An old colleague of mine, Doug Pruden, is now with a firm called Customer Experience Partners which specializes in helping companies market to, and engender loyalty in, their customers. Doug periodically sends me articles with tips for relating to various segments of an audience, and the other day I received one entitled “Generation Z: the Plurals or ‘Digitals’ – Your Next Marketing Challenge.”
You sort of know that a generation is in trouble when it is called three different things in just the title of an article.
The article defines “Plurals” as “individuals born from the start of the new millennium.” Doug’s article doesn’t say why they are called “Plurals”–I assume it’s because there is more than one of them. Evidently, they can also be referred to as Boomlets (that’s four names) because there were a lot of births in 2006–more than there were at the start of the Baby Boomer era, which means we are just a few years away from being overrun by whining, hormonal teenagers.
Oh, and they’ll be whining in Spanish apparently, because 49% of those 2006 births were Hispanics. So maybe they should be Los Plurales.
According to the article, these “Plurals” have two defining characteristics other than a propensity to be named Emily, Madison or Hannah. The first is that they are “entertainment omnivores” who consume media when, where and how they want it. (In the case of the youngest of the generation, the media will have to first be puréed.)
In other words, this is going to be a very rude generation. You will never be able to have a conversation with these people without them simultaneously tweeting, posting, Vining, chatting, gaming, texting, Instagramming, streaming and whatever the hell else kids do on their phones. This will be very disconcerting for older folks, particularly us original, large, economy-sized boomers, who are getting to the point where we need big screen TVs just so the closed captioning is large enough for us to read.
The second characteristic of this new generation, which, if we’re being honest, should have been called “Zeros,” is a phenomenon known as KGOY: kids growing old younger. You can see this in action by watching the presidential candidates, many of whom act as though they are three years old.
No, wait. That would be RGYO–Republicans growing younger older.
Back to KGOY: it doesn’t necessarily mean that kids are more mature at a younger age, just that they are “abandoning toys and traditional games sooner.” Instead they become “savvy keyboarders, switching their play to electronic devices, cell phones and video games” as early as age four.
That’s a good news/bad news sort of thing: The bad news is they may grow up to become socially-inept nerds with overly large thumbs; the good news is their parents don’t have to play with them. It also doesn’t bode well for sales of Monopoly En Español.
The article points out that the Plurals will be even more insufferable when it comes to technology than the Millennials are. After all, Millennials (born roughly between 1985-2000) at least had to adapt to the technology; Plurals were born into it. Which means they won’t even be able to tell us how to do stuff on our iPhones because they never had to figure it out themselves. It just came naturally. For them, it would be like trying to show somebody how to walk…while they are shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at our incompetency…and tweeting, posting, gaming, Vining, chatting, texting, Instagramming and streaming.
And, like, as if, they could care less whether you can figure out how to Facetime with them or not, YSF.*
Plurals will have never known a world where just about everything isn’t on demand: movies, music, TV shows, taxis, rooms in people’s homes, food from any nearby restaurant. And the only possible outcome for a generation that has everything available on demand is for them to become more demanding.
It seems like the only saving grace for this generation may be tolerance. Most have never known a time when a black man couldn’t be president, or gay couples couldn’t be married, or people didn’t have to be male or female. They will certainly be inundated from birth with anti-bullying messaging, just as Millennials were bombarded with anti-drug and anti-smoking ads.
So let’s not be too quick to judge these Plural, Digital, Boomlet, omnivore Gen Zers. They may be rude, but maybe they’ll be a kinder, gentler generation.
See you soon.
*A young person texting a demeaning epithet about you, you stupid f**k.