- Millennials loved their brands when they were teens. Gen Zs don’t really care.
- Sarah Jacobs/Business Insider
- Gen Zs believe themselves to be social justice-minded and more dependent on technology than millennials.
- Marketers have noticed that this generational cohort isn’t as brand-conscious as their peers, and they’re much more frugal.
My first memory ever is using dial-up internet (I think I was interested in the weird sounds), my parents are Baby Boomers, and I lived at least half of my life without the conveniences of mobile internet.
In other words, I’m a millennial.
Millennials have been framed as selfish, “psychologically scarred,” in constant need of validation, and killing several industries, from casual dining to (perhaps worst of all) bar soap.
But now it’s time for a new generation to take the spotlight – and the heat: Generation Z, or all Americans born after 1997, are the newest generation.
As I’ve reported on this emerging generation and talked to Gen Zs nationwide, I’ve been struck by the differences this cohort has in comparison to myself and my fellow millennials.
And marketers and teens alike have been happy to highlight the differences. Here’s what they say sets these two generations apart:
Gen Zs don’t know a world before mobile technology, while Millennials spent much of their childhoods without social media or smartphones
- Having the internet in their pockets has been the norm for today’s teens.
- Jessica Vu/YouTube
I remember the first time I could use the internet on a phone. My dad’s Blackberry could pick up some insanely slow data during a visit to New York City, allowing us to research tourist attractions without sitting at a computer. I was 13, and we were both in awe.
But my younger cousins were able to spend most of our family gatherings on their parents’ iPhones. They had Instagram accounts in elementary school. I barely knew what a social network was at their age.
The majority of teens told Business Insider that technology is what sets them apart from millennials, who are now in their 20s and 30s.
“For Gen Z, this tech is all we ever knew about and has been in our lives since we were babies,” New York resident Isabel Lagando, 14, told Business Insider.
Margaret Bolt, a 15-year-old from North Carolina, said that’s made her generation more impatient.
“Everything in our generation is immediate,” Bolt told Business Insider. “Since we have been raised in an age where texts and messages can be sent in the blink of an eye, we are less patient than other generations because we are used to having instant gratification.”
Virginia resident Maddie Martin, 19, said communication for her generation is utterly different, as well.
“We communicate through social media and texts, which changes the dynamic of communication,” Martin told Business Insider.
Gen Zs may be more entrepreneurial than Millennials.
Some of today’s teens are more entrepreneurial about how they get their money.
Gen Zs are increasingly less likely to not work a traditional job. According to one study by Harvard Business Review, around 70% of them are self-employed – teaching piano, making money off a YouTube channel, or creative ways of making a buck.
And, while millennials went to college more than any other generation before them, some Gen Zs are trying to achieve success without a four-year degree.
“After seeing their millennial peers bogged down by debt and woefully underemployed, Zs are reconsidering the need for a formal education, opting instead for alternative programs andexperiences-or no college at all,” reads a report on Gen Z trends by AwesomenessTV.
Tiffany Zhong postponed enrollment at and dropped out of the University of California, Berkeley, becoming an 18-year-old venture capitalist and then founder of Gen Z consumer intelligence platform Zebra IQ.
“Why sink yourself into exorbitant amounts of debt when you can learn everything online or learn a specific subject matter at a fraction of the price?” Zhong told Business Insider.
Millennials loved their brands when they were teens. Gen Zs don’t really care.
- Millennials loved Abercrombie back in the day, but there’s not really a Gen Z equivalent.
- Reuters/Benoit Tessier
My sister and I spent most of our allowances growing up on Abercrombie and Hollister togs – and all of our friends did, too.
But, with the exception of those obsessed with Supreme and other streetwear names, brand loyalty is not so common among today’s teens.
“They’re less brand-conscious and they are not spending as much as millennials do,” Kyle Andrew, chief marketing officer of American Eagle Outfitters, told Fast Company.
Gen Zs prefer trends that can be shown off on social media – like “unicorn makeup” and patches and t-shirts with political slogans.
Simply bragging that you’re able to afford a certain brand isn’t as interesting as showing off your individual personality.
