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Gen Z Digital-Book: A Primer For All Things Gen Z


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Just like you, we’re curious about Gen Z—the college students of today and tomorrow. So we’ve spent some time studying them.Now is the time to get smarter about communicating and connecting with this new generation. Our book offers facts and valuable insights, as well as bottom-line implications for your communications.
Think of it as a primer for all things Gen Z.

Published in: Education
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Gen Z Digital-Book: A Primer For All Things Gen Z

  1. 1. THIS IS GEN Z.
  2. 2. This is your Gen Z primer. It’s designed to help you understand what defines the members of this new generation: family life, entertainment, education, and everything in between. At the core of their world is technology. They’ve never known a life without constant access to search engines, social media, and texting. These kids are more than just digital natives. In The Gen Z Effect, Tom Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen call them “hyperconnected junkies whose expectations will radically change the face of business forever.” The authors go on: “For Gen Z, technology is invisible; it’s just part of the way the world behaves toward and interacts with them.” Persistent digital access to global information has expanded their perspectives, creating knowledgeable, worldly, diverse, and status-quo-challenging stances on everything from social issues to finances. This means that change is coming. We must explore new ways of connecting with this cohort. They have a diversity of perspectives and voices, and a readiness to contribute and make a difference. To that end, throughout this piece, we offer some suggestions for how to engage tomorrow’s college students. Ready to dive in?
  3. 3. We’re tomorrow’s college students.
  4. 4. We’re called Generation Z.
  5. 5. Like all generations, we’re defined by time. Born 1996 and after
  6. 6. Silent Generation (70–85 years old) Gen X (36–50 years old) Gen Z (5–19 years old) Millennials (20–35 years old) Baby Boomers (51–69 years old) Where do we fit in? 2015
  7. 7. Millennials (current largest) Gen Z (on the rise) 77mil Between 2015–2025 68mil We’re young, powerful, and big.
  8. 8. We will change the world. We believe it’s up to us. Identity/Technology/Family Life/ Social Issues/Careers/Education/ Privacy and Safety/Health/ Entertainment/Finances/Outlook
  9. 9. Identity “We’re gonna be weird adults.”
  10. 10. We defy and resent conventional labels that don’t fully capture who we really are. There is no “one size fits all” in our world. Because we don’t just accept differences in others— we celebrate them. We’re more open than you were. We discuss and challenge gender roles and sexual identity openly. We’re blended. Since 2000, the multiracial youth population has increased by 50%. Our perspective is global. Technology opens the window to international issues, values, and cultures. The world is smaller, and our views are bigger. We have a greater appreciation of differing views and perspectives than ever before in history. — Bottom Line Talk to us based on our mindset, not our demographic. This means spending time to understand us and what it takes to get—and keep—our interest. Identity
  11. 11. Technology Go to your room! “You mean where my laptop, iPad, and phone are? OK.”
  12. 12. Sure, Millennials are tech- savvy, but we are the first true digital natives. Technology is just a fluid, organic part of our daily lives. But, this doesn’t mean we’re analog-phobes. We love our “unplugged” time, despite FOMO (fear of missing out). We communicate constantly. Social media is the #1 reason we use the Internet, and we send more than 100 texts a day. Digital connections with the world are essential. 73% of us are connected within an hour of waking up. We would give up new clothes, our allowance, or eating out, rather than give up our phones, texting, or WiFi. Our digital world is noisy. Our attention span is 8 seconds, and we multi- task across five screens. We want a personal experience. 72% of us want to connect to personalized content across all devices. — Bottom Line Connect the dots between digital and offline communications. Keep in mind that things like responsive websites are just table stakes now. We want to be wowed. Technology
  13. 13. Family Life “You think I’m crazy? Wait until you meet my family!”
