This Generation Thing

gen z

When I started working at a university in 2000, there was a lot of talk about Millennials. That generation gets a lot less attention these days. I am not much of a fan of these generation generalizations, but that won’t stop them from being topics of conversation. They are particularly of interest to marketers.

The generation that follows the Millennials are those born between 1995 – 2012. That makes them 5- 22 years old. I don’t know how we can generalize very much about that wide a range of people. But educators should take note because they do include kids in kindergarten through the new college graduates and all those students in between.

The post-Millennial generation hasn’t gotten name that everyone agrees on. I hear them called Generation Z, Post-Millennials, iGeneration, Centennials and the Homeland Generation.

Although “iGeneration” might suggest that they are self-centered, the lowercase i references the Apple world of iPods, iPhones, iPads etc.

“Homeland” refers to the post-9/11 world they grew up in. September 11, 2001 was the last major event to occur for Millennials. Even the oldest members of Generation Z were quite young children when the 9/11 attacks occurred. They have no generational memory of a time the United States was not at war with the loosely defined forces of global terrorism.

I’ll use Gen Z to label this demographic cohort after the Millennials.

Here are some of the characteristics I find that supposedly describe Gen Z. You’ll notice that much of this comes from the fact that this generation has lived with the Internet from a young age. This is usually taken to mean that they are very comfortable (don’t read that as knowledgeable) with technology and interacting on social media.

Besides living in an Internet age, they live in a post-9/11 age and grew up through the Great Recession and so have a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity.

They get less sleep than earlier generations.

They are mobile phone users – not desktop, laptop or landline users.

They are wiser than earlier generations about protecting their online personalities and privacy, but they live in a world that also offers more threats.  For example, they are more likely to create “rinsta” and “finsta” Instagram personas. (Rinsta is a “real” account and finsta is a “fake” or “friends-only” profile.)

They are wiser to marketing and more resistant to advertising. Less than a quarter of them have a positive perception of online ads (Millward Brown). But, perhaps ironically, they trust YouTube stars, Instagram personalities, and other social media influencers and that includes when they make purchasing decisions.

Having grown up with more of it, they are generally more open to efforts to increase diversity and inclusion.

They’re easily bored with an average attention span of eight seconds (Sparks & Honey). Of course, the attention span of the average millennial is supposed to be 12 seconds. That makes them hard to engage, but they self-identify as wanting to be engaged.

That haven’t had or expect to have summer jobs.

They are said to be slower at maturing than earlier generations. They postpone getting a driver’s license. Many of them even postpone having sex.

Rather than a generation gap, like the one made famous in the 1960s, they are more likely to hang with their parents.

They are very open to sharing their opinions in many ways from consumer reviews and other consumer behavior, and online they like collaborative communities and the exchange of ideas and opinions.

Social Media Ethics and Law

social media law

I’m working on a presentation titled “Social Media Ethics and Law.”  It’s also a course that I’m building to teach next year.

Social media is redefining the relationships between organizations and their audiences, and it introduces new ethical, privacy and legal issues. The audience for my presentation is schools, mostly higher education, but it is an area lacking for many organizations, employees and individual users. We need to have a better understanding of the ethics, and also the law, as it applies in these new contexts.

To use a clichéd disclaimer, I am not a lawyer. And my focus is more on ethics, but at some point ethics bumps up against law. Pre-existing media law about copyright and fair use was not written with social media in mind, so changes and interpretations are necessary.

Technological advances blur the lines of what is or is not allowed to be published and shared and issues of accuracy, privacy and trust. Many people feel that the Millennial and Generation Z individuals in particular have grown up with a copy/paste, download-it-for-free ethos that can easily lead to legal violations online.

If you have any thoughts on this topic, I’d like to hear from you. Comment here or use my Contact page.



My presentation will be at the NJEDge.Net Annual Conference in November 2016.

Are You Ready for Generation Z?

gen-z

As an educator, I have had a long interest in all the discussions of “generations” and their attitudes towards school, technology, media etc.  At NJIT, at the turn of the new century, we ran workshops and focus groups on teaching the Millennials. People would point to members of that generation, like Mark Zuckerberg, and say that these students would reject higher education and start their own companies in the hope of earning their own first billion dollars by the age of 23.

That didn’t happen, but they are a different generation of students than those I taught on the 1970s.

