Talking ’bout a Generation

10. June 2018, Editorial

Generation Z: From a purely entrepreneurial perspective, their behaviour is not always that easy-going, but that just makes it all the more interesting, and very helpful to boot.


Digital Natives
Generation Z
the world is virtual

Understanding young people has always been an older person’s problem. Although it was composed way back when in the 1960s, the anthemic My Generation by The Who and its content is something that young people have little trouble identifying with today. As then, they feel misunderstood and not listened to. But they no longer have to kick up a stink at full volume to make themselves heard. They are not just one step ahead of their parents and grandparents in various respects. They are streets ahead. And able to pick up baffling new abilities at a speed that the majority of us just can’t fathom. Their name: Generation Z.

iPhone, iSnap, iShop

Presumably this problem has been around since the dawn of time: somehow the individual generations have to find a way to rub along together and live alongside one another even though it is not always easy. After the baby boomers and generations X and Y, it is now Gen Z’s turn to act as a lightning rod for many questions and problems.  The rudderless Lost Generation (born before 1980) was followed by the eternally questioning Generation Why, which was born between the early eighties and the late nineties. And now we have the Gen Z-ers, the first digital natives. Their constant companion as they move through life: the internet. After all, they’ve never lived in a world without the worldwide web. So it makes no sense that they would ever dream of the good old analogue days like so many other people who end up prescribing themselves smartphone bans and digital detoxes. For Gen Z, the world is virtual and real all at the same time. Online and offline aren’t so much opposites; they are two sides of the same coin.

“We need the challenge of the young generation, otherwise our feet would go to sleep.“ Willy Brandt

Striking the right work-life balance? No need, as Gen Z-ers are at ease mixing in a bit of everything seven days a week. Their honesty is refreshing, and somehow also a bit more likeable than ending up blurting out “now I need time for me” in a bit of a panic. For people who are used to 24-hour access, restricted opening hours are – well, what better way to put it – restrictive. And access is the watchword for this generation. It is about tapping into, and not owning. Companies without the requisite flexibility can hardly to expect to catch their attention. Anyone looking to make a bit of money out of the younger generation first needs to find out what makes them tick. Gen Z-ers can show us how people are communicating right now, and will do so in future, as well as how people work, and, of course, how people shop. Every single business should make an effort to take a closer look and start cashing in. And when it comes to marketing, Gen Z is more savvy than some brand managers out there. From birth.

I am a star

While numerous famous brands are desperately trying to cultivate a youthful online presence, teenagers are already there on, Snapchat and Insta pulling it off with consummate ease. And not just for entertainment, but with the clear goal of casting themselves in the best possible light and marketing their own personal brand. A million followers? Yes please! Your own fashion collection? Not a problem. German twins Lisa and Lena have shown the way for others to follow. Are the reigning queens of, the social-media app of choice for Generation Z, and critically monitored by their tech-savvy predecessor who were pioneers just a short while ago. A long, long time ago. Being an influencer is no laughing matter, it really is a serious career aspiration!

ON-OFF: The feeling that the world is turning faster and faster is a typical sign that things are getting away from you.

But rather than panicking, you should just let the youngsters take care of it. And it’s not just that new apps are taking the world by storm virtually every week, the way that people interact with them is changing, too. Faster, simpler and more intuitive. Sounds great, but that’s the death knell for older people. And that definition extends to the over-30s. Hate to break it to you like that. So what does the average Gen Z shopping experience look like? Google first, then buy? Yes, but not, as so often asserted, only online. While it is true that young people find out about the latest brands, outfits and food trends on the internet, they actually head to bricks and mortar stores to do their shopping. But not without getting real-time feedback from friends and followers. Going from shop to shop: try something on, share it with the world, pick up a couple of finds and leave a trail of hashtags in your wake. Should I get the cropped sweatshirt or stick with the hoodie after all?


The idea that the community is quicker to provide feedback than any husband has long since struck home, elevating us all to the status of role models for an entire generation. In addition to being the most culturally and ethnically diverse generation, one for whom national and language barriers blur into nothingness, its members do not necessarily come from nuclear family backgrounds with hard and fast gender assignations. Members of Gen Z have the world – and any type of relationship they wish to pursue – at their feet. They meet up and get to know each other. On their screens at least.

Try, fail, win!

Generation Z always knows exactly what is going on. In the same building, in the same town, or thousands of kilometres away – it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference. They don’t wait for the six o’clock news to come on and are very rarely found on Facebook. The only thing that Generation X and Y have in common is a Netflix account. They know where to compare and get their hands on products.  In a matter of seconds. From a purely entrepreneurial perspective, their behaviour is not always that easy-going, but that just makes it all the more interesting, and very helpful to boot. If there is a problem with a product it will be written up and snapchatted for all the world to see – long before the people behind it know anything about it.

They want to feel and experience. In real life.

They are open and up for experimenting. Try out something new? Why not? Holding back is not in their vocabulary, and their confidence eclipses previous generations’. “Try, fail and win” would be a suitable motto for them. After all, they were not born into a cosy world, but a cold hard reality that has asked a lot from them. Their future is as uncertain as any before them. Maybe that is why they stay in their parents’ nests before attempting to build their own. Clearly, they need more than just virtual warmth. You just have to take them for who they are. And that’s where they have a lot in common with other people – and customers…

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