By AA PATAWARAN
Images by JC CERILLA
If you think there is no difference between the Millennials and Generation Z, think again, especially if you are in an industry that appeals to their patronage. The Millennials were born from the early ’80s to the mid-’90s while Gen Zers were born between 1995 and 2010 and they are worlds apart when it comes to their lifestyle choices and sensibility.
COMING OF AGE
As the Gen Zers are beginning to come of age, the oldest of whom is now 24, entering the workforce, gaining spending power, and having a say in our day-to-day, these differences are becoming more pronounced.
The differences are, in fact, stark enough to reshape everything we know about this world, which since the rise of technology in as early as the ’80s has been in constant flux. Because Gen Zers are the first generation to have grown up with smartphones, who have learned their way around touch screens before they even learned to form complex sentences, they do not take technology so seriously as to let it shape the way they are. In fact, they take all of it for granted, expecting—rather than being wowed by—the increasing power of technology to allow them to experience life based on their standards and aspirations.
Here lies the world of differences between the Plurals, as Generation Z is sometimes referred to, and their predecessors. While we have typecast the Millennials as the “Me, Me, Me Generation,” meaning narcissistic, self-indulgent, and lacking in general aim and direction or for having given rise, in Millennial speak, to the YOLO (You Only Live Once) and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) lifestyle, Gen Zers have so far proved to be more circumspect, socially aware and responsible, and purposeful. Take note, luxury marketers!
THE ATTENTION SPAN OF A GOLDFISH
While it is true that, just like the Millennials, Gen Zers on average have the attention span of a goldfish or shorter, approximately no more than eight or nine seconds, this truth can be interpreted more positively and with more accuracy. It’s not so much the short attention span of these Plurals as it is their ability to quickly filter information based on its relevance to them. Remember how they can—or expect to—easily and seamlessly navigate five screens at the same time (as opposed to three screens for their predecessors). Aware that they have so many options, but also aware, even hyperaware, invested as they are in issues like climate change, species extinction, and environmental degradation, that they have limited time, these kids are experts at picking what truly matters to them in the vastness of the Internet or in the myriad choices available to them in myriad platforms, in which a generation less savvy or less fluent in the language of the times is sure to be overwhelmed or lost or misguided .
All the surface level excitement of life in digital, to the Gen Zer, is all that and no more. These kids prefer depth over breadth and, on this account, we can say they are more focused and discerning. More and more studies claim that this generation is driven, which is why, at such a young age, many of them already have personal causes, whether it is sports or sustainability in travel or marine conservation or the fight against plastic culture.
A TROUBLED WORLD
My niece Georges, born in 2009, while she was barely four, once asked me to take her outside because she needed to speak to the neighbor. She was all tears and so upset that, without much thought, I acquiesced. She went straight to the neighbor and said to him, “Why are you killing all the trees?” The neighbor was taken back, but it took him no more than a few seconds to get his bearings, affectionately assuring my niece that he was “only giving the trees a haircut.”
It’s true that Gen Zers have inherited a troubled world, one on the brink of collapse, what with the constant refrain about climate change and its frightening chorus of proofs in glaciers shrinking and polar ice melting, sea levels rising, plants and animals disappearing, lakes and rivers drying up, cold spells and storms and heat waves intensifying, and more? But far more pragmatic than older generations, they are more likely to seek solutions or to dive deep into causes that mean a lot to them. In a study made by New York-based, technology led cultural consultancy agency Sparks & Honey, it was found that 60 percent of Gen Z “expressed a desire to have a positive impact in the world, compared to only 39 percent of Millennials.”
A year or two ago, I asked a World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) student volunteer if she thought that her elders were responsible for putting the planet in peril. Without blinking an eye, the sixteener said, “Yes, but it’s too late in the game to find out who’s responsible. At this point, we’re all in this together.”
In a world always in search of how best to resonate with or reach out to this global community, whether politicians, economists, entrepreneurs, marketers, designers, artists, or organizations, the emerging profile of the Plurals is at once promising and threatening to change the picture, if they haven’t changed it yet.
THE NEW FAVORITE CHILD OF MARKETERS
Our definition of what is good, what is pleasurable, what is luxurious, or even what works is changing as fast as the Internet of Things now that Generation Z is approaching financial and philosophical maturity. More and more, the Millennials are giving way to the new favorite child of marketers, the Gen Zer, who is almost by nature adept at editing their lives based only on what counts to them despite the multitude of choices that confront them on a minute-by-minute basis.
First to be edited out is BS, the unpublishable acronym for stuff that’s said that is typically misleading or deceptive or fake or just nonsense. These kids value authenticity. They have high regard for honesty. And their time is precious. These, coupled with their tendency to reject oversharing and self-promotion, not to mention the fact that they are more likely than their predecessors to install ad blocking software not only in their devices but also in their lives, make the Plurals harder to reach than Millennials. It’s not enough that advertising, for instance, is clever. It has to be real and it has to make sense and it has to have a little conscience, too, otherwise, there’s ad blocking technology and the kids’ innate ability to call BS on anything inauthentic to keep it away. That’s what their eight-second attention span is for, it’s how they can so effortlessly filter out unwanted content.
There’s a future worth looking forward to as Generation Z takes up the reins. At the very least—and while the world is confronted with troubles no false advertising, no matter how creative, can deny—the truth is a thing of value now. There’s luxury in what’s true, whether or not it comes with a hefty price tag.