  14. 14. The idea of a “traditional” family structure is obsolete. (Think: Modern Family is the new norm.) Our families are just more diverse—we have single parents and multiple generations in our homes. We also happen to be super close to our parents and feel comfortable talking about what was once taboo (thanks to TV programs like Glee). Family structures are changing. One-third of us live in a single-parent household. My family’s different, deal with it. Our families are more diverse—ethnically, racially, and religiously—than half a generation ago. Our grandparents live with us. Multigenerational family households have doubled since 1980. We have strong family values that mirror our parents’. 88% of us are extremely close to our parents and even refer to them as our best friends. — Bottom Line Our support system helps us make big decisions, so engage us and them. Connect with our parents, guidance counselors, and friends, being mindful of the channels and messages that appeal most to each group. Family Life
  15. 15. Social Issues “I act like I don’t care, but I do more than you think.”
  16. 16. On-demand access to information (thanks, interwebs) and a greater diversity all around us has expanded our worldview. We grew up hearing about and talking about matters like marriage equality and global warming. We care about human rights, our impact on the planet, and helping change what we don’t like about the world. We believe marriage equality is a fundamental right. 80% of us supported legalizing it long before the government actually did. We support sustainability and renewable energy. 76% are concerned about human impact on the planet. We grew up watching international news. 78% worry about world hunger. We care deeply about our world. 77% believe that businesses should make “doing good” central to their mission. — Bottom Line Invite us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We jump at the chance to speak up or join a social cause. Social Issues
  17. 17. Careers “I want to do something today that my future self will thank me for.”
  18. 18. Careers We may be young, but we’re already fiercely entrepreneurial and future focused. And we’re very realistic when it comes to working hard for success. A lot of our parents lost jobs during the recession, which makes us more inclined to consider self-employment. Ultimately, we want what we do to mean something. We’re influenced to work hard and pursue a career early. 55% of us feel pressured by our parents to get early professional experience. We have more access to mentorships and training programs. 50% attend middle or high schools that offer classes in how to start and run a business. We’re future focused, but we’re ready to start taking steps now. 77% are extremely interested in volunteering to gain work experience. Many of our parents lost longstanding jobs during our childhood. We question loyalty to any given employer, and 74% would rather work for ourselves. — Bottom Line Show us the tangible things we can achieve together. Job-oriented challenges— like real-life training or working directly with companies—should be woven into the fabric of our educational experiences.
  19. 19. Education “Homework. Because 7 hours of school wasn’t enough.”
  20. 20. Education We just Google it. 85% of us do research online and 33% watch lessons online to educate ourselves. We’re under enormous pressure. 46% are more worried about our GPA than having friends, fitting in, being popular, or staying healthy. Yes, we’re entrepreneurial. But we want the degree. Half of us will be university educated, compared to one-third of Millennials. We’re far savvier than you give us credit for. 64% consider earning an advanced degree as one of our life goals. — Bottom Line Help us apply what we’re learning in real time. Don’t just teach us what to think— teach us how to think and how to make an impact. Even though we’re already career-oriented, we want a college degree first. We recognize that a college education is important, but we want a global education. Our learning experiences are no longer confined to school buildings or campuses. They’re increasingly self-directed and digital.
  21. 21. Privacy and Safety “We always make sure we know where the exit door is in movie theaters.”
  22. 22. We take privacy into our own hands. Only 18% of us share “a lot” online, and 1 in 4 left Facebook in 2014 for more private and controllable networks like Snapchat. We’re becoming more guarded. 42% of us are now sharing less than we did two years ago. Oversharing is overrated. 81% of us think our peers share too much online. In fact, we’re worried about both online and offline safety. Among students aged 12 to 18, there were 615,600 victims of theft and 749,200 victims of violence last year. More than 25% of us nationwide are the targets of bullying. — Bottom Line We take an active role in securing our safety and privacy. Show us what you do to make your campus a comfortable and safe experience. (Our parents will appreciate this too.) Although we do feel compelled to post constantly on social media, we’re also increasingly sensitive to oversharing. We need to have control over exactly what we share, and when, where, and with whom. This goes hand in hand with our general safety— at school, in our communities, and in public places. We need to know that our worlds‚ online and off, are safe spaces for us. Privacy and Safety
  23. 23. Health “I enjoy long, romantic walks to the fridge.”
