Deconstructing Gen Z: Part Five

WE Communications Blog: Consumer

— Heather Scott 

We’ve talked about millennials for nearly 20 years. Now, it’s time to start thinking about what or really who is next. Gen Z is stepping into the spotlight. Today, they represent 28 percent of the U.S. population (according to Iconoculture) and that number is growing rapidly: In four years, it will be a staggering 40 percent. Savvy brands are closely watching the way this group operates because soon — very soon — Gen Z will be highly influential in how we all behave and consume.

During the previous four weeks, we’ve shared some key insights about this growing generation and how they’re disrupting everything that came before them. This is Week Five, Part Five. For Part One, an introduction to Gen Z, click here. For Part Two, digging into Gen Z’s spending power, click here. Part Three talks about the independent, entrepreneurial spirit of this generation; Part Four, about how they’re digitally engrossed.


Gen Z is a very idealistic bunch. Along with participating in some form of community service (according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 26 percent of 16 to 19-year-olds are currently volunteering), this generation considers it a necessary fact of life to recycle, conserve and make green choices.

They also want to see the world change for the better, and be a part of making that happen. In fact Gen Zers admit to being more concerned with making a difference in the world than they are with making money. They want to align themselves with brands that share their do-gooder, hopeful views. When thinking about what products to buy, 33 percent of Gen Zers prefer to buy products that donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.

To create impact, Zs want and expect to have their input considered and ideas realized. And thanks to the real-time pace of online interaction, they have a voice to engage with brands.

Brands like Snapple have tapped into the Gen Z mindset. For the 4th of July and the 2016 election, Snapple is engaging communities and bringing more visibility to the upcoming elections by introducing red and blue teas. By popping up in cities that are hosting political events, the company is connecting with communities in a fun way and creating excitement around the upcoming election, which is designed to attract younger voters to the polls or be an outlet to of expression for those who can’t vote yet.

Another example are the 4th and 5th graders of Park School in Brooklyn, Massachusetts, who were concerned about the environmental impact of Dunkin Donuts’ choice to use polystyrene cups. The grade schoolers initiated a Change.org petition and collected more than 271,000 signatures in 2014 to affect the brand’s decision.

Gen Z is out to change the world and won’t let anyone or any brand stand in their way.

So what should brands do with all this intel? We’ll tackle that next week in our final installment.


A bit of background on the author, Heather Scott:

Heather Scott

What I do:
I read a room. I understand behavior. I process human nature, culture and values. More importantly, I don’t put relationships or brands first, I put people first. If programs that are based on insights, trends and strategies are your things, then I’m your gal. I’m a planner, not a Day Runner.

Why it’s important:
Do you believe in magic? Because a great idea is just a great idea. A strategy by itself doesn’t leave a lasting imprint. Insights and trends are fascinating, but not much more on their own. The integration of all three is where the magic happens.

The coolest thing I’ve done:
At Indiana University, I was the all-campus backgammon champion.