The world has just moved from Gen X to Gen Y… and now marketers are bracing themselves for Gen Z or GenZilla!
Much has been said about the quirks of Gen Y and the challenges this group presents, especially to employers. But even as employers are still grappling with the best approach to engage this group, marketers should already start looking at the generation after them – the Gen Z.
Media communications agency OMD Malaysia, in partnership with Media Prima Group and market research agency Epinion, earlier this month unveiled a landmark study into the understanding of Gen Z’s behaviour, attitudes and media habits. The survey, conducted among 325 online respondents aged 13-21 in May, takes a look at Gen Z in Malaysia. This study is the second part of the Omicom Media Group’s “Tomorrow Now!” Thought Leadership series for 2014/2015.
The study nicknamed the Gen Z as GenZilla. Epinion estimates a sizeable population of 9.06 million GenZillas in Malaysia.
Gen Z is the first generation exposed to the World Wide Web since birth. Aside from being distinctly tech-savvy, the typical Gen Z sees no clear line between the digital and physical worlds.
OMD Malaysia Managing Director Margaret Lim said: “It’s vital for us to remember that Gen Z does not distinguish between a digital world and a physical world; they simply blend into one. Whereas Gen X or Y may have looked to physical human interaction and human connection to validate their behaviour, Gen Z looks mainly to their online world. It’s through this world that their behaviour and personalities are defined.”
The study found that Gen Z, on average, spends about RM145, either through earnings or allowance. Given that most have not started working, this implies that the Gen Z is used to getting and spending money.
Not only does Gen Z by themselves represent an economy of approximately RM1.3 billion, they are also found to be a key influence of household purchase decisions – from technology products for the home, TV channels subscribed to, and even the family holiday, noted Thue Quist Thomasen, Epinion head of group sales and marketing.
Among the highlights of this survey include:
- 52% of Gen Z prefers to express their feelings via stickers/emoticons/emojis
- Gen Z uses an average of 3.75 social networks per week
- 91% follow brands on social media
- 49% say they cannot live without a Bachelor’s Degree, and 41% say they cannot live without a Master’s Degree
- 31% say their main source of information is from TV and 37% say their main source of entertainment is from TV.
Based on the research findings of this study, eight key themes have been derived:
- Digitally popular, physically awkward. Findings showed that Gen Z enjoys staying at home with family and simply just being online. They also feel most comfortable talking to their friends via chat apps than face to face.
- Mobile is their life line. Almost all own a mobile phone, including 79% of those aged 13-15. The mobile has become an extension of the person and a gateway to the rest of the world.
- Discerning online. Being so exposed to the social network and seeing their Gen X and Y predecessors fall for false news and rumours, Gen Z is more cynical about information disguised as news on social networks; causing them to be more sceptical of news and information on the internet world.
- Digitally responsible. 89% feel uncomfortable sharing their personal issues online, it is likely they have again learnt from the experiences of their Gen X and Y predecessors to not become the victims of cybercrime.
- Socially conscious. Thanks to the access to information and increasing awareness of social issues, Gen Z is concerned about social issues and wishes to make a difference. The top concerns are “recycling and the environment”, “online privacy” and “freedom of speech”. “Social policing”, i.e. standing up for injustice or support a cause on social media, is common among Gen Z.
- Perpetual childhood syndrome. Gen Z enjoys more time and money spent on them from their Gen X parents. 64% of Gen Z admits that they live better lives than their parents did and, as a result, are close to their parents.
- Smart and in the know. Undoubtedly, Gen Z has been well-equipped with knowledge from the internet and technology. Despite being young, their opinions are trusted by the family when it comes to decision making for household purchases.
- Content followers. Gen Z lists TV as a main source of news and current affairs, as well as main source of entertainment (not internet), but we must remember that they go where the content is.
While there may similarities with Gen X and Gen Y, it is clear that Gen Z is a different breed altogether. The distinction of “new media” is no longer relevant. Marketers must adopt an omni-present approach, simultaneously engaging both traditional and digital media. The study gives a few recommendations on how marketers can effectively communicate with the GenZillas:
- Serve a higher purpose: Brands that are bold and make a stand for a cause are likely to gain additional support.
- Social media management: Have a social management crisis team or PR team in place on social platforms, as this is where Gen Z will call your brand out on mistakes or negative feedback.
- Simple, bite-size messages: With mobile screens as the main platform for receiving messages, bite-size amounts of information and entertainment will be most relevant.
- Don’t oversell but be prepared to satisfy: Gen Z is likely to be knowledgeable about the brand and product even before they make a purchase. They are the ready consumers when they come to your brands, so be always on your toes!
- Messages delivered as stories: Deliver content in a staggered manner to prolong engagement. Information as a story sells.
- Visually rich media: Employ visuals to enhance interaction and engagement. Gen Z adopts primitive language – pictorial communications for a reason.
- Review source of information: Being cynical of what they read on the internet, it’s not just who shares the information that’s critical, but where that piece of information originated, and the context that makes it trustworthy.
- Content creation: Producing desirable and informative content as well as being able to deliver the brand story and message is the ideal way to capture Gen Z’s attention.