Gen Zs prefer to save money. But Millennials had to learn to be frugal.
- Plenty of young YouTubers give their advice to fellow Gen Zs about how to budget.
- Lily Isabella/YouTube
In a recent Business Insider survey on Generation Z, nearly 10% of teens said the No. 1 issue that their generation will have to face relates to the economy and debt.
“Generation Z is intentionally choosing to attend a less-expensive college so they can graduate with less debt,” Jason Dorsey, president of the Center for Generational Kinetics told Mic in 2017.
“No or less debt means they can enter the job force with more mobility, allowing them to take a job they really want that may pay less, because a good amount of their salary won’t be going to a college fund.”
Some say that’s because they grew up during the Great Recession. The oldest Gen Zs, who were born in 1997, were nine years old when the Recession hit in 2008.
“Growing up during the global financial crisis, Gen Zers are realistic and mindful of financial issues and future career from a younger age,” An Hodgson, an income and expenditure manager at Euromonitor International, previously told Business Insider.
All that is in contrast to millennials, who grew up in a time of economic prosperity and graduated high school and college to a depressed economic climate.
Where Gen Zs don’t expect prosperity, millennials had to adapt their expectations to a world where student debt looms and jobs aren’t a given.
Gen Zs are even more social justice-oriented than Millennials.
- David Hogg, a student and shooting survivor from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, addresses the conclusion of the “March for Our Lives” event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, US, March 24, 2018.
“Millennials helped elect a black president and legalize gay marriage; many generation Zers see these milestones as the norm,” wrote Elizabeth Segran in Fast Company.
Gen Zs told Business Insider that millennials and previous generations aren’t as social justice-minded as their cohort. That’s because many of the advances, like gay marriage, from previous decades seem obvious to them.
Meanwhile, with the election of President Donald Trump, immigration, racism, and sexism have become prominently part of the national dialogue.
“Honestly, social injustices are going to be a really big thing throughout my lifetime,” North Carolina resident Trent Couse, 17, told Business Insider. “Many things are being brought to light and I don’t see them going away any time soon.”
Another reason for their activism: They’re the generation on record.
According to a report from boutique research firm 747 insights, 81% of Gen Zs have one or more friend who is of a different race than their own. But only 69% of Millennials can say the same.
And social media has allowed teens to share their experiences and organize.
Twitter, Instagram, and other networks are now “a vehicle for Gen Z’s organizing, sharing and participating in a new age of civil rights as they intend to push the boundaries of societal norms and create social acceptance for all,” according to a trend report by AwesomenessTV.
Gen Z is more connected to interests and cultures around the world than Millennials were.
- BTS, a South Korean boy band, is ultra-popular among some American teens.
- Kevin Winter/Getty Images
“Geographic location is not a problem and does not define who we are,” North Carolina resident Jogle De León, 17, told Business Insider. “Asian cultures, like anime and K-pop, is becoming more and more popular among Gen Z.”
While previous generations haven’t been as globally minded, content from outside the US is increasingly normal for Gen Zs to enjoy. That’s again thanks to social media.
Skam, a Norwegian teen drama series, became popular in the States after fan-run Twitter and YouTube popularized the series.
And the latest album from K-pop boy band BTS hit No. 1 on Billboard Magazine’s music charts – largely thanks to their dedicated global fan base.
“They’re very used to consuming entertainment that has come from other parts of the world,” MaryLeigh Bliss, chief content officer at YPulse, a research and marketing firm focused on Gen Z and millennials, told Business Insider.
Gen Zs are exploring new gender norms — or discarding gender all together.
- Gen Zs are more comfortable than previous generations with breaking down gender norms.
- Theo Wargo/Getty Images
One 17-year-old told Business Insider that Gen Zs consider gender on a spectrum.
Almost 3% of teenagers don’t identify as either male or female – a number that researchers in transgender studies say has grown from previous years. That means they’re genderqueer, identifying as neither male or female, and may use a pronoun like “they,” “xe,” or “hy.”
“We’ve broken a lot of stereotypes in our generation,” the 17-year-old told Business Insider.