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Gen Z: the conservative, ‘ethical’ generation

The global financial crisis has led Generation Z to take a more conservative attitude towards life and brands, marketers suggested at Mumbrella 360 yesterday.

Teenagers born between 1992 and 2005 are also the ‘ethical generation’, and expect brands to take behave accordingly, a session curated by Launch Group proposed.

Virgin Mobile’s marketing director David Scribner said: “Some [Gen Zers] have been in households where their dad’s come home on ‘extended leave’,” he said. “They may even have moved from a private school because their [parents] didn’t have the money for the fees. That’s very impactful in terms their drive to security.”

As a result of the economic climate, this generation’s horizons have lowered in some respects such as travel, noted Jeff Brookes, MD at Sulake Australia, parent company of social gaming firm Habbo Hotel. “Gen Z know how hard it is to save up for a house. They [know they] will need to get into the workforce early to save up for a house, and there’s just no time to start spending a couple of years frittering overseas.”

Rupert Noffs, co-founder and creative director of Gideon Shoes, said that ethics, sustainability and pragmatism were important for Gen Z. “Everyone’s sick of these big companies polluting and mass producing,” he said.

Brookes added: “They’re growing up in a more austere environment and also I think this is the first group to fully realise that it’s up to them to save the world, because the world is in such a bad place at the moment. They keep on seeing other generations ruin things and fob things off and they know they’re going to have to do something or it’s not going to get better.”

When marketing to Gen Z, Brookes said that “authenticity” was key. “It’s not a quick make-over that brand or company can do – you can’t just do a new TVC or ad campaign and have Gen Z think differently of you.”

“You have to live and breathe the values of Gen Z and have that all reflected in your marketing mix, your corporate philosophy and your communications mix and that’s something that’s going to take a long while to do, so you need to start thinking about this generation now.”

The discussion followed research on Gen Z launched at Mumbrella360 by Habbo Hotel. The key findings were:

  • Don’t diss traditional media – More than 41% prefer TV as their main source of news. 22% said that they prefer to get their news from online newspapers or magazines, compared to 16% in 2009. 55% say print newspapers will still exist in the next 5 years.
  • Tuning out?  No chance. Being in touch with news and current affairs is important to Generation Z with 60% reading the news to stay up to date.
  • Multi platform – Gen Z love to multi-task. When asked whether they would prefer to watch TV or surf the net, 10% said they surf the net on TV or watch TV on the internet. This is up from 4% in 2009.
  • Half say online is their favourite type of media compared to just 37% in 2009. Top pastimes were playing games (31%), chatting (27%) social networking (22%).
  • Make me laugh – Comedy is important to Gen Z as well over a third (37%) identified comedies and sitcoms as the most popular programs to watch on television. Humour driven advertising has although fallen with over a third (37%) claiming to like advertising which makes them laugh, compared to 46% in 2009.
  • Mobile technology and internet access a necessity – 84% of teens say they’ve accessed the internet via their mobiles; 25% say they do all the time and over a third (35%) claim to do so occasionally.
  • Phone apps – The most popular internet application on the phone is social networking – with 61% of Generation Z using the internet on their phones for social networking.
  • Advertising savvy – Nearly half (49%) say they like advertising when its relevant, not excessive and entertaining) and 15% said they love advertising. 49% also said they believe it’s successful at getting them to buy products. 26% said they don’t like advertising but understand its role. 10% said they hate advertising.
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