What do you make of a generation whose attention span is no longer than the time it takes to ‘swipe’ or ‘scroll’ something? Everywhere you turn, the street, office, metro, café, shopping complex or airport, you see them, and everyone else, immersed into a screen, scrolling, flicking their thumbs, and yes, maybe smiling to their crotch (that’s where the screen is mostly). And mind you, even when in pairs or groups.
Fear of Missing Out or as they say FOMO, is for real. If it wasn’t real, the sight of conversations, real or not so real, laughter, high fives and jibes would not be as rare as it is these days. Life for this generation or as we know them, Gen Z, revolves around the ‘Game of Screens’. And I must tell you the same is the case, albeit a little more deep-rooted, with generation ‘Alpha’ (those born between 2011-2025).
Take their phone or screen away from them for just a few hours, and you will hear the most evolved statement — “I am so bored”, “There’s nothing exciting to do” or “I am missing out on important things”. Satiation is in being connected always, all the time. And Gen Alpha just throws tantrums. And that’s why another fancy term has come up — Digital Detox.
On the other extreme, is a generation, few decades older, who loves to take a pause. Take a walk (not to achieve the Fitbit target), read a paper book (not the Kindle) and you would find them laughing out loud (not LOL) in groups or sitting on a bench engrossed in an animated conversation (not on WhatsApp) or just embracing the moment (not for Insta Pics or FB Status) and who eat food (not click to upload). Probably a blessing in disguise that it’s too late for them to get addicted to the screens that are smart (pun intended).
Well, it isn’t fair to judge Gen Z, or for that matter Gen Alpha, without trying to understand why they behave the way they behave. Who gave them the option to choose ‘shuffle’, ‘next’, ‘skip’, ‘on demand / OTT’, ‘swipe’, ‘touch’? Who tempted them ‘unlimited download’ and xyz mbps speeds’. The answer is ‘We’ — the businesses, the tech and marketing. We’re the ones relentlessly trying to get them to move from one to the other to the next.
Choices abound and indecision grows. This means that they need to have the ability to process all that is available and then decide what’s best for them.
It’s a double-edged sword, I would say. Right?
Another factor in making Gen Z and Gen Alpha dependent on their screens is the speed and the quantum of data made available. What do we have – Speedy Z? Buffering is an alien concept for this generation. It doesn’t exist anymore.
Unsurprisingly, a screen is the best entertainer, no matter what your interests are. I ran a simple search on Google with the following:
How Gen Z
What Gen Z
Why Gen Z
Why old Gen
And here’s what popped up:
If you noticed, auto suggestions for ‘how Gen Z’ and ‘what Gen Z’ hint at the curiosity to know who these guys are and what they want. More so, from the marketing perspective, brands are looking for ways and means to get the attention of this important segment and perhaps that’s why queries such as, ‘What Gen Z wants?’, ‘How to market to Gen Z?’, ‘How to communicate with Gen Z?’ and ‘What Gen Z wants from brands?’ appear.
Here are my two cents:
1. It’s not a secret that you will need to get their attention. It is difficult, with the amount of information being bombarded at them, but possible.
2. They are the first, truly digitally native generation that doesn’t know a world without the internet and social media. So, the platforms they frequent should be the obvious choice to catch their ‘limited attention’.
3. Within the formats available, video as a content format is all the rage. Television doesn’t excite them. YouTube does and so does Netflix and social media platforms. And yes, TikTok looks exciting too.
4. It's all about timing. Be there when it counts. Google calls it understanding the key micro moments in a consumer’s journey.
5. Messenger? Gen Z relates to real people — in real life and online. So, influencers do a good job.
But beyond the 5 pointer, here is something that we must practice as marketers, strategists and business leaders:
Teach them to pause.
Reach out to them with pondering thoughts where they can express and converse, create desire the right way.
Well, you can’t avoid the screens — but with the above three pointers, you can inculcate new habits.
Having a purpose will always help and will connect. Aligning to a cause works as well. They are aware of environmental, political, and socio-economic problems and prefer brands that are eco-friendly and socially responsible.
Be truthful. Keeping a marketing strategy that’s open and honest is a good thing.
With this, I come to ask you — What are you doing? What would you be doing? How would you want marketers to act? What’s your learning of this generation?
Any interesting takeaways?
#marketing #GenZ #learning #innovation #millennials #generationZ #digitalmarketing
(The author is chief marketing officer – APAC and Middle East, Monster.com.)