The Millennials have left the building.
The marketing world has long been in thrall of the Millennials, also known as Gen Y, born between 1981 and 1997. They were hailed as the first digital natives. They were the hyper-individual me-generation, the most marketed-to generation in the history of marketing. And, arguably, one of the key reasons universities had to learn to market themselves like commercial brands.
But as undergraduate prospects, Millennials have left the building. The youngest and last of the Millennials are now 20, and the oldest a positively ancient 36.
The latest undergrad prospects, born after 1998, are from Generation Z. While (for now at least) they may have attracted a lot less hype than the Millennials, Gen Z are a decidedly different beast altogether.
Here are a few important things university marketers need to understand and adapt to connect with the next generation of undergraduates:
Gen Z attitudes have been shaped by the global recession. Even in Australia.
Millennials were pessimistic about the world, but optimistic about their lives. They were raised to believe they could have what they wanted. And acted as if the world should give it to them.
Gen Z are more realistic. And, more idealistic.
If Millennials saw the rise of digital, Gen Z appear to be a genuinely social generation.
Not only are they the first generation with no first-hand knowledge of a world without internet, they are a generation genuinely capable of looking beyond the internet – seeing it as simply a means to an end.
Make no mistake, they are as connected to social media as previous generations. But, they are more able to cope with it. They are also idealistic about what society can and should do.
Think hard working
This is the generation that could actually change the world.
While their attention spans are falling, the result of a media intense childhood where experts hunted their attention, they have the ability to put down their machines. And they’re hard-working. They understand value. They know they need to work to get the future they want. And they’re aware of the challenges presented by an ever-flatter world.
This is a generation which looks beyond what they can have and instead looks at what they can be. While they understand the need for money to support their future, 72% say an interesting job is the most important thing for their future.
This is a generation which expects businesses to give back to their community.
This is a generation which will respond to the promise of purpose.
Values and purpose are important to Gen Z, and they seek these traits in brands. They like optimism. At the same time, they are highly attuned to spin, and won’t buy over-promise.
They want to be interested. They are more likely to seek interesting careers over dull, well-paid work.
They appreciate the benefits of education, but will be more careful about their choice of educator. They will reward the people who share their interests.
For more in depth analysis of the differences between Gen Z versus Millennials see our powerpoint here.