What you need to know about Gen Z

Ditch gender-specific products and emphasize diversity when marketing to this age group

Even though they were born just a few years later than their Millennial predecessors, the members of Generation Z are a distinctive bunch. Writing for Fast Company, Elizabeth Segran breaks down what makes Gen Z different.  

They're ambitious

The desire to earn and save money is deeply ingrained in Gen Z, so it's unsurprising that they're so concerned with their careers. Sixty-six percent of Gen Z says they are more worried about college debt than anything else, while 75% believe college isn't the only way to get a solid education.

"Millennials are the most collaborative generation, launching applications like Facebook and sharing everything with everybody," says 17-year-old Jonah Stillman, who co-wrote the book "GenZ@Work" with his father. "But Gen Z is completely different: They are a very independent and competitive generation, having been taught by our parents that there are definitely winners and losers at life."

They're open-minded

Different races, genders, sexualities, and body types are no big deal to Gen Z. In fact, they respond more positively to marketing efforts that celebrate diversity.

American Eagle Outfitters found this to be true when conducting in-depth market research of teens and preteens.

"They seem to be a lot nicer than other generations," says CMO Kyle Andrew.  "They are not judgmental, they don't put people in boxes, and they don't seem to care as much about what you do, who you love, or what you look like."

This generation is also far less concerned with gender norms. For example, Skullcandy found that Gen Z was much less receptive to its line of "feminine" headphones than Millennials.

"Generation Z is much more gender-neutral when it comes to everything—clothing, style, conversation, bathroom choice," says chief commercial officer Sam Paschel.  

Scale your advising support for tomorrow's students

They're wary of corporate influence

Young people born between 1996 and 2011 grew up during the recession and watched the Occupy Wall Street Movement unfold. Gen Z youth are less trusting of big corporations, choosing instead to align with individuals who share their values.

"Compared to any generation that has come before, they are less trusting of brands," says Emerson Spartz, CEO of digital media company Dose. "Big brands are the establishment and having a recognizable animal on the top right-hand corner of your shirt signals that you are part of the establishment."

They're financially savvy

Having lived through the rockiest part of the Great Recession, Gen Z has a mature understanding of their personal finances. A survey by Lincoln Financial Group of 400 Gen Z teens found that 60% have savings accounts and 71% are committed to saving for the future. Getting a job, finishing college, and protecting their savings are their biggest priorities, above spending time with friends and family, working out, or traveling.

"When I think about the 'greatest generation' having gone through the Depression and how they taught their children, the boomers, to save, that's what this generation of parents is teaching Generation Z," says Jamie Ohl, president of retirement plan services at Lincoln Financial.

Gen Z has also never been without technology to help them make important financial decisions. This age group does sufficient research before purchasing products and to ensure they're getting the best deal (Segran, Fast Company, 9/8).

Remind students to complete financial aid forms—and all the other little things they need to do

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Around the industry: Naval Academy to honor computer science pioneer Grace Hopper

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