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Four Group Traits That Best Characterize the Gen Z Consumer Segment

Four Group Traits That Best Characterize the Gen Z Consumer Segment

Our Gen Z Cultural Traits research provides powerful new insights into America’s youngest and still-emerging consumer demographic. Read on to discover the four essential traits you need to know about Gen Z consumers.

One in five Americans are members of Gen Z, the generation born from 1997 through 2012. As of 2020, this segment is now ages 8-23, with many now finishing their education and (attempting to) enter the workforce. To capture the growing influence and expenditures of this consumer segment, brands and marketers must deepen their understanding of Gen Z.

Download an excerpt from our presentation, Appeal to Gen Z Cultural Traits:

Across the last several years, Collage Group has been developing powerful new tools to help brands become more Culturally Fluent. Our Cultural Traits are central to this effort. These data-driven tools provide measures of cultural variation that reveal insights into the similarities and differences across consumer segments.

Which Group Traits best characterize the Gen Z segment?

The four Group Traits which best characterize the Gen Z segment are Pressured, Skeptical, Recognition-Seeking, and Self-Expression.

1. Pressured

People sharing the Group Trait of Pressured tend to feel overwhelmed by their many obligations.

A major source of tension with these individuals is balancing the expectations of achieving external measures of success with the desire to live life the way they truly want to.

Gen Z faces a variety of life-stage pressures which manifest in ways no generation has seen before. Family pressures can be rather intense in the face of households navigating multiple economic disasters in the span of only a decade. Social pressures are more pronounced in the age of social media, where “fitting in” requires constant participation in the editing and filtering of one’s everyday life. And pressures to succeed academically and in the workforce have just recently hit a major roadblock in the combined recession and social distancing of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amidst these pressures, it is important to remind Gen Z consumers that they need to take care of themselves. Despite “self-care” having youthful connotations, America’s youngest consumers are the least likely to prioritize their health – physical, mental, or otherwise. 

2. Skeptical

People sharing the Group Trait of Skeptical lack confidence in their own specific futures and life journeys. Not seeing much to be hopeful for in the world around them, these individuals are more likely to fear the worst and worry about whatever lies ahead.

From Gen Z’s perspective, it makes sense to be worried about the future. From the ever-looming existential threat of climate change to increasing awareness of racism, sexism, wealth inequality, and gun violence, much seems to stand in the way of young consumers living happy and fulfilling lives. Gen Z doesn’t have faith in many traditional institutions as they currently operate, and they are on the lookout for new and innovative solutions.

And Gen Z is very open to brands being part of these solutions. These young consumers are most likely to say that companies and organizations should play an active role in addressing social issues, even if there is no direct relation to their product or category. 

3. Recognition-Seeking

People sharing the Group Trait of Recognition-Seeking are proud of their accomplishments and want to receive external recognition for their good work. These consumers are therefore more receptive to positive reinforcement, through reminders of what they have already accomplished and what they still stand to achieve.

Amidst all of today’s challenges and uncertainties, Gen Z wants to know they are on the right track. Moreover, these young consumers know they will have to distinguish themselves to get ahead in an increasingly competitive and specialized workforce. As a result, Gen Z prizes being perceived as intelligent, interesting, and successful at what they do.

But these young consumers also recognize the essential contributions others have had in their success. In the digital age, there is a growing awareness of reliance on shared platforms for educational, professional, and personal achievement. 

4. Self-Expression

People sharing the Group Trait of Self-Expression have talent and creative potential they can’t wait to share with the world. These individuals know they have something special to offer, and they are therefore more likely to take whatever opportunities they can find to broadcast their craft and artistry.

For Gen Z, Self-Expression is an important means of exploring and refining their individual senses of identity. Gen Z is more likely than any other generation to describe themselves to others based on their hobbies and special interests. Expressing these interests through creative outlets – including social media – is therefore a more personal affair than it might be for older consumers. Brands have ample opportunity, then, to facilitate Gen Z’s exploration and expression of identity.

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