4 Rules to consider when selling to Gen Z
It’s become the trend for a significant part of the population/media to blame any societal or economical problems on “these damn youths” *angrily shakes fist at clouds*. From napkins to cereals, the 1984–2004 generation, also known as millennials, has been blamed for just about every change under the sun (click here for the full list, or here). Headlines like “How Technology Is Creating a Generation of Adult Babies” are not helping our reputation either, especially since people don’t read anymore and just share based on the title (P.S: the economy sucks, the environment is going to hell, we have a mountain of student debt, social media makes us depressed and we’ll probably never be able to afford a home even though we’re part of the most educated generation ever — I’ll sleep in a rocking bed if I damn please and would like not to be judged thankyouverymuch).
The reason so many industries are failing is because people don’t have time and money to afford their products. It’s strange that we see economists and business people blaming customers for not being able to afford things. Theoretically, that’s not our fault, that’s the market’s fault — if we can’t afford things, it’s not our fault for not wanting them.
Here’s what I wish I could tell managers about once a day: Millennials aren’t killing your industry. We’re just broke and your business model sucks. Let’s be honest: big banks screwed us with student loans, cereal made us fat, and napkins are just less absorbent paper towels. Why on Earth would a generation increasingly tormented by these now-failing industries feel the desire to support them in any way, shape, or form? The real kicker though is that this argument also applies to democracy. And capitalism. And that should be more worrying than Hooters going out of business.
Regardless of questionable business ethics, and much like everyone in “generation screwed”, I am finding it increasingly difficult not to be scared about the future and angry about the past. In this excellent article, Michael Hobbes counts down some of said generation’s current issues. I’m sure many will find a bit of themselves in the following:
Never-ending job insecurity FTW — Hours of minimum wage work needed to pay for four years of public college: BOOMER: 306; MILLENNIAL: 4,459
TFW they broke the safety net — Average annual stock market returns on 401(k) plans: BOOMER: 6.3%; MILLENNIAL: 2.9%. And then there’s healthcare…
RIP your chances if affording a home — my father’s first house cost him 20 months of his salary. My first house will cost more than 10 years of mine.
LOL, everything is intertwined — 56% of millennials with student loans have delayed a major life event — including getting married or having kids — because of their debt
And no, if you graduated before ’08, you don’t get it. You really don’t.
Beyond these very real issues, one must also be aware of the rampant mental health issues plaguing the young. Young adults don’t socialise as much as they used to, partly due to social media, are killing themselves with epidemic proportions and they’re taking longer to get to the “standard” rites of passage to adulthood.
66% of 12th graders surveyed in 2014 had tried alcohol, compared to 81% in 1994
73% of them had drivers’ licenses, down from 85% 20 years prior
58% went on dates, compared to 83% of 12th graders in 1994
56% worked for pay, down from 72% in 1994
Whether the latter facts represent a good or bad thing remains to be seen IMO as it just seems teenagers are getting better behave and less hedonistic (you’d have to be in this economy).
But what about other parts of the world? Is it at all the same? Though we sadly don’t have the space to give precise answers, I can provide hints at how millennials are changing things outside of our bubble. After all, about 50% of the worldwide population is under 30, so it’s worth asking.
Starting in the North: The Economist interviewed dozens of Russian teenagers — call them the Puteens — who have only known life under Putin in order to find out what they think about Russia and the world. Spoiler alert: they think Putin is pretty swell and don’t want a revolution. However, the young elite is resentful of pretence, simulation and cynicism — the staples of the current system. Instead they crave convictions and ideas. This was one reason why many Russians refused to cast a ballot on March 18th, and the clash of the two groups ought to make for interesting debates.
Continuing to the East: Young Chinese rebel against their parents professionally, personally and politically. Society puts pressure on young people in China to find a good job, buy an apartment and get married — in that order, before the age of 30. But economic restructuring, soaring house prices and increasing numbers of students in higher education are making those goals harder for millennials than they were for their parents. At the same time, millennials have developed different visions of the “good life” to their parents. This generation wants something new from China, and in pursuing it they are changing China, too. A quiet revolution is under way, and it’s looking VERY familiar…
Yet any revolution fades, and as we talk more and more about millennials, they/we are quickly becoming old news (YAY!). Soon enough, Gen Z, will be all the craze, and they’ll be the ones we need to understand to run our business smoothly. Ask yourself: how would you recruit an 18-year old in 2018? LinkedIn? VR? Texts? I’ve used/done all 3 in the past 3 months and there’s still a lot left to be desired.
Below are a few lessons I’ve gleaned through my readings:
Lesson number 1
Kids are already bored by the Internet: “We see the same lip gloss, the same eyebrow style, the same meme like 14 times. It all gets old and then you get bored.”
Lesson number 2
People shouldn’t try to speak the lingo unless they were born in it, molded by it. See this cringey piece by AdAge as a cautionary tale.
Lesson number 3
We made the world awful for them. It’s OK to say sorry and mean it.
Lesson number 4
If your only relation to a teenager is snarky comments about how they’re always on their phone, you’re not being cool: you’re afraid of them. You don’t understand them. And they’ll replace you. They’re far less sexist, homophobic and racist than any generation before them.
I can’t wait to witness them vote.