For so long marketing to Millennials was the hottest topic, so much so, that we tend to lump anyone born 1980 and after as a Millennial. As current adolescents are growing up, significant differences make the next generation stand out in comparison to Millennials. Today’s adolescents are a part of Generation Z, or Gen Edge as many are calling them. And Edgers, born 1996 and after, are vastly different from their older neighbors, the Millennials. They are conservative, independent, and won’t give you a second glance if you don’t speak their language.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these defining characteristics of these Edgers.
- Digital natives. We thought Millennials were tech-savvy, but these teens are the first generation to be born into a digital age. Technology is second nature; they have been using a touch screen since before they could walk. They can simultaneously text, write a paper, post to instagram and carry on a Snapchat conversation, usually using 5 or more screens (Millennials max out usually at 2 screens). Edgers’ live in the cloud – from elementary school on many of them are immersed in a learning space that is largely digital and they are more comfortable communicating digitally than face-to-face.
- Fast paced. This multi-screen, multitasking lifestyle results in an incredibly short attention and interest span. Vine is a good example. This social site features only six-second-or-less videos as a means of entertainment. It’s said that Gen Edge has a two second shorter attention span than Millennials.
- Realists. Growing up in a post 9/11 world, raised by generally more skeptical Gen X parents, Edgers tend to have a more realistic approach to decisions than their Millennial predecessors, who were raised by generally more optimistic Boomers. In general, Edgers are more cautious and reserved about their spending habits, privacy controls and make life-altering decisions with care.
- Individuals. Millennials are a generation more comfortable with conformity. They are civic-minded and believe the government knows what’s best and will take care of them. They fear being considered non-conformist. Edgers, on the other hand embrace individuality. Where Millennials are accepting of diversity, Edgers define diversity. They are the most racially diverse generation in America to date. Having a specific clothing store’s name on a t-shirt is not only not trendy it is counter to how they identify. Instead, Edgers are about standing out and blazing their own paths. Gen Edge is also the most racially diverse generation to date.
- World changers. Millennials laid the groundwork for a generation with volunteerism at its core. Edgers take that ethos to the next level. For them it isn’t something they add to their lives. It is part of their lives. They simply get to work. They believe they can make the world a better place, now, and they are currently giving of their time to do just that (unlike Millennials, who only invest their time when they get an immediate reward). They have high standards and values for issues like social justice and environmental concerns. Their peer idol is Nobel Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai.
- Entrepreneurs at heart. While millennial children had helicopter parents who orchestrated their lives, Edgers are given more latitude to shape their activities. The result is a generation that is much more creative and entrepreneurial. They don’t rely on their parents to direct them. They take charge. They don’t want to work for the boss, they want to be the boss, starting now. Their youth doesn’t stop them from making a name for themselves in a marketplace of start-ups.
To reach this new generation with marketing we need to adapt to this very different mindset and get creative, authentic, and personal with the medium and the message. Effective strategies include:
- Meet them where they are. (Hint: 13-18 year olds are not using Facebook). Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram are some of their favorite places. If you’re not in those spaces, they don’t know you exist. Viewbooks, search mailers and “swag” are still important communication pieces, if paired with a rich digital atmosphere to engage and satisfy Edgers interests. While they may glance from a distance at the postcard, they’ll explore, contribute and repost online.
- Give the big picture quickly. If you haven’t given them a big-picture story of who you are in 5 words or less, they have moved on (we used to have 8 words with the Millennials). In your communication, be intriguing in as few words as possible. Catch their attention, then point them online to dig into who you really are. Tell your story with visuals when possible.
- Tell the truth. The realistic mindset and high-value placed on transparency, Gen Edge wants to know the real you. Use virtual reality campus tours and real-life student stories to introduce prospects to your campus. Student-created videos blogs and having a student take over the institutions Snapchat for a day are popular ideas.
- Stand apart. Edgers expect to be different, and they want to see how a prospective college will fit into their path, not follow it’s path. Millennials highly valued authenticity, while still true for Gen Edge they want more. They want to see your differences, and what you offer to their individuality.
- Invest in their cause. Don’t give them swag at the next college fair (which materialistic Millennials would devour), give them experiences and avenues for volunteer service that they can document on Instagram. Show them you’re invested in their dreams to change the world.
- Equip them. Millennials tended to ask the question upon graduation of “now what” for their career plans and their 20’s were years of finding themselves. In comparison, Generation Edge has big plans for their next business and career path, and are looking for a return-on-investment on their college experience. Show them your professors, student success stories, and places they can build their career. Doing this though many avenues, like Instagram and interactive spaces on your website are ideal.