Now Arriving: Gen Z

Millennials, millennials, millennials – so many of our clients are focused on Millennials and how to adapt their marketing strategies to this evolving consumer group. What characterizes them? How are they different? What drives them? As we complete each study and I think we’ve exhausted the conversation, we find ourselves once again pulled into the Millennial vortex. But don’t look now – here comes Gen Z. We have just released our first study on this group, whose habits, thoughts, emotions and more will be keeping marketers up at night next. So why is it important to keep examining a group in context? Why can’t we broad stroke and make blanket statements about consumer groups or generations, and just be done with it?

8 Truths About Gen Z  Download our NEW infographic now

That’s the question posed in this WSJ article. Usually generations are defined by their similar birth years, with spans of 20 years. But often these are fuzzy in setting definitions. Typically, academics and researchers look at ‘generations’ to identify the distinct group’s characteristics which, through comparison with previous generations, serve to measure social and cultural change. But this approach misses the nuances within and between the groups. And the nuances are where the marketing opportunity exists.

Our new Gen Z study looks into the factors driving Gen Z behavior – the fears, concerns, influencers and even the heroes that define this group. We compare and contrast Gen Z and Millennials, both of whom live in a mobile-centric world but view their increasingly, technology- and data-driven existence differently. So just when you thought you had mastered Millennials, it’s time to get to know the new kids on the block. Isn’t Marketing fun? Sure does keep us on our toes!

Gen Z Infographic

Millennials + Sustainability

These days, it seems like everyone’s jumped onto the ‘going green’ bandwagon. Fast fashion retailer H&M is offering its customers a coupon for 15% off their next purchase every time they bring in a bag of used clothing to any store. In Sweden, McDonald’s launched a campaign in which you receive a free burger or cheeseburger for every 10 empty beer cans you bring in; 40 cans gets you a Big Mac. In further promotion of the campaign, McDonald’s has even installed billboards that double as trash bags for those walking by to easily pull off and fill with all their cans. What do these campaigns and earth-friendly initiatives have in common? They’re all aimed at Millennials.

Having recently become the largest generation group in the country, Millennials are the ones shopping at fast fashion stores and they used to be McDonald’s key customer base, until recently. This month, McDonald’s reported their biggest decline since 2003 and also found that diners between the ages of 19 to 21 have gone down by 12.9% since the start of 2011. The fast food chain has admitted that its latest campaign was an attempt to reach out to the Millennial generation, specifically the young music festival attendees in Sweden.

But, the question remains: are these efforts to appeal to the Millennial generation through green initiatives working? Millennials may say that they place a high value on issues such as social responsibility and sustainability, but are they actually following through on that? Or maybe it’s the campaigns that need to change – are companies able to effectively communicate their green initiatives to their Millennial consumers? When it comes to these topics, what are their perceptions? When it comes down to making a purchase, do they really care about companies being committed to sustainability?

We will be exploring several of these questions in our upcoming webinar in which we do a deep dive comparing Millennial, Boomer and Gen X perceptions on the word Sustainability. If your brand is tackling the challenge of increasing the connection consumers have with sustainability, check out our latest webinar.

Will Contact Lenses Soon Test Your Glucose Levels?

We have all heard and read about the global epidemic of diabetes. The main way diabetics monitor their blood glucose level is with blood test meters. For some, pricking their finger can be squeamish or unpleasant. However, there may be hope on the horizon. Today I saw an article that Google X is building a “smart contact lens.” Its purpose is meant to help diabetics keep track of their glucose levels. Inside the lens is a miniaturized wireless chip and glucose monitor that will measure the glucose levels of the wearer’s tears. Granted, there is still work to be done in seeing this come to market but it begs the question: how many other ways can innovative technology help us when it comes to our health?

While innovation and technology will continue to be at the forefront for the next generation of devices and medicine, it’s also apparent that it’s quickly changing the way that consumers educate themselves. Consumers are newly empowered and their habits are shifting. Now, more than ever, companies need to approach understanding consumer behavior using innovative techniques in order to home in on the actionable insights needed to put them at the forefront.


Demographics – Still In or On the Way Out?

After working in survey research for long enough, one can practically recite from memory the US census breakdown of the population by age, gender, ethnicity, and income. These demographic measures are almost sacrosanct in our industry.

But should they be? Of course they help us assume things about individuals based on the typical behavior of, say, all 25-40 year old females. And those inferences can help us understand our customer better (for example, what do they read? watch? eat?).  But given the massive amounts of data generated by all of us as consumers every day, researchers no longer have to make educated assumptions.

Our behaviors are all out there – we continually leave a digital trail by purchasing products or interacting with brands.  I’m proposing that this oversharing is a disruptive opportunity.  Maybe instead of grouping people by traditional demographics, we can more effectively group by other metrics.

Netflix uses this approach, as does Amazon, and Zappos.  Both companies make recommendations based on one’s previous activity – not necessarily the demographic one would traditionally be lumped in with all its assumed behavior. Sure, Sci Fi Action movies might not be all that popular with the average 30something year old female. But if her Netflix history shows her watching Hellboy and Thor, serving her up “The Notebook” solely based on her demographic profile will lead to a brand experience fail!

More important than just making the right recommendations, as this article on Mashable notes, the usage behavior can actually reveal deeper mechanics of the consumer’s thought process. If I only watch movies about young people falling in love, maybe it says something about my position in life, or what I am looking for personally. Maybe if I only watch documentaries about vegetarianism, it says something about my values.  To me this is critical to the success of brands like Amazon and  Zappos.  They create brand disciples in their consumers because they meaningfully connect with their deeper aspirations, beliefs and values. By bringing humanity to the algorithm, they create a personal connection to the brand.

Bye Bye Bank Branch

I was reading this article on Wired about the upsurge in online-only banks, and it got me thinking… this whole online bank idea seems to be gaining popularity. I recently saw a commercial for Simple, a new online bank, and signed up. I should be receiving my debit card in the mail any day now. The idea is… well… simple! They get rid of your local bank branch, which I personally never even use, and give you a suite of online (and mobile) tools to help you track spending and easily categorize your transactions.

The application even claims to be smart enough to know that something I label as “Catnip for Jean-Luc” (yes, my cat shares a name with the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise) should be filed under “pet expenses”. I can even upload and tag a photo of the cat playing with his new catnip toy. At first I thought, “wow, I can’t believe how banks are changing.” But then my MR brain switched on and I thought “wow! That’s a LOT of data!”

Not only will my bank know where I am and what I purchase, but they’re going to know my pet’s name, and how and when he plays with his catnip. At first I thought this was just some shiny new feature meant to attract today’s Instagram-obsessed masses… but is it something more? Are institutions like banks doing their own MR on the sly?

Does someone at Simple actually have an interest not only in my spending patterns, but in collecting all kinds of data on what I do after my purchase is made? If I had to guess I would say yes, they are most certainly interested. And if they’re not, they definitely should be. They are about to get a goldmine of data from each and every user, including yours truly. And I for one am incredibly curious to see what they do with it. I bet a lot of companies would salivate over such detailed data about the lives of their consumers, and their post-purchase behavior. Mmmm. Data-licious.