I’ve never been a fan of painting all people of a certain age the same way. Or as I once put it, “generalizing about generations is generally a bad idea.” But, being that I don’t have kids and don’t spend much time around them, I was curious to see what I could glean from Jeff Fromm and Angie Read’s new book, “Marketing to Gen Z: The Rules for Reaching This Vast And Very Different Generation of Influencers.”
Fromm and Read define Gen Z as having been born from 1996-2010. So some are on the crux of graduating college while others are gearing up for middle school. They even get a new nickname in the book, “Pivotals.” Why? “They are pivoting away from common Millennial behaviors and attitudes and veering toward a socially conscious and diverse era reminiscent of the no-nonsense consumers of yesteryear.” The authors don’t exactly explain what yesteryear these Pivotals are a throwback to.
Marketing to Gen Z then goes through much of what’s pretty well known – that this generation is heavily immersed in social media and mobile devices; that they have their own way to communicate and express themselves; that they place an emphasis on authenticity and being “real” while expecting the same from the brands they interact with. Yet when the authors cite brands that resonate with Pivotals, there really aren’t any surprises: Nike, Apple, Target, Lululemon, Starbucks, and Netflix all rate quite well. Oh, and the authors assert that while they do shop on their phones, “Pivotals still love to hit the mall.” That would come a shock to the authors of hundreds of “the mall is dying” blog posts I’ve seen lately.
Which brings me back to my opening point. Trying to define a generation by defining its supposed common habits and attitudes will always be unsatisfying. And the key for anyone in marketing to understand a mercurial audience like Gen Z is to get out and talk to them, watch what they do, and how they do it.
And not just the kids in major metropolitan cities, either. Much is made of the “diversity” in generations that doesn’t get a deep dive in marketing blogs or books. I think it’s been very instrumental to watch the kids from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — media savvy, intelligent, outspoken, hellbent on societal change — but ultimately not speaking monolithically for everyone in their generation.
Marketing to Gen Z will give you a decent framework for learning about the forces that are shaping the next rising generation of consumers. But generations change and evolve with time and current events, and this one inevitably will too. Will this book hold up in a few years? Well, that’s the Pivotal question, I guess.
Special thanks to Tess Woods PR for providing me with a review copy.