My Generation

For the longest time, I thought I was Gen X. It was a shock to discover, a long time ago, that I actually belong to the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation. It didn’t make sense to me because my parents weren’t old enough to have served in a war. That’s where the “boom” came from; soldiers coming home from war, going forth and multiplying.

After Gen X came the much-maligned Millennials (or Gen Y) who, in my personal experience, exemplify the best attributes of their stereotype: confident, globally-aware, team-oriented, achieving, open-minded. They’ve also been called lazy, self-entitled narcissists but that’s not been the case among millennials in my life. I’d go so far as to say that I’ve learned the most in recent years from millennials than I have from peers or those older than me. They’re smarter and we’d be dumb not to notice.

But here comes Gen Z, born after 1996. Amazon has identified them as the next marketing target. The oldest Gen Zs are just starting their independent lives. They’ll never know a world without the Internet, home delivery of anything they want, and they’ve got a lot more information about what they’re consuming – figuratively and literally.

But here’s their weakness, according to Bloomberg: advertising. Not in the traditional way, but from social media influencers. It’s no accident that 21-year-old Kylie Jenner is considered the youngest self-made billionaire. Put a product and a million bucks in her hand and Gen Z will rush to buy whatever she’s holding. And as Bloomberg reminds us:

She’s so influential, one tweet from her in February 2018 disparaging Snapchat wiped out $1.3 billion in market cap.

Big social media followings matter to this group. Marketers have to prove their value by purchasing the people-power of celebrities and others with influence. It’s good news for Kylie Jenner, but what about traditional brands like beer, banks and grocery-store food? Those companies are suffering as they struggle to adapt to the new market trends. Gen Z doesn’t tend to open a can of Campbell’s soup for lunch. And with point-and-click grocery shopping coming on strong, the impulse purchase isn’t as much of a thing.

Shania \Twain in white jeans, white sleeveless denim jacket, red top and red hat, looks happy as she walks onto the Fan Fair media stage
Shania Twain meets the media for questions about her breakthrough album, The Woman in Me.

I thought the sneakers-with-heels Shania Twain was wearing at Nashville’s Fan Fair were pretty cool when I met her years ago. When I got home, I bought some. I was under no delusion that wearing them would make me look like Shania Twain! She had influence on the purchase but it wasn’t a paid endorsement. She obviously chose them because she liked them. Doesn’t Gen Z know the difference? If not, Kylie Jenner is about to get a whole lot richer.

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