Boomers, millennials, Generation X, Generation Z.
Each generation has its unique view of the world, depending on their own social and cultural experiences and geographical location.
The youngest of the group — Gen Z, born between 1996 and 2015 — is under the marketing research microscope now. Generational expert Jason Dorsey, president of the Center for Generational Kinetics (CGK), offered insight into Gen Z that the firm gleaned from its ongoing Gen Z research. In July 2020, CGK conducted its fifth survey of Gen Z, talking with participants ranging in age from 13 to 24. He presented the information during a recent Midwest Dairy webinar.
Dorsey offered two important points about Gen Z: One, they are greatly influenced by their parents — Gen Xers (born from 1965 to 1976) and older millennials (born 1977 to 1995). And two, that Gen Z came of age during the Great Recession. The latter fact has really made an impact.
“Gen Z was old enough to see who struggled. They heard it at dining room table,” Dorsey said, “so they are more practical with their money. Their savings rate is through the roof. And they want a good deal.” Not too surprising is that Gen Z is the fastest-growing generation in the work force.
Gen Z also is significantly more diverse than previous generations, Dorsey noted, and they do not remember a time before smartphones.
“They have always gone through a mobile device for information,” he said. “If you go to a larger screen [to connect or share information], you’ve lost them.”
Each generation has its “defining moment,” and for Gen Z, it is the pandemic.
“Gen Z crashed during the worst of this,” Dorsey said. They lost out in school and college, and had the more negative impact of any generation in the workforce.
With those factors in mind, Dorsey offered the dairy industry nine insights to effectively engage with Gen Z and grow dairy demand:
1. Gen Z must see how dairy fits into their individual lifestyle. A Gen Z person wants to be recognized as a unique individual. Products must fit their individual lifestyles and priorities.
2. Social media influencers must be real. They can drive tremendous interest with Gen Z, especially if they are authentic, actual consumers and advocates. Gen Z can tell when someone is fake. Also, micro-influencers — not big names — are highly effective for messaging, especially on TikTok.
3. Vulnerability sells. “Everyone talks about authenticity but what is it?” Dorsey asked. “To Gen Z, it’s defined as vulnerability. They also believe they are joining, versus buying, a brand. They want to see people like themselves using product.”
4. Diversity of all kinds is essential. Gen Z cares deeply about inclusivity and diversity all the way through the food chain. That fact was highlighted in CGK’s recent survey, where researchers noted that the social justice protests of 2020 could be another generation-defining moment for them, in addition to COVID-19.
5. Visuals matter to this group. Gen Z is extremely visual. They prefer obtain information in this order: Video, images and then in bullet points. Their most trusted learning resource? YouTube. In the CGK survey, Gen Z ranked YouTube ads as the second most common way they learned about new brands, companies and products in seven out of eight consumer categories.
6. Gen Z wants amplified local connections. Gen Z is hyper-local, from production to retail.
7. Parental impact is huge. Parents are a key link in the decision-making process for Gen Z. Gen X, parents of Gen Z, are highly skeptical. Their attitude is “actions speak louder than words.” So, understandably, Gen Z is skeptical.
8. Members of Gen Z are money-savers. Gen Z is very practical with money, Dorsey said. Before spending money, they need to know they are getting a good deal. They also have savings accounts.
9. Purpose or mission matters. Gen Z cares more about the purpose or mission of a company or organization, rather than growth. CGK’s survey notes that Gen Z feels significantly more respect for companies that support a wide variety of social causes compared to millennials. Gen Z most respects companies that support ending poverty and homelessness (51%), racial equality (51%), stopping human trafficking (50%) and ending hunger (50%). Bottom line: Show the nonfinancial impact of your industry on families, communities and the world.