When you reach the end of the alphabet, what comes next?

December 15, 2015 - 2:45pm
Ashley Landers
Generation Z - What Comes Next?

As a mother, I can’t help but hear Generation Z and immediately think World War Z or the Zombie Apocalypse. Maybe, like every stereotyped aging person from past generations, I’m also frightened by children today — their fashion sense, their technological influence or their absolute disregard for privacy.

But being in the ad business — scratch that — the culture business, I find myself intrigued with the idea of what’s next.  Whether sourced from curiosity or fear, I can’t help but wonder:

  1. 1. How are they going to shape culture?
  2. 2. How will they redefine our definitions of government, family, technology, commerce, safety?
  3. 3. Why are we still so obsessed with Millennials? Why is no one focused on Gen Z?  (Millennials were so 2010 btw)

Am I the only one obsessing?

So when I was asked to write a monthly blog post at work, the first thing that came to mind was Gen Z.  Then I quickly realized the web isn’t a place for thesis papers so if I was going to do this, I better break it into smaller digestible topics than an entire synopsis of 5–19 year olds. 

I found a presentation one of my previous co-workers put together (shout-out Midge), where she already did all the heavy lifting by taking a data dump of information from multiple sources and making sense of it all.  All that’s to say, in the next series, you’ll find someone else’s data mining coupled with my own anecdotes.

For part one, let’s start broad.  I don’t want to ASSume the general public reads Nielsen or Pew Studies for fun. I’m willing to bet even if they think they do, most don’t understand this generation at all.

FACT: If you’re one of those people who thinks Millennials (Generation Y) is the greatest idea you’ve ever seen on a marketing plan, you’re really just talking about 20–34 year olds, approximately 24 percent of the US population today.  In contrast, Generation Z (kids 5–19 years old) whom I’ll refer to for the rest of this article as “Pluralists”, also represent 24 percent of the US population today. Not to mention they have an average weekly allowance of $16.90 which equals about $44 Billion a year in spending power!

Why they’re called Pluralists.

If you only take away one thing from this series, this should be it: this is the first generation in history that will have grown up in a plural reality.

Plural: Referring to two or more items.
Plurality: The state of being more than one.
Pluralism: A social organization in which diversity is tolerated.
Pluralists: A generation of kids that have grown up with multiple definitions of what’s accepted.  The notion of “the way it always was” is non-existent for this quarter of the U.S. population today.



Again, look at the facts …

Fact 1: Post-Obama election — the oldest Plurals were 12 when he was elected, most of them will not recall a time when there wasn’t “diversity” in the White House.  

Fact 2: Post mobile computing and smart phones — they’re the first generation that has known and likely owned technology since birth.

Fact 3: Post Hurricane Katrina — Environmental and natural disasters like Katrina have questioned the guarantee of government safety nets. 

Fact 4:  Post terrorism and school shootings — the very notion of security on American soil has also never been a guarantee for this generation.

Am I starting to paint a picture for you?  Let me be more blunt. If you are over 20 and reading this, what you have “always known” looks nothing like what Pluralists know to be reality.  The world you grew up in and the world they are growing up in are not the same.

So what’s the point?

Now would be a good time to start re-thinking your ability to relate.

Everything we have ever known as social norms is changing and will no longer be the norm by the time Pluralists carry the bulk of our nation’s spending power.  If I’m a business owner, regardless of the industry, I would be completely rethinking my business model, as in Consumer Insights and Research & Development would be my new best friends.

But don’t just take my word for it. Check back for the next part to this series where I’ll explore how Pluralists are redefining the new normal as it pertains to media, technology, brands, and even family … and did I mention the oldest of them is already a college freshman? (The pluralist train has left the station folks, so don’t get caught chasing the bandwagon).

Part Two→


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