Gen Z: It’s Too Damned Early to Start Stereotyping

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One thing that I’ve learned as I work with our Millennial Think Tank is that, more often than not, sweeping generalizations about 80 million people fall flat. The reality is that Boomers, Gen Xers and even Millennials have a lot in common that is never spoken about. What is most true is that NO generation is a monolith… and some of the lengths we go to to label and quantify behaviors is actually laughable. So, think about this:

  • Gen Z members were born from around the year 2000 to the present day.
  • You should be suspect of blog post titles with sweeping generalizations
  • Cross platform marketing works on EVERYBODY

Now, for my rant:

In our Think Tank I get to hear many different viewpoints, and although many Millennials share  common challenges, it is not true that they all ‘come at’ these problems with the same mentality.

And, the more I learn from our Thinkers, the more I see a commonality in the Human Experience.  Boomers were once ardently anti-establishment (well, some of them were), and not concerned with material possessions.  They set out to change the world, and they certainly did. There are so many thing said about Millennials that were once said about them.

Just as I begin to settle into this wisdom, a string of Gen Z focused articles begins to litter my Facebook feed. The one that made my head almost explode was this gem from Business Insider. I’m not going to bother to pick apart every point made by the author, but I’ll just leave this here:

Every single one of these generalizations was made about Gen Y as well.

This recent post, from Mashable, really stuck in my craw with the following:

1. While millennials — a.k.a. Generation Y — grew up alongside the World Wide Web, Gen Z is growing up with social media.

Uhhh…. Millennials are currently around 18 – 33, which means a HUGE chunk of their ‘growing up’ was indeed with and on social media. Furthermore, Gen Xers, who share many behaviors regarding technology with their younger counterparts, spend almost as much time on social.

2. Gen Z shares the entrepreneurial spirit of millennial innovators: About 72% of current high-schoolers want to own their own businesses, and 76% hope they can turn their hobbies into full-time jobs.

My one response to this is: do you remember what you thought you wanted to do when you were in high school? I think my hobby back then was either singing or crocheting, and, given the chance I’m sure I would have chosen one of them as a profession. The reality is that Millennials are more entrepreneurial than any generation before them out of necessity. This is the toughest job market in generations, and all 3 generations are out there competing for the scarce jobs that are available. One reason this very publication you are reading was founded because Daniel Hebert did not want his resume to sit for months and get stale while he scoured the market for a job.

I don’t mean to  single out Sylan Lane, the author, for criticism. Generational marketing is a big deal, I get it. One reason we started our Think Tank is because I was overwhelmed and suspect of all of the generalizations abut Gen Y. I am even more so now. So I’ll tear into a few more about Gen Z from this Forbes post:

1. Called the “holy grail for brands” by Marketing Magazine, these consumers are a highly coveted yet hard-to-reach market segment.

I have one question: WHY would ONE generation be ‘the holy grail?’  Is any brand silly enough to ignore 80 million Millennials, 51 million Gen Xers, and 79 million Boomers, the later with a TON of spending power still? Yes, I understand that brands need to pay attention to the general habits of different generations, but to name one the holy grail? It just smacks of marketing scare tactics.

2.  Make cross-platform campaigns…

OK, smart advice for any brand for time immemorial, right? Why is this Gen Z advice?  And of course, the ending of this segment is:

As a result, Beats by Dr. Dre increased Facebook likes by 1.7 million, Instagram followers by 76 percent, and YouTube subscribers by 57 percent.

And there we go – a marketer measuring success by the number of gained likes, despite the fact that on Facebook for one, that new like will probably never see a post by you, or even return to your page. Measuring success by gaining a sheer number of followers is certainly not something we advocate at ArCompany, because what our clients, and everyone’s clients want, is to  GROW SALES. And, unless you can measure for me that all of those likes convert to something that helps my brand, I don’t care.

And lastly,

3. Don’t underestimate Generation Z.

OK, so here’s MY advice: Don’t underestimate ANY generation. Of course some brands need to skew more to certain demographics, I get it. But be very careful about broad stereotypes and sweeping generalizations.

The Truth About Generational Generalizations

Think about this: When Boomers young, there were plenty of them who were not pot smoking flower children. Many of them actually did what the generation before them did, which is go out, get a job, and raise a family without ever going to one Bob Dylan concert.

We started the Millennial Think Tank out of sheer frustration with the absurd generalizations we grew tired of. Our very first on air hangout tackled those very stereotypes, and it’s worth a listen. What we’ve learned over the months is what got me railing about this click baiting Gen Z headlines; that there are widely divergent views and habits in every generation. Our hangout on Globalization and Connectedness was so heated that we scheduled a Round 2 on the Responsibility of Social Media Networks for September 4th.

In fact, we learned so much that we’re about to launch a Boomer Think Tank and a Gen X in the next month; we realize that hearing from a cross section of a generation teaches us more than all of the pundit blog post we can read. We also realize that we are all human and there are far more commonalities across the generations than there are differences.

You know what we’re not launching? A Gen Z Think Tank. You know why? Because that generation was born from the 2000′s to the present day. Sure, I may be able to put a few 16 year olds in the Think Tank, but I refuse to jump on the generalizing bandwagon when a huge swath of its members are still in diapers and unable to articulate clearly.

Here’s the thing: I know this post is snark laden, but it’s also a really important point to make brands think past the sensationalized headlines and about common sense marketing. No generation is a monolith. Cross marketing works on all ages. And growing your social media likes doesn’t mean diddly without the dreaded ROI. Targeting the demographic that loves your brand? Smart. Generalizing about a generation while a huge percentage of it isn’t even in school yet? Not so.

This post originally ran on SteamFeed.

Photo credit: rafael-castillo via photopin cc.

VP of Content & Strategy at ArCompany. She has an extensive background in Sales, and focuses on generational marketing and content. With Hessie Jones she founded ArCompany’s Millnnnial, GenX and Boomer Think Tanks and writes and speaks on those topics from an insights/strategy perspective.

0 thoughts on “Gen Z: It’s Too Damned Early to Start Stereotyping

  1. PatWest says:

    I will post “What Millennials really, Really, REALLY Want on LinkedIn soon, and shortly afterwards, on rethinkingsurvival.com. You might want to take a peek. You might also like An Inner GPS App for Millennials.
    : )   All best.

  2. AmyMccTobin says:

    samfiorella hey Sam! We need to catch up.

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