  24. 24. Health We spend the majority of our allowance on food. We get about $17 per week in allowance, or $44 billion a year total. We grew up in a health-crazed world. Awareness of animal cruelty means we’re more likely to try a vegetarian diet, and we’ve been influenced by nutrition-promoting public figures like Michelle Obama. We spend more because we make healthier food choices. 58% of us are willing to pay more for organic and natural products, and sodas like Pepsi and Coke are down 40% in the last decade among the older part of our bracket. Yet we’re sedentary. We spend more than 7½ hours a day in front of a screen. — Bottom Line The experience in your dining and fitness facilities needs to be awesome. We’re not gonna lie: this is a huge evaluation point for us with colleges and universities. We want to feel supported in our healthy decision-making. Look, we like to eat. But we’re becoming more aware of issues like obesity and animal cruelty. Because of these factors, we’re more likely to try healthy options like a vegetarian lifestyle. We naturally identify with brands that advocate for organic, locally sourced, and farm-to-table methods, because they make us feel good, nutritionally and emotionally.
  25. 25. Entertainment “Finishing a good movie, then having to face the reality of my boring life.”
  26. 26. Misfit is the new superhero. We connect with characters from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Guardians of the Galaxy, Glee, The Maze Runner, The Hobbit, and many more. We gravitate toward escapism. We’re into gaming, television, movies, books, music, role- playing games, and more. We’re drawn to doomsday themes. We like movies that show youth rising above— The Hunger Games, Divergent, War of the Worlds, World War Z, and The Day After Tomorrow. We escape the world out of worry or boredom, but we believe in our own power. 9 out of 10 of us feel optimistic about our own future. — Bottom Line Our entertainment choices reflect our belief that an ordinary person can make a difference. Allow us—the ordinary individuals—to play an active role in your storytelling. When it comes to entertainment, we’re especially drawn to underdog characters that change the world against all odds. An everyday person overcoming adversity starts to feel like our own lives. (Lookin’ at you, Katniss.) Entertainment
  27. 27. Finances “It’s pretty annoying that all the things I want cost money.”
  28. 28. We feel the residual emotional effects of the recession. 65% of us worry about the economy in general. We’re in control of our spending. One-third of us have an app for finance, budgeting, or banking on our smartphone. We grew up hearing about college debt. 57% of us would rather save money than spend it immediately. We’re concerned about employability. We need to know that our investment in a four-year degree will begin to pay off immediately. — Bottom Line We’re already working on being responsible with our money. So help us understand how we’ll be better off by investing in our education. Our biggest worry about college is graduating with tons of debt. So we’re gonna grill you about the long-term value of your four-year degree. Finances
  29. 29. Outlook “What do you stand for? Because it matters to me.”
  30. 30. We’re sick of manufactured advertising. $40 billion was spent on advertising and marketing in 2014. We’re done with fake everything, really. Give us natural, organic, and authentic; brands like Zappos and Chipotle have won our hearts. We’re done with fake people. We speak out against photoshopped models. We are idealistic. We believe it’s up to us to make the world a better place. — Bottom Line For us, #nofilter says it all. We prize transparency and authenticity. So be real. Be approachable. Have clear values that we can get behind, and then listen to what we have to say. Yes, we’re realistic and cautious, but we’re also optimistic about how we can shape the future. Older generations can learn a lot from us, and they should take us more seriously. So should brands. Carefully crafted marketing messages may get our attention, but they won’t necessarily win our loyalty. Outlook
  31. 31. What do the next five years look like?
  32. 32. The Next Five Years Technology will remain a dominant force in education.
