“Who is Gen Z, what drives them and what do they like?” are current questions leaders in marketing are longing to answer.
Gen Z, also known as iGen, is the post-millennial generation, born from 1995 to 2009, and they comprise 25.9% of the U.S population (IBTimes). Gen Z is estimated to have a combined buying power of $43 billion and influence an additional $600 billion of family spending (Chamber of Commerce). Not only is Gen Z going to be 40% of all consumers by 2020 (CMO), but they are also said to be more persistent, self- reliant, realist, and innovative than the generation before them.
Most people currently view members of Gen Z as teenagers or preteens who only want to spend their parents money on the latest iPhone, but 57% of Gen Z’s said they would rather save money than spend it immediately (Forbes, 2013), 89% say they rather spend their free time doing productive and creative things rather than “hanging out” (High School Careers Study, Millennial Branding, February 2014), and 62% say they would rather start their own company than work for a corporation (High School Careers Study, Millennial Branding, February 2014).
Now that Gen Z has established itself as perhaps the most powerful and driven generation yet, the question becomes: “what do they like?” The answer is simple - Gen Z’s want to see if the brand is “authentic and is worthy of their time, money, and values" (Business Insider). The most loved apparel brand is Nike, as 24% of teens consider it the top brand, according to Piper Jaffray's survey. Nike happens to have one of the most comprehensive CSR profiles out of the hundreds of brands in the marketplace, which I personally doubt is coincidental. When it comes to shopping online, Gen Z’s overwhelmingly prefer Amazon (Jaffray). The most loved restaurant brands are Starbucks and Chipotle (Jaffray). The one commonality between Nike, Starbucks, and Chipotle is their vast presence on social media. Considering that most Gen Z’s do not remember a time without social media, I believe this to be one of the reasons these places are so loved by my peers.
As a member of Gen Z, I agree that my generation is more persistent and more self-reliant than the ones prior. With the college process becoming more competitive each year, and the pressure to succeed rising from parents and teachers, my peers were forced to adapt. Most of my friends had jobs all throughout high school and have internships the summer before we head off to college. Not only are we motivated by those around us, but we are also driven from within. With information so readily available, we see the various humanitarian crises around the world, we see what climate change is doing to our planet, and we see that it is possible for us to invoke real change. Although my opinion of my generation may be skewed by my privileged upbringing, I know for a fact that Gen Z’s inner drive is not exclusive to the small high school I attended.
However much I agree that Gen Z is the most self-reliant generation yet, I disagree with the findings in Jaffray’s survey that Starbucks is the most popular restaurant brand based on my own experiences. With apps like Yelp on the rise, my peers tend to look for restaurants with perfect combination of four-star reviews and one or two dollar signs next to them. From what I’ve seen, the oldest of the Gen Z like small artisanal coffee shops as opposed to big chains. Furthermore, Gen Z’s obsession with Nike does not seem specific to us. Nike has proven itself to be timeless, and since being fit and exercising has become a trend, Gen Z’s love for the brand was inevitable.
All in all, Generation Z, or iGen, is the largest and the most educated generation yet, 50% of Gen Z’s will be university educated compared to 33% of millennials and 25% of Gen X (JWT). Thus the possibilities for my peers are endless and the change we could have on the world is extraordinary.