News flash, Millennials: you're out and Gen Z is in. Gen Z is the hot new generation that every brand is clamoring to impress and win over for the rest of their lives.
With the rise of every new generation, there's always a constant barrage of research proving how different they are. But, because Gen Z is the first generation born into a life with technology and social media, they truly are a unique breed.
Before we dive in, here are a few must-know facts to get you up to speed!
For those of you wondering which generation is which, here's a handy mashup chart I made from combining data from Pew Research Center and the US Census Bureau's 2018 Population estimates (who is ready for the 2020 Census? ME).
Of note, there are nearly as many Gen Zs as there are Millennials and they are the most multicultural of ALL generations; 48% are non-white. They are aged 7-22 years old, spanning across many life stages from elementary school to post-graduation.
Other common stats about Gen Z is that they're doing less of all of these things: dating, having sex and driving. And they are increasingly feeling lonely and depressed. They're mobile-first and their media diet consists of YouTube, Netflix, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok.
What else about Gen Z makes them different? Micro trends cycle through them at the speed of Peloton junkies and there's no aversion to the new—they are early adopters by nature, not by choice.
Even though many of their trends are here today and gone tomorrow, we talked to a gaggle of Gen Z to get a peek behind the scenes into what's trending for them right now.
They live dual lives but in different ways. Millennials are known for curating instaperfect lives that are far from reality. Gen Z does the same, but they also have "finstas" (aka fake Instagrams) where they post whatever they want just to their close friends.
And since their lives have always been on the public stage, they're becoming more private—the majority said they've been sending private Snap stories more this year. Facebook is definitely on to something as they double down on private messaging.
They are changing media vs. controlling it: Millennials were the first cohort to "control" their media experiences—they could choose what to watch when and wherever they wanted. But Gen Z doesn't just abide by what's available, they have taken the reigns to change it. According to JWT Intelligence, 27% of Gen Z have hacked or adapted an app or website feature to do something that isn't typically available, whether it’s using an editing tool to add in a collage or an audio app to layer in music.
They're also extremely resourceful, using products to fit non-traditional purposes. For example, Snapmaps has become their GPS tracker for friends, Google Docs has become a chat app during class and Airdrop has become a way to meme-bomb a bar full of people. Savvy marketers take note, Donald Glover airdropped an offer for a free pair of his pre-released Adidas sneakers at Coachella.
On top of that, they are creative and technical masters. They're not just using the Snap lenses, they're making them. They're not just watching YouTube shows, they're creating them. Their TikTok video editing skills are next level and they're using tools like Photoshop, iMovie, Snap and Instagram creative features to make one-of-a-kind content. Agency creatives, watch out.
Seriously, though. HOW does one do the microwave challenge...
They crave "no judgment zones". Although they are absolutely obsessed with Snapchat and Instagram, they love social networks like VSCO and Yubo because they are like-free environments, allowing them to just be themselves. Yubo has already racked up 20MM users worldwide and VSCO (which is also a photo-editing app) has 30MM users worldwide (75% are 25 or younger) with 2MM paid subscribers. They’ll likely love Insta even more if likes are officially removed.
Silly distortion > serious perfection. For the uninitiated, the TikTok I'm referencing isn't Kesha's smash hit (although I do LOVE that song), it's a lip-syncing video app with 500MM global active users, 40MM of which are in the US. It's a platform to post ridiculous videos of yourself dancing, singing, acting, doing tricks, challenges and having an absolute blast. Gen Z doesn't care about being perfect and are totally fine with letting go—filters, AR lenses and faceswaps are second nature and distorting into an old man, a puppy or an alien is a normal day on social media.
They communicate through pictures, not words. "Memeojis" is Gen Z's language—you might think they're reverting backward towards hieroglyphs—but for them, memes and emojis are more expressive and multi-layered than words. Memes let you communicate a joke, reference a zeitgeisty moment, express yourself and send good vibes all at once. And when Gen Z is communicating through words, it's in abbrevs, acronyms and made-up words. R29 compiled a list for you wondering souls. Yeet!
Other things that are trending for Gen Z vs. Millennials? Take these with a grain of Southern white girl salt because the majority of respondents were just that (and the sample size was small), but interesting nonetheless to see what they consider the "must-have" items of their generations.
Millennials love themselves some kitchen appliances and Gen Z is digging old school shoes. Someone please explain the Crocs comeback.
What does this all mean? Gen Z is a drastically different generation than any before with how they consume media, communicate and relate to the world. With this, they are changing the rules for how marketers should connect with them. If you can see the world through their social-media-colored-glasses, you might be able to make an impact with this group. And then hopefully, you'll become a part of their next trend.