Where Millennials Disrupted, Gen Z Will Restore

Posted by: Jeff Fromm

Download the latest Gen Z research now

The New Year is quickly approaching. As we usher in 2017, we will be witnessing significant adjustments not only in our market but also throughout our country. This makes it all the more vital to understand the individuals that will someday be leading the charge for necessary monumental change across the board – Generation Z. Or as we call them: the Pivotal Generation.

For years, marketers have worked with the assumption that Gen Z will follow in the footsteps of the Millennial Generation. The term “Millennials on steroids” was a common phrase used to describe these young adolescents.

The assumption was wrong.

We are in fact seeing the pendulum swing back towards a culture that is more revolved around individual achievement and branded material than the experiential currency that Millennials perpetuate. While our research shows that Gen Z does exhibit many similar behaviors to Millennials regarding tech, digital and social trends, their personal beliefs and value systems are reflective of Gen X and even Baby Boomers – hence the moniker of “Pivotal.

However, this is not to say that these teens are reverting back to all of the same attitudes of generations past or remaining quiet on the issues that matter today; it’s quite the opposite. Pivotals are simply approaching the building of their personal identities and how they promote change in their own way – one that draws its power from the tension between traditional work ethics and values and the non-conformist desire to affect liberal social change.

Balancing traditional ethos with liberal values

Let’s put that into perspective.

According to research from Boston Consulting Group (BCG), values that were strong among Baby Boomers – such as responsibility, determination, work ethic, dependability, financial stability, independence and intellectual growth – reappear just as strongly among the characteristics of teens today. As a result, they are less likely than Millennials were to drink underage, use drugs, smoke, and have unprotected or premarital sex.

But in contrast to this traditionalism, Pivotals are more likely than any generation before them to consider themselves liberal. They take a leftist stance on society’s core issues, including feminism, LGBTQ rights, equality and gun control. They are also more likely to support issues often considered radical, such as gender fluidity and socialism. As anti-establishment was the chosen cause of Boomers and the environment was the chosen cause of Millennials, the human rights cause is definitive of the Pivotal Generation.

Additionally, Pivotals openly discuss these topics and take public stances – more so than even Millennials – proving that nothing is taboo anymore and that transparency and authenticity are more important than ever.

Growing up in the post-digital era

All of these battling characteristics attributed to the Pivotal Generation stem from the fact that they are the first to grow up in an entirely post-digital era. As they’ve aged, they have never been unable to Google a question or ask Siri. They will never understand life without Wi-Fi, smartphones or social media.

For context, consider these facts – keeping in mind that the oldest Pivotals were born in 1996:

  • Dial-up internet was first offered publicly in 1992
  • The first social media site launched in 1997
  • Google launched in 1998
  • First generation iPods were released in 2001
  • Wi-Fi became publicly accessible in the early 2000s
  • Facebook launched in 2004
  • YouTube launched in 2005
  • The first iPhone was released in 2007
  • Facebook overtook MySpace in 2008, with MySpace disappearing in 2011
  • Starbucks became the first business to offer free Wi-Fi in 2010 (the rest of the market followed soon after)

This immediacy of information and its ability to be accessed at any time (and foreseeably for the rest of time) has definitively shaped what Pivotals believe in and how they express themselves. Not to mention the impact of what they have witnessed from digital media globally in the past 10 years: the aftermath of 9/11, an international war on terrorism, the proliferation of cyber bullying and attacks, and huge generational divides regarding gender, racial and sexual orientation equality.

Impacting brands today and those to come 

It is clear that the Pivotal Generation is writing new rules for life as we know it. The influence of these rules will only continue to strengthen as time passes and teens come of age. Socially and technologically empowered, they have arrived on the scene at a crucial, evolving moment in history and will successfully complete the endeavor that Millennials started: changing the world.

Brands willing to play by their rules and support what they stand for will win. Those that don’t will not even receive a blip on their radar. It’s time for organizations across industry verticals to rethink their business models and strategies in order to find success in 2017 and beyond.

To learn more about the Pivotal Generation and their impact on the market, download our latest research report Getting to Know Gen Z: How The Pivotal Generation is Different From Millennials.

Download the latest Gen Z research now

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!

About Jeff Fromm

Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at...See Jeff's full bio.