New research on Gen Z reveals four key trends shaping the most pragmatic generation

by | Jun 29, 2020 | Public Relations

2020 hasn’t been the best year for anyone, but COVID-19 and the recent social justice protests have overburdened an already stressed out Gen Z. However, new research from digital agency VaynerMedia reveals these youngsters nevertheless remain optimistic about a brighter future.

The firm’s new study sought to better understand the mindset, behaviors and relationships of Gen Z in the U.S. and how they have been affected by current events more specifically. The research has revealed four key trends within this very pragmatic generation: they are dreaming with eyes open, parenting the parents, seeing the good in big and twisting traditions.

“Gen-Z has grown up in a time of instability and uncertainty; many were born into a recession, they have grown up acutely aware of the threat of mass shootings and constant lock-down drills and they have witnessed significant political and societal turmoil. These shared formative experiences shape who they are,” said Wanda Pogue, chief strategy officer at VaynerMedia, in a news release. “The global pandemic has turned their world upside down, with many missing out on coming-of-age moments; proms, graduations, internships, or first jobs. By understanding how both this and the Black Lives Matter movement have shifted their views and focuses, we can understand how brands and marketers are better able to relate to them.”

Dreaming with Eyes Open

Gen Z dreams of both financial and emotional stability. The uncertainties they have been born into and have continued to see throughout their lives make them painfully aware that stability and upward mobility are not guaranteed. COVID-19 has only added to their reality: 49 percent say they have become more anxious, and 44 percent believe that COVID-19 is going to impact their future in a negative way, fearing uncertainty with school and employment as they seek to establish their independence.

Portrait young guy dressed blue shirt man open his eyes wide with hands fingers and mouth. Man on blue sky background. (Portrait young guy dressed blue shirt man open his eyes wide with hands fingers and mouth. Man on blue sky background.

However, they still hold out hope, with nearly twice as many (51 percent compared to 23 percent) stating that things will be better, not worse, in the future. Black Gen Z are 14 percent more hopeful than their white counterparts; they are encouraged by the protests but are also realistic in their view that fundamental changes need to be made to our culture.

They are mobilized for change and are looking to ride the current momentum into November. Coming off the heels of declining Black voter turnout in 2016, 81 percent of Black Gen Z over the age of 18 are planning to vote.

Parenting the Parents

Gen Z are the new family influencers, impacting everything from behaviors to purchasing decisions. They are educating their parents on how to be better; over 75 percent say they influence their parents’ habits—for example, trying new food, exercising more or becoming more tech-savvy. They are also not afraid to call out unhealthy or socially irresponsible behaviors when they see them.

Cute young daughter embracing her mother with love, sitting on sofa at home

This influence is perhaps due to the fact that they feel more connected with their families, with over twice as many respondents reporting strengthened family relationships as those reporting weakened relationships. They also look up to their parents. In contrast to when Millennials were teenagers, over a third of Gen Z respondents cited their parents as inspiring role models, rather than celebrities.

Seeing the Good in Big

Unlike Millennials, Gen Z prefers the convenience and utility offered by bigger brands, which better serve their diverse range of interests and preferences. Additionally, they realize that bigger brands have a greater ability to drive change. Brands such as Amazon, Netflix, Google and Walmart fall within their most loved.

Carnival revellers dress up as social media for Mardi Gras

If Gen Z could live with only one social platform, it would be YouTube. Citing its diverse range of fun and educational content, 38 percent of respondents said they would never want to be without the platform.

Twisting Traditions

With delayed and postponed milestones, Gen Z is finding new ways to twist their passions and traditions as they strive for a sense of normalcy—for example, participating in virtual commencement ceremonies or recreating things they miss from their pre-COVID life, such as their college campuses, by building virtual versions in games such as Minecraft. Two-thirds of Gen Z responded that their hobbies and passions have become even more important during the pandemic, even if they have had to shift towards virtual ways of connecting and participating.

High school graduate removes her cap while staring out at the neighborhood, watching a car pass by during a virtual graduation ceremony.

“The findings show us that, whilst current world events have derailed Gen-Z’s plans, they are still shaping up to be a very influential generation. They are already impacting their parents’ habits, are ready to instigate change, and are embracing the brands who can help them make that change. What’s key for marketers is to realize that there are key differences between Gen-Z and their Millennial counterparts. So, rather than marketing to them as one broad segment, recognize their different cohorts, needs and desires,” concluded Pogue.

The research surveyed 1,000 people in the United States between the ages of 13 to 22 during the timeframe of May 29th to June 5th, 2020. The survey was conducted via mobile phones in order to reach the respondents in the place they spend their time.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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