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Let’s get personal with NextGen

Next up in our NextGen (Gen Y & Z) DNA characteristics series is the third DNA aspect: ‘I am making it’, in other words: personalization. One of the questions we asked in our global cross-generational study to four different generations was “What brand characteristics do you find most important?”. A long list of thirty-two randomized brand items was shown, including being socially engaged and hyper-personalization.

Hyper-personalisation & trendiness are NxtGen brand items

As a result, we concluded that personalization is very important for Gen Z. Social engagement of brands is less important to them than to Millennials. For the latter, giving something back to society is equally important as customization. Thinking back to Gen X, my generation, marketing and branding were all about prestige and status, showing you made it, having a good career, earning money and showing off. We were the yuppie generation and wanted to buy our coolness with global, strong prestige image brands. For Millennials, the focus switched to connecting with friends, the power of the collective, the “together-we-can-make-it” feeling. So think of we-selfies and flash-mobs at wedding parties. They want brands that are open to collaborate with them, and co-creation campaigns certainly catered to their need for involvement.

And then there is Gen Z, the youngest generation. They are the children of Gen X and seem to have copied the more individual thinking of their parents, especially when compared to Baby Boomers and Gen Y’s collective thinking. To them, it’s all about leaving your own mark in society, having an individual impact on society, which means that personal skills become more important. They highly value having their own identity and standing out from the crowd. This is something Nike is using in the Nike Academy: they look for young soccer players who want to improve their skills by competing with other young soccer players, and in the end be able to play a match and train together with the big stars, the celebrities that Nike is sponsoring. Over 50 alumni of the Academy are currently working in Europe as Premier League pros.

Nike Academy

Hot tweetawayHot tweetaway: How #GenZ wants to leave their own mark in society insit.es/2s8G1Cp by @Joeri_InSites via @CoolBrands #nextgen #branding #marketing


Gen Z-ers are content creators. They are drawn to opportunities that allow them to actively participate and express themselves. They want to show their creativity and skills. They want to make and create it themselves.

We know the we-conomy, or share-conomy, as typically a shortcut strategy from Millennials, who value access and experiences over ownership. The youngest (Gen Z), however, evolve towards the me-conomy. Individualizing their products is much more important to them. In the past, Lay’s has done co-creation campaigns that were perfect to connect with Gen Y: co-create a new flavor and then produce it for the entire market. But PepsiCo also understood that teens of today want something personal. In a Lay’s summer promotion, you could create your own crisp packaging and the first 10,000 that made a nice design received a box with their own personalized bags of crisps. The me-conomy is clearly rising with Mondelez earning over US$2.6 billion with direct-to-consumer sales of personalized Oreo Cookies.

Hot tweetawayHot tweetaway: #GenZ wants to make it & create it themselves #meconomy insit.es/2s8G1Cp by @Joeri_InSites via @CoolBrands #nextgen #branding

Personalized oreo cookies wrapping

It’s all about (im)perfection

Minecraft sold over 121 million copies and is currently the second-best video game of all-time, after Tetris. The game is all about enabling players to create their own universe, by constructing houses, nature, even animals. Minecraft was sold in September 2014 to Microsoft for US$2.5 billion, even though the graphics look really poor, as if they were made in the 1980s. The game was developed in just one week by Millennial Markus Personn. His idea was to quickly earn a bit of money before developing a ‘real’ game. Minecraft immediately was a hit with Gen Z and the example shows us that, to the youngest generation, imperfection is the new perfection. If it looks perfect, it’s dull and boring. So imperfections are good, as they are human and more interesting and authentic than their perfect counterparts.

Hot tweetawayHot tweetaway: For #nextgen imperfection is the new perfection #perfectlyimperfect insit.es/2s8G1Cp by @Joeri_InSites via @CoolBrands #genz #marketing

If you look at the celebrities who are connecting the best with the young, there is Jennifer Lawrence, who often shows herself to be less than perfect at public events. Another example is Lena Dunham who, in her autobiography, is talking very openly about her medical problems and her weird past sex life, but is also very successful. Her own HBO series, Girls, is all about the imperfections of people and relationships. Dunham is definitely one of the spokespersons of the young generation.

Jennifer Lawrence

Perhaps many of the products we are selling to NextGens are too perfect. This craft trend is something several food producers have already understood. Kraft for instance has spent 2 years in an R&D lab to be able to produce carving-board-sliced turkey breast, so that it would look like you sliced it yourself at home. It doesn’t look like it was manufactured in a big company. Pernod Ricard (parent company of Absolut Vodka) has responded to the need for authentic crafted experiences by introducing Our/Vodka. The brand has built small distilleries in 6 cities in the US and 3 in Europe, together with local entrepreneurs. The owners (who earn a substantial portion of the profits) could start with Pernod Ricard’s global recipe and distilling knowledge, but can add their own specific herbs and local flavours.


Nike is using these types of imperfections in its “Better For it” campaign. The video is full of “I can’t”, which is quite surprising for the brand behind “Just do it“, and which has always been stressing the competence of world star athletes. Nike adapted its tone-of-voice in this much more human and imperfect approach to working out.

Gen Z embraces a failosophy: failing is cool. We saw the rise of events like F*ck-up nights and Fail conferences, where young entrepreneurs talk about the mistakes they made, the way they f*cked up their own business and what they learned from it all. Failure is an option for the youngest. Gen X, on the contrary, would never have talked about their failures, only about the good things they have done. Failing is like the new achievement, because the youngest generation feels “It is better to be absolutely ridiculous than to be absolutely boring”.

Hot tweetawayHot tweetaway: #GenZ embraces a #failosophy: failing is cool insit.es/2s8G1Cp by @Joeri_InSites via @CoolBrands #nextgen #branding #marketing

This series of 4 articles highlights 4 key DNA aspects of what is called NextGen – a combination of Millennials or Gen Y (currently the young adult generation of 21-36-year-olds) and their successors, Generation Z (aged 6-20 today). To get to this NextGen DNA, InSites Consulting interviewed 10,000 people from 4 different generations: Gen Z, Gen Y, Generation X (aged 37 to 52, the parents of Gen Z) and the Baby Boomers (aged 53 to 70, the parents of Millennials) in 8 different countries across Europe but also in the US and in Australia. The interviews allowed us to identify significant and relevant differences between these generations and to find out more about this next generation of consumers: Gen Y and Gen Z. Over the past months we shared the first DNA characteristics: The Snappy Generation – NextGen is dreaming of a better world.

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