  33. 33. Crowd-sourced lesson plans, information fluency, and digital citizenship behavior. Lectures and the one-size-fits-all approach to learning are out. New norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use are in. Increased scrutiny of student data across social media, digital browsing, and other online touchpoints. Top ed-tech companies boast that they’re collecting millions of unique data points on each child daily, and there’s no end in sight. Data in exchange for ultra-personalized content and experiences. Students’ walls around privacy will begin to crumble when they realize the value of exchanging their online behaviors for a more focused and relevant experience. Digital’s role in physical environments and the convergence of a truly integrated experience. Imagine campus tours and visitor’s centers where devices and online content can enhance the experience. The evolution and adoption of wearable technology. Wearables can be important learning aids in and out of the classroom. They could also be a relevant part of the mobile campus ecosystem to provide students with ready access to campus information and services. The Next Five Years
  34. 34. The Next Five Years Population and enrollment will grow and diversify. Both public and private institutions will see an 8% increase in enrollment. PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE RACE AND ETHNICITY The West Coast and Southwest should see the largest increases overall. 8% 27% A growing number of college attendees will be first-generation minority students. Enrollment of Hispanic U.S. residents will increase Over one-third of us will be bilingual, speaking Spanish and English. Minority students already account for nearly 40% of high-school graduates. By 2023, it will be about half. Enrollment of full-time students will increase 12% Enrollment of 18- to 24-year-olds will increase 9% Enrollment of male students will increase 9% Enrollment of female students will increase 18% The traditional student population will grow, but in new ways. STATUS
  35. 35. This generation will change our world— for good.
  36. 36. Sources “The Impact of Mobile Browsing on the College Search Process,” 2013 E-Expectations Report. Noel-Levitz, 2013. “Attention Higher Ed Institutes: This is How You Attract High School Students.” Matthew Tsang, My Loud Speaker: Insights from Marketers, for Marketers, July 2014. “The Super Investigator: Understanding Today’s ‘Always-On’ Prospective Student. A Report on Prospective Students and the College Decision Process, Key Insights.” Lipman Hearne, January 2013. “Your Value Proposition: How Prospective Students and Parents Perceive Value and Select Colleges.” Longmire and Company, 2013. “What Drives the Students’ Enrollment Decisions?” Eduventures, April 2014. “Workforce 2020, The Looming Talent Crisis.” Oxford Economics, 2014. “Hey Higher Ed Marketers! Get To Know The Parents.” Lipman Hearne, 2014. “Parent Involvement in College Planning: High School Students Want Parents to Be More Involved in College Planning,” College Board and Art & Science Group, LLC, 2007. “Innovation in Higher Education Survey Toplines.” Northeastern University, 2012. “Gen Z Is Financially-Savvy, with One Big Exception.” April Dykman, Get Rich Slowly, 2013. “Generation Z Is Entrepreneurial, Wants to Chart Its Own Future.” Northeastern News, 2014. “4 Steps to Social Recruiting Millennials and Gen Z.” Amit Chauhan, 2014. “6 Steps to Making Your Brand Cool to Gen Z on Social Media.” Tim McMullen, 2014. “8 Important Education Trends in Generation Z.” Best Online Colleges, 2011. “Gen Z, Digital in Their DNA.” JWTIntelligence, 2012. “Gen Z, The First Generation of the 21st Century Has Arrived!” Sarah Sladek and Alyx Grabinger. XYZ University, 2013. “Get Ready for Generation Z: They’re Smarter than Boomers, and Way More Ambitious than the Millennials.” Anne Kingston, 2014. “Wake Up, A Strategic Intelligence Report/Gen Z.” Omelet, 2014. “Generation Z: 2 Billion Rising.” Brett Templeton and Garret Cummings, Plural Thinking, 2014. “The New Workplace Currency: It’s Not Just Salary Anymore.” Cisco, 2013. “Marketing to Gen Z: Millenials Move Aside as Brands Shift to Focus to Under-18 Customers.” Julia Glum, International Business Times, 2015. “Recruiting Gen Z: No More Business As Usual.” Eduventures, 2014. “Generation Z Opts to Stash Their Cash in Savings Rather than Invest.” Ameritrade, 