Gen Z: Are They Different From Millennials or Just Acting Their Age?
Referencing missteps that many companies made in making wrong assumptions about Millennial consumers a decade ago (namely, that they “weren’t interested in the American tradition of consumption”), a recent Bloomberg news article warns brands not to make the same mistake with the ascendant Gen Z, who number around 61 million current and future U.S. consumers.
Hartman Group research finds that Gen Z are much more brand-agnostic than their predecessors. This generation shows a willingness to eschew companies that do not align with their priorities, instead seeking out brands with lucid points of views and transparent practices. Our Gen Z 2018 report finds that while Gen Z are young and still working out their priorities, as a group they tend to be socially and politically engaged, highly aware of current events, fearful of debt, and practical, with a realistic vision of the future. They rely on direct recommendations from friends, whether they are online via YouTube and Instagram or in person.
The Bloomberg article implicitly underscores how brand renovation for CPG food products, with an eye towards clean label, may only get companies so far in appealing to Gen Z consumers. This population is currently still growing up, with the oldest Gen Z consumers just having graduated college, but as they gain additional market power, we fully expect money — currently a substantial barrier to purchasing for them — to become less of an issue. This means that Gen Z will increasingly align their spending with brands that reflect their strong values of fairness, environmentalism, and holistic well-being when it comes to food and beverages.
As to how different they’ll be from Millennials, we don’t think they’re going to be anything like a big, 180-degree shift but more like a strengthening or even full fruition of trends that we’ve seen among Millennials.