The Millennial Anomaly – Gen Z and Gen X are more similar than you think

Written by

The Hook Team

Published on

April 25, 2019
Time to read: 4 minutes
Gen Z consumers

We’ve all seen the news pieces. Millennials can’t afford to buy homes because of their obsession with avocado toast. Young people nowadays are too busy staring at their phones to maintain a job. Gen Z’s lack of loyalty is causing the downfall of established brand names.

Very often, younger generations are lumped together and blamed for these huge changes in the world of media. But do these clickbait headlines ignore the realities of the new media landscape?

It certainly seems so. There are more nuances and differences between Gen Z and Millennials’ media habits than some outlets would have you think.

In fact, in many ways Gen Z consumers arguably have more in common with Gen X, their parents’ generation.

Millennials – A Generation of Outliers?

It’s fair to assume that Gen Z consumers will display similar behaviours to Millennials given both generations’ digital fluency and closely aligned political views.

But unlike their Millennial counterparts, it seems like Gen Z consumers actually have more in common with Gen X in terms of the ways they find, read and share content.

Naturally, Gen Z consumers are more digitally savvy than Gen X (they are ‘digital natives’, after all). The former gets a significant amount of their news online, primarily from social media. According to Comscore, 50% go to social media first for news compared with only 20% of Gen X.

But despite their digital aptitude, Gen Z consumers are highly passive online with only 16% being likely to share news articles on social media. And Gen X behaviours mirror this with only 14% likely to share articles on social media.

Gen Z consumers

Millennials by comparison are much more engaged online. This generation is more likely than any other to share news on social media, discuss stories with friends and seek out more information after reading an article.

This is a pretty major difference between Gen Z and Millennials’ online habits and should deter publishers from resting on their brand laurels with the new generation of consumers. Brands may need to adapt their strategies to appeal to Gen Z consumers in order to start conversations and ensure longevity with this younger generation.

Could a modern, digitised take on traditional Gen X marketing be the key to guaranteeing loyalty from Gen Zers?

Gen Z is platform loyal not publication loyal

Right now, brand loyalty is a bit of a sticking point for publishers looking to build rapport with Gen Z.

In our new media landscape, consumers have almost limitless choice when accessing content online. And in this splintered media mix young people are often seen as fickle and unreliable as they regularly jump between sources, devices and platforms. This can cause issues for brands with traditional publishing models as they struggle for the limelight in an increasingly crowded market.

In a recent Comscore webinar, Director of Survey Innovation Ian Essling argued that loyalties have evolved and that the rules for brands have now changed. Basically, as in-built news apps like Apple News and social media sites like Twitter become go-to news sources, Gen Z is becoming more platform loyal than publication loyal.

So while we are quick to blame Gen Z’s changing media habits, should more of the onus be put on brands’ publishing models instead?

Gen Z consumersWhat brands can learn

So what’s the lesson from all this? Well, it’s clear that the future of digital media is even less predictable than previously thought.

Gen Z is no carbon copy of the Millennial generation. Indeed, Gen Z consumers seem to share more of Gen X’s behaviours when it comes to the way they interact with content online.

Gen Z’s focus is shifting from individual publishers to all-encompassing social sites, meaning that brands need to work harder to capture Gen Z’s attention in these spaces. But how can they do this best?

As consumers begin to view news through the lens of social media and curated news apps, personalised content could well become the standard for brands trying to achieve cut-through with audiences. This would allow brands to curate content to target specific consumers, whether that be Buzzfeed or Bloomberg.

This should be a wakeup call for publishers. It’s clear that relying on established practices will not work for Gen Z as it has for Millennials.

As consumers’ digital media habits become more passive, publishers must be proactive: creating curated, shareable content on social media and news apps to ensure cut-through with all audiences.

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