What Generation Z has over Generation Y

Dirk Ziems

What does Generation Z have over Generation Y?

Every generation shapes its lifeworld and consumption world in its own way. The gathering pace of technological and social change also shortens the intervals between clearly differing consumer generations.

The gap between Generation Y (25-35 today) and Generation Z (15-25) is only ten years, and the categories which determine experience and expectations have already changed.

Generation Z has never experienced the pre-digital world

The central achievements of the digital lifestyle can be captured in a couple of basic features. In Daily Life 2.0, every aspect of organisation has been digitally facilitated – there is an app for every situation in life and everyday problem, even if it is just ordering pizza for delivery. Social life is dissolved in the virtual community which surrounds them 24/7 in Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and other forums. However, the digital everyday revolution has its downside, where it eats its children. Examples are compulsive gamers or people living by proxy in the social media.

So, what is the central difference between Gen Y and Gen Z? The cohort of Gen Y were the frontrunners, who first opened up the digital lifestyle. There were many things that were entirely new and untried. After starting on MySpace, Facebook offered the option of making your networking even more international. In terms of their overall development, Gen Y was still a pioneering and transformation generation. Their parents got their Gen Y children to explain to them or watched to see what all the chats and apps could be used for. And when grandma sent birthday wishes from her new iPad, the educational work of Gen Y was done. Even so, there was still a sense of living in a time of upheaval, of discovering new multi-optional worlds – even to the point of an excess of possibilities.

For Generation Z, the digital world is the natural state of things. Today’s 17-year-olds often made their first Skype video calls at five, and were surfing the web at ten on mobile devices. The digital lifestyle had always been there, and was seen as the natural order of things. The freedom of mobility, of the internet and other features have always been there as a matter of course for Generation Z, with no need to conquer them, in the way that Gen Y experienced.

Confident avoidance of digital and work overload

This different perspective is accompanied by a different attitude to life.

While Generation Y sees itself as in a process of upheaval – onward to new shores, trying out as much as possible, exploring as many new possibilities at once – Generation Z feels much less pressure. Its members are much better able to deal with their individual wishes, establish their place in the world, and avoid too much work or stress. Devoting themselves totally to a career and losing all sense of balance – like the career chasers of the 90s who let themselves be ordered around by their smartphones – is a dreadful thought. Autonomy and self-investment have high priority in this generation. Members look to see what seems expedient. They want to follow their own ideas, not necessarily mingle work and private life, all to enhance their personal quality of life. Once their material needs have been met and they feel comfortable in their social physical or digital networks, Generation Z feels secure, strong and independent enough to carve out their orderly world from the digital and work overload.

Instead of superficial testing, really developing potential

A further difference between Gen Y and Gen Z is interesting in this connection. Where Gen Y has been more inclined to restlessly try things out and test them – keywords: multiple options, revelling in an excess of possibilities, the magic of beginnings – Generation Z tends to complete, finished works. These need not be great and visionary – the main thing is that they give the feeling that they are within reach and deliver a result. An example, for the sake of clarification: for Generation Y, it is typical to network in many scenes and maintain various professional, private, intimate and buddy networks in parallel. However, this is at the expense of really intensive involvement. People network, test, try out – but more superficially.

By contrast, Generation Z is more interested in realising their own potential, which is also strongly linked to social and digital media, and seeing a genuine outcome. Goals are realistic rather than exaggerated. “Skills” in computer games, self-made videos or optimised photos are eagerly discussed, rated and put on show, possibly on YouTube or Snapchat. The presentation is the result of a creative act, and is celebrated as such. The desire for reputation and approval matures. In studies on clique behaviour in this generation we observe the phenomenon that not only are photos/selfies shot, but also complete videos are taken, photos are modified and almost professionally enhanced. Individual scenes can be replayed in play settings, whether Star Wars, swing jumping, cool music videos or lively fight scenes, self-made comedies.

Research background to the observations:the concept m team has been working for decades on the changes in attitudes to life and lifestyle concepts of the different generations. In national and international studies on consumption and above all in specific initiative studies on Gen Y, Best Agers, digital media etc, we research the drivers of the generations and social change.

For more information, contact rochus.winkler@test.local.

Dirk Ziems
Dirk Ziems ist Experte für tiefenpsychologisches Marketing und berät auf Basis von Markt-, Medien- und Kulturforschung weltweit Unternehmen und Konzerne in zahlreichen Branchen und Ländern. Als Mitbegründer der Global Research Boutique Concept M und der Marketingberatung Flying Elephant begleitet er Themen wie die Adaption von Erfolgsprodukten in neuen kulturellen Kontexten, das tiefe Verständnis neuer Konsumgenerationen in China und USA, die Transformation der Werbekommunikation in der neuen digitalen Medienwelt oder die Neuorientierung der Brands in Post-Corona-Zeiten. Dirk Ziems ist auch als Gastdozent an verschiedenen Universitäten tätig.

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