💡The Big Idea
Gen Z is the first generation to bypass traditional cultural gatekeepers. They are accustomed to defining their own tastes, trends, and values. That has major implications for the way this generation shops and spends, even as the coronavirus pandemic shifts the stakes.Here’s the TLDR on our latest member-exclusive field guide on Gen Z.
1️⃣ Gen Z is distinct from previous generations of teens because they are the primary creators of the content that they consume.
2️⃣ Companies hoping to appeal to this demographic can’t hope to influence them; instead they have to follow their lead.
3️⃣ Gen Z’s deep concern with the environment, sustainability, and gender fluidity is already having a big impact on businesses.
4️⃣ The coronavirus pandemic is a watershed moment in their lives, and may empower this generation to demand even more of companies.
5️⃣ Social media’s ability to spread trends around the world means that Gen Z consumers have a lot more in common than any previous generation.
📝 The Details
Not so long ago, magazines, advertisers, and other media had a big role to play in shaping youth culture. But today, thanks to YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and other social-media platforms, young people spend the bulk of their time with content created by their peers. That has big implications for the future of Gen Z’s consumer habits.
Teens may not be running for office or heading up Fortune 500 companies just yet. But social media has enabled them to exert an unprecedented amount of influence over one another—and, as a consequence, over companies, too. They’re using that influence to reshape the consumer landscape of the future, with attitudes toward the environment and gender identity that set them apart from their older peers. And companies are responding to their demands.
Greta Thunberg is no aberration. The environment is the number-one social or political concern for today’s young people. And they’re overwhelmingly willing to vote with their dollars to bring about more sustainable business practices. At the same time, this generation prizes individuality and inclusivity. Young entrepreneurs are pushing for change accordingly in their industries, offering products like gender-free makeup and upcycled gender-fluid clothing that’s far more radical than many big brands’ hoodies-and-jeans interpretation of gender-neutrality.
Each generation is shaped by the national and international events that take place during their formative years, when their identities and worldviews are still in flux. Gen Z’s political attitudes, trust in institutions, and their approach to spending will all be shaped by their experience of the coronavirus.
There’s no doubt that conscious consumerism is an incomplete response to structural problems like climate change. But right now, Gen Z’s consumer sway is the biggest political tool that it has at its disposal. And with teens watching each other constantly on social media, telling each other what’s cool and what’s not with little regard for what traditional power brokers think, companies may soon have no choice but to do their bidding.