The Ys Have It – And They’ll Give You The Zs

The Ys Have It – And They’ll Give You The Zs

B&T’s Millennial gurus, Brian and Evan Mitchell from brand strategy agency HOW&Y (, are back with their latest commentary peice. This time they argue you thought the Ys were confusing, wait for the arrival of the Zs…

The ankle biters are growing up.

To date Gen Z have delivered parental consumer spend through the nag factor. Now they’re coming of age as a consumer demographic in their own right.

So, what kind of consumers are they? What moves them, what excites them, what attracts and engages them? What will bring them to a brand, induce them to connect with the brand’s story, advance that connection over time and across the brand portfolio, and sustain this connection as an ongoing relationship?

Pretty much the same as for Gen Y.

And with so many marketers getting Ys so wrong, the danger is the disconnect will extend to the younger generation behind them.

Too many marketers and marketing writers have persisted in denying the exceptionality of Gen Y. “Same old same” attitudes are reflected in “same old same” brand messages. What’s always worked with earlier generations, Boomers and X, continues to be trotted out – ignoring all the reasons why these messages are often irrelevant, disengaging and even alienating to a generation with a completely new consumer mindset.

Gen Y are a paradigm shift in marketing. They represent not a shift in the marketing rules, but a total reinvention of the game.

Evidence for this is in no way obscure.

The proofs are there to be found in the subject areas of parenting, education, social modelling, social relationships, manners and mores in communication, tech subservience, and pop culture. And if soft science isn’t enough, throw in neurophysiology – specific changes in how Gen Y (and now Gen Z) assimilate, process and interpret information, and changes too in the development of the Prefrontal Cortex, impacting directly on Gen Y choice-making, taste-shaping, relationship formation and impulse control. We’ve laid out the evidence from these sources in numerous articles. And evidence beats conjecture.

Is bad history about to be repeated – with a new generation?

Will Gen Z be subject to the same knee-jerk evaluations?

A hint to the industry – you can’t predict the decision-making patterns of Gen Z without first understanding the factors that made Gen Y (“What Really Created the Gen Y Consumer”, B&T, Feb/March 2016, 88-92). We get a fix on the likely responses of a new generation by considering what they’re rebelling against within the previous generation. That’s the way it’s invariably worked – until Gen Y upset the applecart.

Understand Gen Y and you’ll understand Gen Z. Not because they’re identical – they’re not. But because, after the paradigm shift of simultaneously occurring dynamics that shaped the Gen Y mindset, things are back to how they were before. In the same way that Boomer messages could be tweaked to work with Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z are on the same continuum. Their similarities define them, their differences inform on them. Gen Z provide marketers with the cues Gen Y did not.

Much of the Gen Z mindset has been shaped by rebellion, against the attributes they’ve seen Gen Y most castigated for. So rather than feeling entitled, stuck in the present and demanding “discovery”, they’ll look to the future with the sense that success must be worked for. The distinction of Gen Y as “multi-device” while the Zs are “hyper-device” makes them different in degree, not in kind. Tech-streamlined social media saturation will ensure that the intrinsic values of Omnipotentiality, Image and Identity will continue to sit at the heart of this coming generation’s aspirations.

Both generations define themselves by their Values. They make their choices based on these values. They demand to be related to in terms of these values, from brands as much as from anyone else.

Marketers have long known the appeal of buy one get one free. Why not then take advantage of the greatest BOGOF offer of all time – two generations for the price of one?

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