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Generation Z - what makes this new target group tick?

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They grew up with the smartphone and haven't lived a single day without the internet: Generation Z is now grown up and has become a new, interesting target group for companies. However, these post-millennials, born between 1995 and 2010, are different in many ways – and they want to be addressed differently.

Millennials vs. Generation Z

For a long time, millennials were accused of being the ruin of many products and industries – taxis, landlines, the post. They were allegedly the first digital natives who forced companies to rethink their strategies and correctly address a new target group. Companies had barely gotten used to this new generation, and along came the next one: Generation Z, post-millennials or iGen, in retrospect the first true digital natives, as they are "more or less always" online  (Pew Research Center Study 2018). Post-millennials are thereby less focused than earlier generations, but they're better at multitasking, more global, more individual and more entrepreneurial. For example, three quarters of young people say they'd like to start their own business when they're older (source: Link). This much entrepreneurship doesn't just make Generation Z an exciting target group, but also makes it an interesting pool of potential employees for every company.

Understanding Generation Z

For post-millennials, it's neither surprising nor shocking for the USA to have a black President, for men to love men, or to wear their hair in all possible shapes and colors. Nor for their parents. They only know 9/11 and the economic crisis of 2007 from their history classes, as Generation Z has consciously lived through very few global crises. But now they see the threat of destruction hanging over things that were supposedly indestructible: Europe, democracy, our climate. They are growing up in times of major upheaval and fear. This fear, coupled with the ultimate freedom of choice, is driving them to be ambitious and pragmatic, while at the same time fostering their uncertainty. Almost one third of them drops out of their degree course in the early semesters, and many of them travel the world after school before deciding what to do with their lives. 

"You often read how lazy our generation is. But that's not true. I like to keep my options open and want to do something that's meaningful for me. That's more important to me than earning lots of money."

Klara Cuk, commercial school trainee, 17

The basic characteristics of the post-millennials

Instant, flexible, clear – these three common denominators sum up the expectations of Generation Z.

Instant: Everything has to be done quickly! From communication to the payment system to the search for information. If things are too complicated and hence boring for Gen Z, you'll simply lose their attention.

Flexible: Young people no longer want to be tied, but want to enjoy total flexibility. You should offer Gen Z flexibility where it's both possible and desired, but in your exchange with them, don't forget the other characteristics that they find attractive.

Clear: Their attention span is very short – and not just that of young people, but in the meantime of older people too. Try to make your messages, your requests and your goals as straightforward, short and succinct as possible. This is essential in a world full of distractions.

Source: Yannick Blättler, founder of NEOVISO Generation Z Consulting

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No false assumptions

It's dangerous to put the entire demographic target group of 15 to 30-year-olds in the same basket. No generation offers as much differentiation potential as those since the nineties. In his Ted Talk, Jason Dorsey explains that the generations are developing at breakneck speed and that globalization is pushing this development even more. Nowadays, a 7-year-old girl in the USA has more in common with a 7-year-old girl in India than with a 17-year-old in her own country. Whereas a 7-year-old never knew a time before Skype and Facetime and for whom a phone call includes a face, the 17-year-old has experienced a time when a phone call functioned with just a voice. Hence it becomes necessary to fine-tune the message to the desired target group if you want it to be met with understanding and recognition. If you don't take this into account, you'll miss your target.

Welcome to the app universe of Generation Z

Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram – these apps characterize a whole generation and, for Generation Z as well as the majority of Generation X, life can hardly be imagined without them. The biggest problem facing companies who want to address post-millennials is: They only talk about Generation Z, without really becoming part of their world. Simply download these apps if you don't know them already. Don't be scared! Open your eyes, because it's only by understanding your target group that you can recognize the gaps your offering can fill.

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