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Move Over Millennials, It's Time for Gen Z

ENCINO, Calif. — Millennials may have been the darling of the consumer groups over the past few years, but Generation Z is quickly gaining on them.

According to market researcher Instantly Inc., Generation Z is roughly defined as those born between 1995 and 2012. The oldest of the group are just entering their 20s, while the youngest are barely out of diapers. 

Gen Z is going to be one of the most remarkable generations in human history, if only for the fact that the incredible changes in technology over the past 20 years are, to them, wholly unremarkable, Alan Mavretish, senior director of research solutions, wrote on Instantly's blog. "The oldest of the group were only 12 when the iPhone came out and most have no memory of not being able to carry all the world's collective information in their pockets," he pointed out. 

Mavretish offered a few key points on Generation Z: 

  • It is an Enormous Generation: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 23 percent of Americans are under the age of 18. If you go up to age 20, nearly one out of every four people is a member of Generation Z.
  • Shifting Social Media: Facebook use has been declining with Generation Z. Instagram has surpassed it in popularity. Even where Facebook is used by Generation Z (and they do use it, just not as much), it is predominantly mobile. ​
  • A Completely Mobile Generation: This demographic has been around smartphones for, functionally, their entire lives. They are used to information being instantaneous and entertainment being packed in short bursts for them to search, enjoy and share. 

But what does all this mean to a brand? According to Mavretish, brands have to tailor messages to a generation that has grown up with the Internet and knows all its signifiers. They need cross-platform campaigns that can follow them across media and are interactive. 

Most importantly, though, members of Generation Z are still human. "There is inordinate worry about this generation coming from both directions. There is the idea that text speak and hashtags will render them a quasi-literate, sublingual generation," he wrote. "Then, there is the notion that access to all information in the world, warped through the weirdness of the Internet, will make them more robotic and less human. Both of these ideas are overbroad and hysterical."

The main difference with Gen Z is that they have a chance to really shape the Information Age, as it is part of their lives. 

"This is a smart and savvy generation. They want content to be funny or informational, and not pandering," Mavretish said. "They'll laugh at a 'YOLO — Drink Buzz Cola!' campaign. If market researchers communicate to them as people who know what they want, they'll be able to reach them where they exist: everywhere at the same time."

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