Generation Z Gets Serious About Consumption

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Generation Z Gets Serious About Consumption

One of the most powerful tools for marketing products and services is understanding how demographics influence consumer behavior.  Although people like to think of themselves as individuals, with unique tastes and preferences, the reality is that a person’s generation shapes his or her attitudes, aspirations, and spending habits.  For example, generally speaking:

  • Members of the Silent Generation, born from 1928 to 1945, survived the Great Depression, so they tend to be frugal.
  • Baby Boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, grew up during an era of post-war affluence, so they spend their money freely in pursuit of anything that brings them happiness.
  • Generation X, born from 1965 to 1981, grew up in the malaise of the 1970s after the Vietnam War and Watergate, so they tend to be cynical and to avoid nonessential purchases. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that Xers spend less money per household than Boomers or Millennials on apparel and entertainment.
  • Generation Y, also known as the Millennials, born from 1982 to 1999, experienced the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the financial meltdowns in 2000 and 2008, and they largely have avoided expensive financial commitments such as owning cars and buying houses. According to the Department of Labor, two-thirds of them rent their homes, and they own the fewest cars of any previous generation.

Through many years of trial and error, marketers have figured out how to market to each of these four generations successfully.  However, the next generation, known as Generation Z, is already making a big impact on the economy.  According to The New York Times, Gen Z now wields billions in spending power—even though the youngest members are still in diapers.1  And, Gen Z already outnumbers Millennials. 

Yet most companies have yet to develop strategies to appeal to Gen Zers.  In fact, most experts can’t even agree on how to define the parameters of Generation Z.

While some analysts define Gen Z as those born 1996 to 2010, and others use the years 1997 to 2014, the Trends editors prefer to use 2000 to 2017.

The key is to appreciate the factors that have shaped this enormous and rapidly emerging generation, and how those factors will affect how they will respond to advertising messages and what they will buy. 

Unlike the Millennials, who grew up in the relatively peaceful and prosperous decade of the 1990s only to have their sense of security shattered by 9/11 and the dot-com crash, Gen Z has never known a time when the world felt safe from terrorism, and they’ve never experienced an economic environment without slow growth and stagnant wages...

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