The Subtle Differences Between Gen Y and Gen Z

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This article, written by Perry Simpson, was originally featured on Direct Marketing News

Millennials are widely considered the most powerful generation of consumers since the Baby Boomers, and for good reason. We’ve matured in lockstep with the Internet, and catalyzed the current global coalescence around the Web. We’ve presided over some of the most disruptive and destructive changes in nearly every industry, and have demonstrated a clear shift in cultural, political, and social paradigms. We’re the generation that popularized social media, and mandated Apple and Google. Yet, for all of that, millennials– that is, Generation Y– could very well prove to be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Despite its inability to purchase alcohol, or even apply for credit cards, Generation Z is already highly influential in household buying decisions. Almost all Gen Z parents (93%) say their children have influence on their family’s spending and household purchases, according to digital agency Deep Focus’ 2015 Cassandra Report on Gen Z. This influence has Gen Z paying more attention to careers, money, and success at earlier ages than their Gen Y counterparts, according to the study.

Money, specifically, is a powerful early motivator for Gen Z, with 60% claiming that having a lot of money is a sign of success. Just 44% of millennials shared this sentiment at the same age, according to the study. Additionally, 39% of Gen Z prefer to save their money, and 66% aspire to more traditional ideas of ownership such as owning cars and homes. Sixty-two percent of Gen Z want to own their own company instead of working for established brands, with 89% claiming that their free time already goes to cultivating productive skills and interests conducive to entrepreneurship or self-improvement; 51% are dabbling in graphic design, and 50% exploring video editing and production, as well as building apps.

When it comes to consuming marketing, 67% of Gen Z prefers narratives and storytelling. They’re nearly twice as likely to prefer advertising that doesn’t feature celebrities, according to the study. This preference for relatability seems to be a major driver in Gen Z’s desire consume marketing through YouTube, with 40% claiming that they prefer to engage with brands on the popular video platform. Gen Z is 85% more likely to visit YouTube than any other social media site.

Genera(tional)lly speaking, Gen Z and marketers’ current focus, Gen Y, couldn’t be more different. Beyond these early differentiators, Gen Z will be the first generation of consumers to grow up fully immersed in digital culture. Marketers haven’t seen anything yet.

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