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  • Thom Pulliam

Connecting with American Consumer Market Space: Gen Z (6-23 years old)

Updated: Jul 27, 2018

The melting pot of the USA is reaching its apex after years of cross-cultural and multicultural diffusion and integration. This has culminated in the creation of a new era of #AmericanConsumer that is rooted in a fundamentally different and expanded mindset, heart set, and behavior set. Leading the way of this new values renegade is the up-and-coming cohort known as #GenZ who take up 25% of the U.S. population, making them larger than the Baby Boomers or Millennials. By 2020, they will make up 40% of consumers. Gen Z already possess $44 billion in spending capacity and influence another $600 billion in spending by others.


Gen Z were born in a digitally connected, transparent and fame-envy culture born between the years 1995-2012 (like all generational cohorts there is some give and take on the accepted age range). Gen Z grew up in an environment where they saw and learned how the planet, humanity, and animals are systemically being mistreated, polluted, and destroyed. Gen Z acts with urgency, forced to acknowledge the reality of being sold out by their unwitting parents and grandparents, who coming out of the last century, didn't comprehend the future they were compromising for their progeny. This makes for a generation that's literally fighting to protect rights and resources and heal damage that was done to Earth within the consumeristic and capitalistic framework the USA economy is based on. Gen Z is highly conscious of interdependence, the value of their buck and their voice, they are free-willed, and desire to be known for doing well by doing good.


#Diversity, #inclusion, and #openness are today's company culture imperatives for the solid reason that they are the key values by which Gen Z lives everyday, they expect it in the work place, in culture, at school and from brands. Simply because this is who Gen Z is at a fundamental level. A JWT Intelligence study of Gen Z sexuality and gender found that only 48 percent of Gen Z self-identified as exclusively heterosexual, while transgender, gender fluid and non-binary identification is on the rise. More than just the color of their skin or their own sexual or gender orientation, they also found that older Gen Zers ages 18-to-24 are more likely than any other generation to accept “other” into their lives. A third have dated someone from another race, 59 percent are friends with someone of a different sexual or gender orientation and 66 percent believe in marriage equality, per a joint study from research firms 747 and Collaborata.


"The Pivotal Generation" is what a 2017 report by Barkley and FutureCast labels Gen Z. Their research stresses the differences between Gen Z and Millennials, signaling a sea-change for the future of American consumerism. Here's what they learned make Gen Zers tick.

  1. We want to work for our success, not be discovered.

  2. We believe that equality is non-negotiable.

  3. We want brands to be real so we can be unique.

  4. We have our own system of rules and etiquette for how we use social media.

Here's to a generation that buys with their values first, with conscious foresight into their impact, and in active leadership causing greater good. This is flipping priorities in boardrooms. Now for the C-suite there is a clear mandate from the market to integrate social purpose into their brands and business models at root level.


An article published on Media Post titled, "Gen Z Self Defined As Agents Of Change" reports that more than 76% of Gen Z has purchased, or is open to purchasing, a brand or product to support the issues that brand stands for. Furthermore the study found that 67% of Gen Z have stopped purchasing, or would consider doing so, from companies that stood for something or behaved in a way that didn’t align with their values.


"This demographic is expecting brands to use their own platforms for good, and to pick up where politicians and politics may have let them down,” says Meredith Ferguson, managing director of DoSomething Strategic.


It's clear Generation Z wants to connect with brands that reflect who they are as individuals—not who they are as a group. Simply put, one size doesn’t fit all. Everything going forward gets to be personalized and participatory. Companies will fail if they remain complacent in their marketing because if individuals don’t feel represented or spoken to directly, they’ll just move on. And Gen Zers hungry for representation gravitate toward companies that recognize the diversity of their needs. Kelly Day, president of Viacom Digital Studios says, “young people recognize that their individuality is an asset, and they want brands to understand that too. They expect to see their identities reflected and respected in their content.”


The implications of the realities of the Gen Z consumer class soon dominating the marketplace means utter changes for business and branding. This goes beyond transformation because organizations are now being asked to add a new element – a positive core – into the mix of what they fundamentally are. They are tasked with figuring out how this new OS works and migrate all stakeholders onboard, then wrap their products, services, and storytelling seamlessly around this new entity. For those first to launch themselves in the marketplace to connect with Gen Z consumers the rewards are enormous—potentially 50 to 60 years of consumer fidelity, a stretch of time unparalleled since the Industrial Revolution.


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