FutureVision: The new social class

feature brought to you by R/GA London

James Temple, SVP, Managing Director, Executive Creative Director, R/GA EMEA

It feels like we’ve been studying millennials for a long time. We’ve decoded their needs, deconstructed their habits and dissected their communities. Received wisdom says that Millennials dream big, favour mobile tech and value their experiences more than money.

But just when we think we’ve got the younger generation all figured out, it’s time to make way for the new kids on the block. Generation Z, the Post-Millennials, the Centennials: call them what you will, they do things differently from Generation Y and they’re already starting to come of age.

This edition of FutureVision takes a closer look at the social trends emerging from Generation Z. Unlike their predecessors, who took to networks like Facebook and Twitter to express their identity in public, people born between 1995-2012 are keen to socialise in private.

They flock to apps like Snapchat and Kik to make connections that are less visible and more intimate – confidently removed from parents, brands and social media at large.

They’re redefining their digital relationships, too, with livestreaming services that bring people together in unexpected ways.

Platforms like YouNow and Twitch put individuals in the spotlight, letting them speak directly to fans via live video feeds. Crucially, the reaction of the viewers sits centre-stage as well: followers and their comments really power the experience, creating a two-way validation we’ve rarely seen before.

The hard and fast truth is Gen Z is nascent and evolving. We just don’t know yet what its worldview has in store. They dream big like millennials but they do it away from the crowd, choosing a closer network of friends that prefers to play unseen.

These behaviours show new levels of independence and mutual empowerment; they give us a better idea of where Generation Z might be heading next. But that’s the beauty of culture. It moves so fast, especially in younger hands, that we can only watch, learn and try to predict.

Before you know it, it’ll be time to start all over again with Generation A.

Claire Beale, Global Editor-in-Chief, Campaign

I recently read that a wrinkle in French law means that parents who post pics of their adorable children doing silly things could face a hefty fine – and even a jail sentence – when those adorable children are old enough to realise they’ve been publicly humiliated and decide to sue for breach of privacy.

Welcome to Generation Z and a whole new set of behaviours when it comes to media and technology; the over-sharing that characterised the millennial social media animal looks set to be replaced by a more selective and intimate approach by the young consumers already snapping at their heels.

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that everything we’ve learned about millennials will need to be reframed for the next generation.

As the next few pages perfectly illustrate, whatever we call them – my neighbour here James Temple runs through the options – we need to start taking this emerging group seriously, quickly. Because if you thought millennials were in a hurry, then the speed with which Gen Z will find, connect and move on is breathtaking.

No wonder they’re uncomfortable with embarrassing pictures that hang around forever on public platforms. The twin themes of pace and greater privacy mean interesting new challenges for brands.

As this next generation hungrily abandons or amplifies the characteristics of their predecessors, marketers will have to get smarter quicker while navigating a more intimate social media landscape where permission to participate is harder to win.

This is dizzying news. More dizzying, though, for those of us just trying to get to grips with Generation Z is that companies like R/GA are already thinking about what comes next.

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