gen z sneakersChasing after and courting Millennials is seemingly the marketing mandate of the moment. Once the darlings of the marketplace, Boomers are no longer as interesting (though one shouldn’t count out their spending power just yet). Millennials are at a stage in their lives where they are proactively crafting their futures, which makes them all the more attractive of a prize to capture. It’s a trophy, though, that remains elusive, as Millennials are a mysterious lot. And if figuring out how to market to them weren’t enough of a conundrum, stepping out of the Millennials’ shadows is a new and equally challenging puzzle, the next great generation of consumers. Say hello to Gen Z.

With over 74 million kids (yep, teenagers and younger), Gen Z makes up almost one-quarter of the U.S. population. As a cohort, Gen Z is already the same size as Millennials and Boomers (and will no doubt soon eclipse them) and has surpassed Gen X.

Don’t take their youth for granted, though. They are at an impressionable and inquisitive age in which they are busy forming perceptions of the companies, brands, products and marketing messages they encounter on a daily basis. With the sheer size of Gen Z, it is likely that their “likes” (which they are already quite used to showing via Facebook, for example) and dislikes, how they live and how they view health and wellness will be highly influential.

And while there are already many predictions out there as to how this youngest generation of the U.S. will act, the reality is no one will know for sure at this point. What we can do now, though, is talk about what is influencing them and how they are already beginning to see the world.

What we are seeing is that this generation will have a few key qualities, ultimately distinguishing them from other generations.

Who Is Gen Z: Growing Up Digitally

Gen Z is on its way to becoming one of the most fully participation-oriented generations we’ve yet come to know. Gen Z’ers are true digital natives who have never known a world without the Internet.

Tuned in and socially connected, for Gen Z, there is almost no separation between online and real life. According to Pew Research Center’s “Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015, Ages 13-17,” about a quarter of Gen Z’ers are online “all the time.” They send and receive over 67 texts every day (this figure is for SMS texts and does not include other IM services, such as Snapchat or Facebook Messenger).

Technology is central to every aspect of their lives, from socializing to schoolwork, entertainment to exercise, relaxation to reference. With so much knowledge at their fingertips, there is no excuse not to know something. This power allows them to fact-check instantaneously when they question something. Teens turn to their online social communities for advice and information. This allows them to find more answers but also means that there are no (or few) authorities.

  gen z is the most ethnically diverse generation yet

Alongside being fully integrated in technology, diversity is the new normal for Gen Z. Gen Z is likely to be more comfortable and familiar with different cultures, races and ethnicities than previous generations.

The convergence of technology and ethnic diversity helps create a group that is entirely fluid and playful, and where identity is a highly nuanced concept. This overwhelming diversity (particularly when you look at it in comparison with that of past generations) will impact:

  • How they eat (more exposure early on to global/regional foods)
  • How they communicate (more opportunity to be bi/trilingual with parents from different ethnicities)
  • How they get along with others (greater opportunity for acceptance/comfort)
  • How they shop (everything is outside the “norm”)
  • How they see the world (fewer boundaries, moving away from an “us” vs “them”)

How Gen Z Views Health & Wellness

The Hartman Group’s special report, How Gen Z Looks at Health &Wellness, finds that this generation’s reliance on technology for almost every aspect of their lives means that tech and the Internet are central to their health and wellness practices. Their willingness to investigate topics relating to health and wellness via the Internet and their perceptions of how easy it is to find information mean that transparency will likely become even more important as Gen Z begin making more of their own purchasing decisions.

Gen Z share their parents’ conception of health and wellness as a complex, holistic balancing act. They already view physical, mental, social and emotional well-being as connected. While physical health is still primary to health and wellness, Gen Z teens speak easily of interconnection among different parts of their lives. For them, feeling good and looking good are key expressions of health and wellness balance.

School is an important source of health and wellness knowledge. As the focus of educational programs to counter obesity and Type 2 diabetes, Gen Z teens likely receive more health and diet information in school than previous generations. Thus, they are knowledgeable about public health issues like added sugars, HFCS and artificial sweeteners, and avoiding trans fats. Many have already brought these issues home to influence change in the habits of their households.

Gen Z teens deal with health concerns typical of their age, such as skin problems, but mental health and sleep have emerged as key issues for this notoriously overscheduled generation. Related, Gen Z seems to have unusually early experience with and awareness of stress, anxiety, depression and sleep, which used to be much more adult concerns. Mental and emotional health will likely continue to grow as health and wellness concerns as Gen Z becomes more independent. Some may even struggle with independence as they begin having to make more of their own choices.

Exercise is a key technique teens use to manage health and wellness. Although boys and girls tend to view exercise’s benefits differently, both see it as a way to manage stress and feel better about how they look and feel. Exercise is one area of health and wellness where Gen Z teens play a very active, participatory role. Tech is central to their exercise experience.

Want to Know About What to Expect From Gen Z?

health and wellness gen zThe Hartman Group’s special report, How Gen Z Looks at Health & Wellness, provides valuable insights into who Gen Z is and how they think about health and wellness, managing health conditions and activating wellness via shopping and product usage and food service. The report provides key takeaways and implications. Save 50 percent when you order before April 15, 2016. Order Now