The Millennials are of somewhat less interest these days to educators as they age up (though there is still interest in them as consumers and people still discuss marketing to millennials) and attention is turning to the kids who follow them. Beside educators, they are of interest to market researchers, cultural observers and trend forecasters. Hello, Generation Z.

They are young. The oldest members are just out of high school and most of them are tweens and teens. But they will be the influencers of tomorrow. Marketers have an eye to the billions in spending power they hold. Can we figure them out now and build awareness and brand loyalty while they are young? Will there even be such a thing as brand loyalty when they hit their twenties?

The New York Times had a piece recently about Generation Z and those that came before them and according to some forecasters, they are the “next big retail disruptor.”

These generation labels are not really even agreed upon in the years they span or the descriptors used to label them. A millennial can be defined as a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000. Demographers seem to like to use 15 year blocks of time.  That makes millennials probably born between 1980 and 1995, so they are about 22-35 years old now. These are my sons. They are out of college, in the workforce, marrying, buying homes and having children. They are important consumers.

Millennials grew up in the boom and relative peace of the 1990s, but they also saw our country crash on September 11 and financially crash in 2000 and again in 2008. The second half of their youth took place in an age of terrorism. They had computers as kids, though it might have been an Apple IIe with 5.25 inch and very floppy disks. They had a fledgling Internet and slow modems. They discovered social media at the age that Mark Zuckerberg thought they were ready (age 13, if they were playing by the rules). They saw many of the social media platforms they used disappear (FriendFeed, MySpace) and others, like Facebook make billions of dollars.

They were not digital natives for smartphones and tablets, though older generations assumed that they would take to it more readily.

alex
Alex, second from right, with her book and phone and her modern family

The Times article says that Alex, the middle-child character on TVs Modern Family, is Gen Z. She just graduated high school and is conscientious, hard-working, self-describes as nerdy and is anxious and very concerned with her future. Her younger brother and slightly older sister are probably Gen Z too, but they don’t fit that description.

Following that 15-year block, they were born between 1995 and 2010 (some overlap of generations in the first and last years with that system).

You’ll find this generation also called the Post-Millennial, iGeneration, or (in the U.S.) the Homeland Generation. Generation Z is really the first generation that are digital natives. They were playing with their parents’ phones when they were in their car seat. There always was an Internet. Everyone uses social media. Even their parents use Facebook – which means it is time to use something else.

Who are the parents of Generation Z?  They were raised by Baby Boomers, like me, and the sometimes-forgotten Generation X. Gen X was that smaller in-between generation that was post-Vietnam and post-Watergate. There were a lot of latchkey kids growing up in the 1970s. They tried to give their kids more attention and, like most generations, a better childhood. They were concerned about schooling, foods and health. They wrote are read mommy blogs.

If you are wondering what happened to Gen Y – the demographic cohort between Generation X and Generation Z – they were relabeled the Millennials.

I think it is an unfortunate generalization by some marketers that Gen Z is seen as a group that you need to communicate to in 5 words, images and emojis. Does Generation Z have more awareness of their personal brand? I think that may be a safer generalization.

More important to note is that Gen Z  a generation more dominated by a Hispanic population. According to the Census Bureau, in the first 10 years of this century, the U.S. Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total population according to the Census Bureau. The number of Americans of mixed white and Asian descent grew by 87% and the number self-identifying as biracial white and black rose 134%. Gen Z has been hearing about same-sex marriages for a long time, and they grew up with an African-American president.

TV Alex’s extended family has a gay couple, a Hispanic step-grandmother who doesn’t look like anyone’s grandma, an adopted Asian, a working mom and a sensitive dad.

The Times article also notes that if you think overall about Gen Z and their concerns with privacy and about getting a good career and being middle or really more upper-middle-class, they don’t really look like Millennials. They probably look more like their grandparents’ generation.

That large demographic is known as the Silent Generation. They were born from the mid-1920s to the early 1940s. They were shaped by two world wars and the Great Depression. The younger ones grew up in the fifties and sixties with a Cold War, nuclear threats and lots of television.

There are no obvious answers to how to reach Generation Z, but these kids may want to start their own online company instead of working summers at Burger King. Remember that the Silent Generation was not only very job and career-focused but it was also the richest generation.

Is it too early to worry about the next generation of toddlers born since 2010? The oldest ones are entered kindergarten this fall.

This Generation Alpha (or whatever we decide to call them when we start over on the alphabet) is ready for virtual reality.

Marketers and educators, be prepared.