Brands, be warned, you’re not ready for the next era of young media consumers. I can tell you from dispatches from the front lines. Over the last few weeks, we have been introducing the findings of a report we will formally launch in the coming weeks around the media habits and preferences of 13-24 year olds called the Acumen report.
What has been amazing is the response of people in those presentations from major brands who actually had teenagers. We would present a finding and they’d say, “That is exactly what my 16 year old does,” and they aren’t alone, they know because they see the behavior around them. These handful of meetings have also been telling because almost universally teams shared that they don’t feel well informed for what is coming. What is more surprising is that while we acknowledge that this consumer is different we’re not inundated with research, insights and reports about this youngest group of consumers.
The easy and dangerous thing to do is write them off. To discount teens as odd or fringe and talk about their shorter attention spans (true) and their lack of loyalty to platforms and brands (also true) but those who are positioned to wildly outperform relative to their peers in reaching and connecting with this enormous consumer group are trenching in. They aren’t relying on the same vendors or generic reports, they are actually talking to people connecting with this audience or creating a dialogue to their consumers themselves. And lastly, those best positioned to connect and succeed aren’t taking this group for granted, as they shouldn’t.
A few reminders: This forthcoming group of under 18 consumers represents over 25% of the U.S. population, they are positioned to be more educated than the millennials with more completing high school and more finishing college, and they are more diverse, accepting and positive than their older counterparts.
While they are a generation without a label I think we should be ok with that and move on for now. Can we just agree to call them young people until something better comes along? Whatever we call them, we have to acknowledge this new consumer is different. Not different as in bad or different as in scary, just different. For example, saying they don’t have money or purchasing power.
The statistics paint a picture, a recent study by Sparks & Honey, 60% of moms feel their “Gen Z” child influences the TV purchasing power in the household, wielding tremendous power over what the family buys and watches. With access to $44 billion a year in disposable income, this driven and socially conscious group is looking to spend money on products and services they love and fit their lifestyle and have a voice at the tap of a smart phone to make that voice heard.
Much more to come next month when I can share more detailed findings but this is a call to arms for all those in the media and brand space that we have to make the investment to understand this group now or be sitting on the sidelines when they move right past our brands to connect with those built to relate. This understanding can come through so many avenues, your staff, your research, your partnerships, your investments and perhaps the easiest first step — the acknowledgement that they are different and you should invest. One thing is for certain — doing things as they’ve always been done is your greatest risk to miss them entirely.