Today’s brands are changing faster than ever in order to stay relevant to younger generations and with it come both opportunities and pitfalls that need to be accounted for. Generation Z is the latest hot topic in marketing and consumer research and it does feel like we are already late for it.
The MRS Kids & Youth conference in London focused exactly on this – understanding nowadays’ kids and youngsters and how branding and research can engage with them. Generation Z, The Plurals, iGeneration, among other names, are the present-day children and young teenagers, born between 1995 and 2010. They are growing up in a globalized, restless and uncertain world. They are also the first truly native digital and global generation. These two dimensions craft what they need and want, now and in the future: a better world. Thus, brands are searching for immersion and insights to shape themselves to become relevant to this generation as it grows older.
The MRS Conference commenced with guidelines and best practices within this process, a classic but fundamental starting point. After all, we were talking about children. The challenge here lies in keeping up with the industry’s fast pace and it is an ongoing and iterative process, given the ever-changing and under-the-radar nature of social media and digital marketing.
A lot was covered, from all the insights on children’s development to innovative methodologies and case studies, but a few key ideas drew my attention, from a branding and a research point of view.
Hot tweetaway: How brands can prepare for #GenZ insit.es/1w1d37F by @DTeixeira via @CoolBrands #kids
Brands out there, beware!
- Gen Z is different and has normalized its expectations towards the future, moving away from celebrity-type aspirations
- Sharing economy and DIY surround them – these tools will be fully established in their coming of age and ground their expectations
- From the early stages onwards, youngsters have strong worldviews regarding money and spending, due to the uncertain economic context they were raised in – they are very conscious of it and they have savings accounts since a much younger age
- They are and will be increasingly scrutinous towards businesses and they have the social awareness and knowledge to act upon it
- In spite of their youth, they are not and probably never will be risk takers: expect ‘familiarity’, ‘openness’, ‘closeness’ and ‘allowing them to be in control’ to become core brand promises out there
- The fun factor is still important to them, but it has a much more positive/responsible fun nuance to it
- Finally, and above all, they won’t need but will demand relevant added value from whatever brands might bring to them; no need to try and trick them, it will backfire
Hot tweetaway: How the #mrx industry can prepare for #GenZ insit.es/1w1d37F by @DTeixeira via @CoolBrands #kids
Research needs to go back to the drawing board
- They interact with mobile/tablet since they are a few years old; digital content in the future will be viewed/shared through these on-the-go/on-the-move channels, which raises the need for contextual research
- Always-on connection with their close ones is even more important to them and it is less about social sharing/exposure than it was for Gen Y; tapping into this closed, personal sphere adds an additional layer of difficulty to how to engage with them
- Ethnographic research with very young ones has become more relevant, since they are much more exposed to content; tracking devices and cameras (even Go-Pro ones) tap into that personal experience
- Emotions are a core part of any youngling’s existence and, in a phase when self-understanding is low, facial coding techniques allow to record emotional responses to different content and gather more insights
- Cool apps and online games are also very popular with this generation – these are powerful platforms, not only for brands, but also for consumer research
- Humor and relevance (to them) are the key drivers for an engaging research experience among these youngsters – and our methods need to take this along
- Given this basic requirement of what’s in it for me, tangled with their scrutinous attitude towards brands, a collaborative, open and empowering research method is a must; online communities are a good example
- Additional to the point above, to truly immerse into their world, research needs to become a more iterative process that truly takes their opinion along throughout a longer period of time
Hot tweetaway: #GenZ wants collaborative, open and empowering #mrx tools insit.es/1w1d37F by @DTeixeira via @CoolBrands #kids
Joeri Van den Bergh (author of How Cool Brands Stay Hot & Gen Y expert at InSites Consulting) brought the 5 key trends about today’s youth, which, not incidentally, are a very good summary of the conference’s core insights.
Hot tweetaway: 5 key consumer trends about today’s #youth insit.es/1w1d37F by @Joeri_InSites via @CoolBrands #genz
Growing up in the last few years, Gen Z brings a paradigm change to our world. More than previous generations, they…
- Desire a better world
- Pursue happiness
- Live the digital world intensively
- Are ready for fun and neo-nonsense
- Search of their independence.
The other cases presented in this conference – from Nickelodeon children’s responses to advertising, BBC’s media trends on kids and teens, to Youthsight’s connecting and engaging with young consumers’ research and IKEA’s play & development case – all of them confirmed these new challenges, from different angles. They demonstrate that brands and market research agencies will have to adapt and get closer to this generation. ASAP.