In this article, industry stalwart and founder of The Tall Planner Kate Smither talks to the notion of ‘Generation Alpha’ and how you should actually be marketing to them (or not).
What did the Millennials do next? They got laid.
Whilst we were all running around trying to identify them, market to them, sell to them, understand them, pen portrait them, infographic them and target them, they moved on and they got it on
For years we have spent endless hours trying to catch the mysterious and elusive “Millennials”. They were like a herd of unicorns hanging out somewhere that we couldn’t quite grasp. They were the opportunity for all the brand engagement we needed and they were the way to grow clients’ businesses. Whoever got to them first, had found the equivalent of the success holy grail.
But, in reality, “the” Millennials are not a big homogenous group. They are not waiting for us to understand them. They were not hoping we could pry money from their cashless wallets. They were getting on with life and many are now parents.
Welcome to the world, the generation that Mark McCrindle has named, Generation Alpha.
They are the cohort that business analysts and marketers are predicting will be the wealthiest, most educated, completely digitally native generation that we have ever seen. Roughly 2.5 million Alphas are born each week. “Flux Trends for Business” points out that unlike their parents (the Millennials) who were only part digital natives, Generation Alpha will be born into a world d with a digital footprint before they breathe.
In naming the new generation, McCrindle was keen to find a name that didn’t suggest that we were going back to the start of the alphabet but instead going somewhere new and different. Intentionally or not, the Generation Alpha has invoked much debate about what kind of chaotic future they will face. Probably not a big surprise given McCrindle did “what scientists naming hurricanes in the Atlantic had done” moved to the Greek alphabet. Interesting that the new generation were labelled with the naming conventions of hurricanes in mind.
As demographer and professor of sociology Elwood Carlson points out, “this generations displays unprecedented diversity in almost every dimension one can examine ― ethnicity, nativity, income, family arrangements, you-name-it” Carlson also offers a different name “the Divergents” for this generations. They will be marked by greater diversity and therefore fewer common characteristics than generations past.
So, it seems that what the Millennials have done next is give us an even more impossible generation to understand, connect and market too. It seems they have given us a generation that will have even more spending power than they did but will make it even harder for brands and business to reach ambitious sales targets.
Every business is already trying to navigate this generation and what the future will look like for them. On a panel for Boston Uni last week we challenged ourselves to think about how we could prepare this future generation of consumers for the world and the workforce.
It’s commonplace to say that this generation will have jobs that no one has ever seen. By association they will need and want things that we have never planned for. Ultimately it raises the question of how we can possibly get them ready for something we don’t even know could exist. Or how can normalise a purchase of something we didn’t know they needed?
I don’t think that this is a new challenge or one that is just being faced by Generation Alpha. I think that this has been the challenge faced by every generation when thinking about the next one. At its core, the idea of evolution says that new things will come along and evolve how we live and who we are. Each generation will be the creators and inheritors of this newness. I don’t believe, for examples. that the jobs Generation Alpha will have will be the same. But I equally don’t think our inability to predict them should stop us being relevant to them.
The truth is that how we do everything will change. That’s what technology does. It changes how we do things. But what it doesn’t do is change what we do. The core behaviours, the core motivations, the core actions and needs will be the same, but we will execute and meet them in a very different way.
For Generation Alpha it means that they need to learn all the fundamentals. All the backstories. They need to understand what it is that they are changing and how it is different. They need to be encouraged to interrogate the context of their socio-cultural inheritance and everything that makes it. That will let them create their own brand anchors.
The good news for Generation Alpha (and us) is that more information is more available than ever before and that hopefully, we can use data coupled with human understanding and insight to create some semblance of cross generational empathy.
If we can get to that, or close to it, we might skip a repeat of the “how do we market to millennials” horror and move on.
It might just be that what the Millennials actually did next (after they got laid) was to give us all a second chance.