day, while 70% say they watch more than two hours of YouTube content daily.

Despite that, there are some things that can be confidently stated about "Generation Swipe", including its affinity with digital technology.

Tweens – and, increasingly, small children – are always connected to the internet, mainly via tablets and smartphones which they use to share YouTube clips with friends and family, for instant messaging, photo sharing and gaming.

And while children still love popular icons, including animated TV, film and games characters, YouTube artists are taking over from singers, sporting heroes and TV stars as the most influential celebrities among tweens.

Some research in Asia also suggests that access to technology is shaping not just media consumption but friendships and entire lives: in Vietnam, half of this age group said they felt most comfortable communicating via chat apps or text.

Nor are they broadcasting to the world via social media as older generations might have done – they want more private "meeting" places, away from parents, potential employers and the broader public.

Francesca Atkins, digital strategist at Deloitte Digital, also noted that marketers need to be aware of a rapidly changing media and regulatory landscape.

"Organisations cannot afford to sit back and simply adhere to regulation," she advised. "They must look to add complementary guidelines in order to embed the right practices and avoid costly mis-steps."

And, given Generation Z's heavy use of social media, marketers need to work hard to ensure they are not encouraging those below the legal age to join marketing activity on these platforms.

Data sourced from Warc