2014. “The Brands Don’t Stand a Chance: The Mobile Driven Life of Gen Z’ers.” Justin Ferrell, Digital Relativity, 2013. “The 2018 Mindset List.” Beloit College, 2014. “The Surprising Thing Gen Z Wants to Do With Its Money.” Dan Kadlec, Money Magazine, 2014. “The American Freshman: Forty-Year Trends, 1966–2006.” Cooperative Institutional Research Program, Higher Education Research Institute, University of California, 2013. “Marketing to the Generations: 4 Tips for Getting—and Keeping —Gen Z’s Attention.” Emily Lange Rodecker, Gremln, 2014. “Undergraduate Teaching faculty: The 2013-2014 HERI Faculty Survey.” Higher Education Research Institute, University of California, 2014. “Authenticity Is King Because Branding Bores Everyone: Why A Brand’s Audience Needs To Experience Your Message.” Jamie Monberg, Co Design Magazine, 2011. “Customers Demand These 2 Fundamental Aspects of Authentic Brands.” Jim Joseph, Entrepreneur Magazine, 2014. “College Students Own an Average of 7 Tech Devices.” Marketing Charts, 2013. “Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey 2013: National Report, College Students.” Harris Interactive, 2014. “Pearson Student Poll Mobile Device Survey 2014: National Report Students Grade 4–12.” Harris Poll, 2014. “Internet Live Stats.” Internet Live Stats, 2015. “2014 E-Expectations Report: The Online Preferences of College- Bound High School Seniors and Their Parents.” Noel-Levitz, 2014. “More Information Yields More Learning and Sharing.” Pew Research, 2014. “Social Media In Higher Education: A Literature Review and Research Directions.” Davis, Deil-Amen, Rios-Aguilar, and Gonzalez Canche, The Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, 2011. “How Teens Share Information on Social Media.” Pew Research Center, 2013.
  37. 37. Sources “Social Media Update 2014.” Maeve Duggan, Nicole B. Ellison, Cliff Lampe, Amanda Lenhart, and Mary Madden, Pew Research Center, 2014. “Reaching the Wired Generation: How Social Media Is Changing College Admission.” Nora Ganim Barnes, National Association for College Admission Counseling, 2009. “Teens Fact Sheet.” Pew Research, 2013. “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy,” Maeve Duggan, Nicole B. Ellison, Cliff Lampe, Amanda Lenhart, and Mary Madden, Pew Research, 2013. “2014–24 Projections of High School Graduates by State and Race/Ethnicity, Based Primarily on Data from WICHE.” Noel-Levitz, 2014. “2014 National Freshman Attitudes Report.” Noel-Levitz, 2014. “Projections of Education Statistics to 2022.” National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, 2014. “2014 College Senior Survey: Institutional Profile and Longitudinal Profile Reports,” Higher Education Research Institute, University of California, 2014. “Global Learning: Defining, Designing, and Demonstrating.” Kevin Hovland, Association of American Educators and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2014. “Bringing the University Into Focus: Annual Results 2014.” National Survey of Student Engagement, 2014. “Current Population Reports: Population Projections of the United States by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin, 1995–2050.” U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Bureau of the Census, 1996. “Same-Sex Marriage Support Universal Among Entering College Students.” Kevin Eagan. Huffington Post, 2014. “The Current State of U.S. Higher Education: Top to Bottom.” Frank Donohue,, 2010. “The American Freshman: National Norms 2013.” Higher Education Research Institute, University of California, 2014. “Education: The Rising Cost of Not Going to College.” Pew Research, 2014. “The Increasing Impact of Mobile Trends on College Admissions in 2012.” Cappex, 2012. “Youth Risk Behavior Survey.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013. “Indicators of School Crime and Safety.” National Center for Education Statistics, 2013. “A Digital Update, By the Numbers.” ComScore, 2015. “Diversity Explosion.” William Frey, Brookings Institution, 2014. “The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business.” Tom Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen, 2014. “Teens, Young Adults Think Peers Share Too Much Online.” Camp Mobile and eMarketer, 2014. “Why ‘Gen Z’ May Be More Entrepreneurial Than ‘Gen Y.’” Dan Schawbel, Entrepreneur, 2014. “Debt-Averse Teens.” Inside Higher Ed, 2014.
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