Gen Z is so last decade.
While most marketers, broadcasters and, well, adults are just catching on to the fact that millennials are all grown up and Generation Z are the new kids in town, researchers point out that they’re actually behind the curve. Gen Z is growing up fast, with some of its oldest members already joining adulthood—by some definitions, the oldest of them are 22 this year. The newest crop of kids belong to Generation Alpha.
Fullscreen Media, the multichannel network and entertainment company, typically focuses its strategic research on the 13 and older set. But recently it has been devoting more time to looking into Gen Alpha, so when today’s toddlers are ready to face the airwaves, it will be ready for them.
“We’re not marketing to this consumer yet—no one really is. But if we’re ahead of how they discern their tastes and their interests, then we can be smart about what we create,” says Maureen Polo, SVP of Fullscreen’s Brand Studio.
The term Gen Alpha was coined by Mark McCrindle, a social researcher based in Australia who studies generational divides. The label applies to anyone born after 2010, meaning kids eight and under. The biggest difference between this generation and the ones that preceded them is that Gen Alpha is fully integrated online from the day they’re born.
In 2010, the iPad was for sale, Instagram had launched and the American Dialect Society named “app” the word of the year. Because this generation will never know a world where these things didn’t exist, marketing to them is an entirely different ball game.
“The interesting thing to me is that they’re going to have access to screens and technology from birth, and raised by parents who had access to screens and technology for the bulk of their lives,” says Polo. For content creators, Polo believes this means their biggest challenge will be keeping Alphas focused. “The assumption is that they’re going to get bored more quickly, since they’re used to multiple screens. You’re going to have to break through to them quickly, but in a really powerful way. The content has to be stronger,” she says.
Despite the expectations that this generation will jump between content offerings in search of the perfect consumable piece, Fullscreen’s research actually predicts it will be an extremely loyal demographic as well. This dichotomy is expected to arise because all that flipping will create shallow connections, forcing the youngest generation to crave connections to people and searching out those stronger connections online. “Technology enables them to have relationships in the digital world, and they’re going to expect that in their digital platforms as well,” Polo says.
Another factor that might give rise to loyalty in this cohort is how they’re raised by their millennial parents. Previously, every minute detail of a child’s life required a great deal of time and attention from parents—including which school, camp, after-school activity they should choose. But with today’s booming gig economy, there’s an app for that. Polo says that with tech-savvy parents making fewer and faster child-rearing decisions, it will allow families to spend more quality time together, creating closer bonds. As a result, young kids will expect these kind of intense, focused connections not only from people they physically interact with, but from the people they watch online.
But while kids are going to have higher expectations about their content, it doesn’t mean they’ll be patient about it. “They want it now,” says Polo. “They have an immediacy need more than any other generation. That’s what voice command is. It’s about get me there faster, get me there now.’”
Another paradox that arises with Gen Alpha: even though they demand their content quickly, they’re willing to spend more time viewing it. Fullscreen’s research indicates that the days of 30-second clips reigning supreme are gone. Kids are willing to devote their attention to 30-minute videos—which they’ll continually come back to.
“One thing we’re also noticing in this generation of Alphas is they actually like repetition,” says Polo. “If they like content, they’ll watch it over and over.”
This combination of a loyal, attentive, habitual and demanding generation is incredibly enticing to both content makers and advertisers, but as Fullscreen points out, it will still be difficult to reach them. The audience has already become fragmented with so much content available online, as well as the range of platforms and devices.
This diversity of tastes is reflected in the diverse makeup of this emerging demographic itself, as Polo notes, and this could be a key factor in reaching them through media. At least in North America, Gen Alpha will be the most diverse generation in history.
But whatever content Gen Alpha is watching, or how they consume it, this is secondary to the fact that this generation cannot be ignored any longer. Savvy content makers should be considering past, present and future generations all at once.
“Marketers better be thinking about Gen Z now,” says Polo. “And they better be preparing for the changing audience behavior coming out of the Alphas.”