Brands recycling Gen Z insights for Gen Alpha are in for a rude awakening
Quickly approaching adulthood, Gen Alphas are much different than Gen Z. Dani Mariano, president at Razorfish, explains why we mustn't forget this.
Generation Alpha will be completely different to Gen Z argues Dani Mariano
Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. It’s about this time each year when everyone starts discussing the year to follow. As quickly as the hurricane of change is swirling around us, it’s hard to think much farther ahead than 2024.
But truly positioning an organization for the future doesn’t happen quarter by quarter. It’s a shift in mindset to think long-term. It’s about not being afraid to move away from what might seem like the right thing right now. Gen Z has stolen the spotlight for the past several years. They are more technologically savvy, purpose-driven, and vocal about their views than any group before them. Yet, it wasn’t long ago that many companies were treating Gen Z as an audience segment the same way they treated Millennials, and quickly realized these two cohorts of consumers had less in common than previously thought.
By 2028, the oldest members of Generation Alpha will reach purchasing age. Since it’s prediction season, here are two predictions I can share with complete confidence:
1. Alphas will be more ‘Gen Z’ than Gen Z.
2. Underestimating Gen Alpha’s expectations for consumer experience will leave brands behind.
Part of our responsibility to our clients at Razorfish is to future-proof them for what’s to come – to be out front on emerging technology and forward-thinking the trends that still aren’t mainstream. That’s why we conducted a study on Gen Alpha to better understand their behaviors and feelings so brands can start preparing (and looking in that rearview mirror, the timeline is quickly approaching). Perhaps the most significant findings came when comparing Alphas to Gen Z.
Here are the key differences brands need to be aware of to remove any assumptions that these two groups should be approached as if they are one and the same.
Technology Dependence to Alphas
Technology isn’t novel. Alphas have been exposed to it since birth and had devices of their own at a much earlier age than Gen Z, in large part out of necessity due to online learning during the pandemic. By age six, most have a tablet. By age 10, most have a smartphone. They are more than digital natives – they are digital ninjas. Most of this probably doesn’t seem surprising, but digging deeper, the way Alphas think about technology is quite unique.
Gen Z recognizes their technology dependence, increased screen time, and, in some cases, addiction to devices and social media. They are proactively finding ways to avoid technology and get a break from it by doing physical activity or going outside. But Alphas have an inverse view on this.
They see technology as a part of their lives but not something taking over their lives. They play outside with their friends, participate in physical activity, and find balance using technology appropriately.
Examining how Gen Z and Gen Alpha approach gaming is a good segue from tech dependence.
For Gen Z, gaming is a way to escape. Research from 2022 showed more than half of Gen Z respondents feel more like themselves in the ‘metaverse’ than in real life. That effort to disconnect from the real world is strong and apparent.
On the other hand, Alphas see gaming as an opportunity for creation. They believe it’s a time to express themselves in ways like building unique new worlds and leveraging the games to foster their imagination. It’s not a method of escape but a method of making dreams come to life in a virtual setting.
Purpose and authenticity
Gen Z paved the way for more openness and conversations about important issues like mental health and social change. Expect Gen Alpha to take that baton and keep running even farther. Alphas already have incredibly high standards for innovation, and brands must be prepared to meet that standard. This is partially because of their exposure to adult brands – Alphas aren’t just engaging with kid brands but are already forming first impressions on some of the most prominent businesses in the world. Disingenuous marketing tactics or one-size-fits-all campaigns won’t fool them. Authenticity will be of the utmost importance to Alphas, who will demand a level of personalization that few are ready to deliver today.
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Assumptions backfired in the past, and I’m urging everyone reading this today to pay attention to this one crucial takeaway: Gen Alpha and Gen Z are not the same.
And over the next few years, before Alphas reach purchasing age, there’s just enough time to get ready for a shift that will be even more profound than the impact we all felt with Millennials and Gen Z. 2024 is around the corner, but 2028 will be here before we know it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.