Before we talk about Generation Z, I’m going to start this article with an admission. I am a Millennial, at the lower end of the Millennial stakes, and I’m starting to feel old and out of touch. This has become more apparent since we all returned to the office earlier this year, and I’m faced with hours of listening to songs by artists I’ve never heard of and overhearing conversations about reality stars and social media influencers that are a complete mystery to me. How did I get so out of touch? Maybe I was just too busy buying overpriced coffee and avocado toast.
Generation Z are discussed more, but why?
All of this is often compounded when we move on from popular culture and think about work where once again Generation Z, the Zoomers, are far more likely to be discussed than Millennials. And don’t just take my anecdotal word for it – on Google News there are 40m listed articles with the keyword “Millennial” but already 46m for “Gen Z”. So, why are we so obsessed with Gen Z in comparison to older generations?
There are some obvious reasons:
- These users are newer to brands
- Likely need more nurturing
- Are often described as being more averse to or less affected by traditional marketing
- Will be the people with the most disposable income in the future and so brands need to future-proof by reaching these people
All of these reasons are completely and entirely valid. As a marketeer, I’d be a fool not to recognise how important audience development and future-proofing are. However, I do also think that at times, this pre-occupation with Generation Z goes too far. Messaging strategies often get split between “Under 25s” and “Everyone Else”, platforms are talked about as “not having any young people on them” or “only for old people” (we’re looking at you, Facebook) despite still showing a strong track record of driving sales and engagement to younger audiences (A weekly reminder that a 25 year old who says they don’t use Facebook because they don’t post on there but who still logs on every day to see what their family are up to or browse the latest Princess Diana Appreciation Group STILL USES FACEBOOK). All-in-all, at some point along the line most brands – and agencies – are guilty of over-obsessing about Gen Z just because they are the ‘next big thing’.
If this, admittedly embittered, ranting doesn’t convince you, let’s also look at some cold, hard figures.
Generation Z Characteristics
In 2020, the mean disposable income for 18-24 year olds (AKA the older Zoomers) was £34,843. This put the age group below every other adult age range in the UK until you reach 75-84 and 85+. This mean income was £7,000 lower than 25-34 year olds (the core Millennial group) and over £8,000 lower than 35-44 year olds. 45-54 and 55-64 year olds also have disposable incomes above £40,000 and its only when you reach the general retirement age of 65 that disposable income comes near the Gen Z level – at around £35,600.
There are other generations to consider
So, while Gen Z may be ‘the future’, so are Millennials – they haven’t yet reached the peak of their disposable income, still have decades with disposable income higher than a younger age range and already have the ability to spend more on average today. And don’t sleep on Gen X either as these groups are in the middle of their peak income ages.
Cost of living is a factor too. It’s projected that for all income levels Cost of Living will adversely affect those without children more than those with children (who are the group least affected of all by the impending crisis). If we assume that Millennials are more likely to be having kids now, or in the very near future, than Gen Z (and that Gen Xers are also more likely to have children than Gen Z) then that gives even more reason to make sure that brands are reaching out to these comparatively older groups more.
This is even more true as the various crises mean we’re heading into a recession. In a recession, the brands that succeed are the ones that stay bold with their marketing and ensure that they continue to be consumed by people with the ability to spend through a recession. All the signs point to Millennials, Gen X being the key groups here.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you ignore Generation Z from your marketing strategy. Quite the opposite, in fact. I just think that there has been too much attention paid to the potential and supposed difference of an age group merely because they are at an age where they’re seen as the ‘next big thing’.
So, when considering your future marketing strategies, remember the following:
- Yes, Gen Z consume in a different way to groups before them, and must be spoken to in a specific way
- Millennials are also a distinct group, and are powerful consumers NOW, so make sure you are speaking to them specifically too
- Don’t forget Gen Xers, and even younger Boomers, as they have big wallets and the ability to spend. Remember to speak to them with your marketing campaigns as well
And by doing the above you should ensure that your strategy is working for your brand both today and in the future.
By Dan Simms,
Senior Paid Social Director
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