Have We Gotten Gen Z All Wrong?
Box 1824, the cultural research group that identified the globally adopted fashion term 'normcore,' has turned the notion of Gen Z and post-Millennials on its head, identifying and redefining the current youth generation as GenExit.
The GenExit Report reframes the pivotal post-Millennial generation, arguing that, in their rush to label and characterize today's youth as Gen Z or "Millennials on steroids," marketers and the media have oversimplified them and, as such, have gotten it all wrong.
Previous research on Gen Z provided a polarizing view of this generation, with either total optimism that Gen Z would change the world or total pessimism that Gen Z would destroy it. Rather, this group is more focused on avoiding commitment and having an exit plan.
Previous labels are premature and miss the point, argue the report's authors Sophie Secaf, researcher/creative strategist, and Sean Monahan, artist, writer and strategist.
"The GenExit report — and moniker — gives a sharper, more robust, holistic picture of this pivotal group, making a clearer path for marketers and institutions to communicate with a generation of people who are non-committal and always have one foot out the door," said Secaf.
Unlike their Millennial predecessors, GenExit:
- is growing up thinking life is getting harder
- is skeptical, pragmatic and agnostic in every aspect of life - politics, internet, school, etc.
- doesn't want to commit to anything but, instead, wants to hedge their bets and always have an exit plan
- has more restrained online habits that values the personal over the commercial
- is shedding the notion of the "personal brand" that has been a must-have for Millennials, opting instead for a more private, self-contained identity based on actual (rather than perceived) beliefs and passions
These traits, which are very different than have been cited previously about Gen Z, have far-reaching implications in a wide range of areas, including:
For institutions: GenExit's realism and pragmatism is leading to a crisis of institutions as they are leaving schools and universities; leaving political parties (in favor of third-party affiliations); leaving religious organizations; and starting jobs with one foot out the door.
For social media: The shedding of the personal brand also means the end of social media as we know it. Snapchat is GenExit's platform of choice because it is more real, intimate and ephemeral than the likes of Facebook and Instagram, which teens see as exhausting. They want to share impermanent moods, not have a permanent diary of all of their mistakes.
For marketers: GenExit is more receptive to brands than their Millennial predecessors, but only if the brands earn their respect and if they perceive the brands as cool and forces for positive change.
For mental health: GenExit is experiencing skyrocketing rates of depression and anxiety.