By Lianna Willoughby, Managing Director, Open Mind Strategy
Almost a quarter of the U.S. population today, 80 million strong, is 18 or under, making Gen Z the largest generation, and more are born each day.
Gen Z’s take on brands, media and life in general is uniquely their own—borrowing from previous generations while contradicting them in the same breath.
Gen Z is a generation of amplified Millennials, taking well-known Millennial traits to the next level. For example, Millennials may be tech natives, but Gen Zers have digital in their DNA.
When it comes to Millennials’ devotion to pro-social concerns, Gen Z takes activism to a new level. The Internet has made Z an incredibly collaborative generation that is showing the world how powerful a well-timed tweet or YouTube video can be. Online, they create communities surrounding interests and causes, not geography.
Until now, Millennials were the most diverse generation at only 56% White. Gen Z is currently 51% White and is projected to be the last generation in the U.S. to be majority White. They are diverse beyond their ethnicity, with less than half identifying as completely heterosexual or homosexual and more than one in three Gen Zers consider themselves bisexual to some degree.
A sense of authentic uniqueness is important to Gen Z. While connectivity to community is important, they’d rather stand out than fit in. They are less crowd-oriented than previous generations of teens, less concerned with finding popular options than in finding those that stoke personal passions.
As the new tribe emerges, social circles are being formed around personal passions. Gen Zs surround themselves with a different group of friends to express each of their many facets. Where Millennials may have a “music friend” and a “tech friend,” Gen Zs have entire groups. Those different friend groups might even hate each other—what’s cool in one might not be cool in the other.
While Millennials were friends with their parents, Gen Zs see them as best friends whose parental relationships are marked by mutual respect. For Millennials, parents were buddies and cheerleaders, for Gen Z, parents are an integral part of their support system. Digital natives themselves, parents of Gen Z have adopted a “stealth fighter” parenting style, knowing when to strike and when to lay low. As a result, more Gen Zs see parents as collaborators and peers.
Having reviewed some key areas where Gen Zs are an amped up version of Millennials, let’s delve into the Anti Millennial perspective. Are Gen Zs also anti-Millennial? Gen Zers want to have a good time, but they don’t want their fun to negatively impact their future. We see this with how they use social media. Gen Z takes a much more crafted and curated approach. While Millennials post every detail of their lives on social media, Zs are more aware of who they’re sharing information with and how they think this effects their online identity.
With Gen Z we tend to see the return of cool (and uncool). While Millennials are accepting and inclusive, Gen Z tends to be more snarky, exclusive and very “image” aware. The reemergence of cool is not without consequences, however, as Gen Z is the most anxious generation, fueled by social media pressures and personal image.
Millennials believe they can do/be anything, while Gen Z has realistic expectations and are skeptical. After witnessing the financial crisis and subsequent struggle of their Gen-X parents, Gen-Z has money woes on their mind. Almost half of them worry about student loan debt despite not having graduated from high school yet.
But they are still teens—they’re still young, fun and undeclared as a group. This generation is just beginning to “come of age.” As serious as they may seem, they’re still kids and haven’t quite figured themselves out yet.
Open Mind Strategy, LLC is a research and brand strategy company specializing in actionable insights. OMS was founded by Robin Hafitz, in 2010, with the mission of providing “more human intelligence”—research intelligence that respects consumers as human beings, and that is tailored to meet the needs of demanding clients.