Commentary

Gen Z Guys: The New Old School

As the conversation about Gen Z — aged 20 and younger — grows, it is clear that while in some ways they deepen Millennial trends, in others they are quite different. This is particularly the case with the guys who have completely turned what we thought we knew about young men on its head. 

While Millennial guys don’t tend to differentiate themselves from their female counterparts, Gen Z guys portend a return to “old school” masculinity. Millennial guys, who grew up in a “girls rule” ethos, were taught to let the girls take the lead.

Guys’ expectations were set at a low bar as to leadership and trendsetting; they were happy to follow girls’ lead on trends, attitudes, and even behaviors. 

Gen Z Guys Want the Spotlight

Gen Z guys are not so easily pushed out of the spotlight. They don’t think they’re better than girls (in fact they look forward to long-term relationships with strong, independent women), but they don’t think girls are better than they are. They want to be taken seriously, and they tend to look to more traditional male role models, such as grandfathers.

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Across the country, college and high school guys, as part of their masculine identity, feel a responsibility to provide for a family in the future. Again, they do not want to push girls aside, but imagine a power couple Bey and Jay dynamic where they are happy to help around the house, but also want to bring home a big paycheck. 

As a whole Gen Zers are driven by success (trying to make a sharp turn from the stereotypical unemployed Millennial in their parents’ basement), but they don't all define success similarly. According to our Youth IQ tracker, close to 8 in 10 guys believe a successful career is among the most important things in life; one-third strongly believes making lots of money is crucial, while less than a quarter of girls feel the same way. This monetary focus is a total reversal from Millennial guys who are on par with Gen Z girls in believing in the importance of money. 

Political Polarization — A Conservative Uptick

When it comes to politics, Millennial men and women are more in alignment — and are more likely to identify as moderate with a slight liberal leaning. Gen Zers are more polarized in their political opinions, driven by a conservative uptick among guys. Though few are yet old enough to vote, they are very opinionated and the middle, more neutral, voice is dropping. 

This return to traditional conservatism is somewhat surprising in a time when gender fluidity and acceptance of multiple gender identities is reaching an all-time high. However, as society changes, there is often a backlash, as we are beginning to see among Gen Z guys. While more than half of Z girls agree that there are more than two gender identities, fewer than one in three guys concur. They are also significantly less likely than girls to identify as bisexual. Even those who are accepting of gender fluidity want to show that they, as individuals, still have their “man card.”

Brands for Him, Not Brands for Her

Taking into account these different attitudes, it’s not surprising that Gen Z guys and girls are not in complete accord as to the brands they love. Looking at the top 15 brands, as identified by our Youth IQ brand tracker, only six overlap between Gen Z guys and girls. While they can agree on the majors (YouTube, Google and Netflix are ranked first second and third) the rest are drastically different. Xbox clinches the fourth spot for guys, for the girls it’s Instagram.

Overall, guys look for brands that, in addition to making them laugh, represent great business acumen. They respect high tech and “top of the line” brands while Gen Z girls are more likely to embrace brands that help them express themselves. Gen Z guys want the trusted and true and tend to remain loyal to brands they love, while girls are more likely to try something new.

Marketers trying to reach this generation should take care not to ignore the guys expecting that they will come along if you get the girls. Gen Z guys are an audience all their own who appreciate being acknowledged and hope to increase their already substantial purchasing power in the near future.

1 comment about "Gen Z Guys: The New Old School".
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  1. PJ Lehrer from NYU, December 12, 2017 at 12:38 p.m.

    How large is your sample size?  Is there a place to see the complete data?

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