Move over Millennials, here comes Gen Z. Who are they? Definitions vary but most demographers define Gen Z — also referred to as Centennials, iGen, or Plurals — as consumers born between 1995 and 2010.
Gen Z is starting to get as much attention as Millennials, and rightfully so. Besides their sheer size — there are 83 million Americans under 20 who represent 25.9% of the U.S. population — they are the first generation born after the Internet age. They are also the last generation to be majority non-Hispanic white (52.9%). As I noted in a previous article, if the mixed-ethnicity Hispanic-White population of Gen Z is added to the multicultural total, Gen Z is actually the first minority-majority generation in American history.
The last point is critical, as it underpins one of the most important characteristics of Gen Z that most early studies have failed to properly analyze. How will their cultural diversity make them different? How will coming of age in a truly multicultural world affect their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors? This was the catalyst behind the upcoming research initiative, “We Are Gen Z” Report, a collaboration between my agency and ThinkNow Research.
The report is the first national study to take a cross-cultural view of Gen Z. It takes a holistic approach to understanding the segment born between 1995 and 2005, presenting an in-depth analysis of the brands, influencers, behaviors and ideals that matter most to the patchwork of Hispanic, African-American, Non-Hispanic White and Asian Gen Zers.
Some initial findings from the report provide an interesting glimpse into the cross-cultural under-20 population.
Family over Celebs
The most prominent role models for Gen Z are their parents, specifically moms. This is particularly the case among Hispanics (47%) and African-Americans (51%). This is in stark contrast to celebrities and social media influencers, who less than 17% of Gen Z consider role models.
The Brands I Choose Matter
Very few Gen Zers like brands their friends like. This is particularly the case for Hispanics and Asians (77%). Yet, they are looking for brands that help them stand out — particularly among African-Americans (61%) and Asians (55%).
Culture is a core indicator of identity for Gen Z. When asked to elaborate on what culture means to them, words like beautiful, complex, loud, creative, mixed and unique show up frequently. African Americans have a strong sense of cultural pride (64%) following Hispanics (55%), Asians (47%), and then Whites (37%).
Yet, culture is complicated. Interestingly, cross-cultural Gen Z are attracted to people who are of different ethnicities and races. This was particularly the case for Hispanics (70%), Non-Hispanic Whites (71%) and African-Americans (67%). Moreover, as one of the study participants noted:
“I would describe my culture as part of who I am, but only part. I am more than my race.”
Our research indicates that a majority of Gen Z will define their cultural identity in fundamentally different ways from their predecessors. By embracing and balancing multiple cultures they are moving their cultural identity beyond simple definitions of race and ethnicity. How marketers and brands use culture to connect with this truly multicultural generation will require a fundamentally different thinking.