Deconstructing Gen Z: Part Two

— Heather Scott, WE 

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.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll share some key insights about this growing generation and how they’re disrupting everything that came before them. Welcome to Week Two, Part Two. For Part One, an introduction to Gen Z, click here.


Generation Z is shaking things up for marketers. It’s easy to think of this group as “just kids” without significant money to drive purchases. In reality, they have significant spending power and influence.

Here’s a pretty shocking stat: Gen Z has an estimated spending power of close to $200 billion annually, taking into account the influence Gen Z has on parental and household purchases (according to Mintel). And guess what? They’re just getting started. During this year’s back-to-school shopping season, nearly 10 percent of adults admitted that their children influence ALL of their purchasing decisions (up from 7.6 percent last year).

Even if they don’t influence every household purchase decision, they influence a majority of them. Parents say that Gen Z dominates low-stakes purchases such as toys, entertainment and apparel. These categories deliver immediate gratification for kids while also providing parents with a low-risk outlet for allowing their kids to sharpen decision-making skills.

And, these kids are learning to parlay that expected seat at the table with their parents into influence on high-stakes purchases — like cars or family vacations. They feel entitled to give input because they are used to being asked to look up or research things on their phones — even applying what they’ve learned in school, like writing essays, and crafting PowerPoint presentations to influence how and where to spend.

Travel brands including Marriott and W Hotels are increasingly looking to engage with younger guests using social media — for example, Snapchat’s campaign for W Hotels, which allowed them to create cheeky travel postcards that read “You Wish You Were Here” or “Current Situation” and send them to friends. 

So, yeah, they’re a force to be reckoned with. And brand agility to reach this savvy group becomes pretty important.

What’s up next?

Part Three tackles these future leaders of the world and how they think.


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.