What marketers need to know about ‘Generation Zennial,’ from social media to buying habits

Marketers may be overlooking a generation of consumers that are neither millennials nor Gen Z. “Generation Zennial,” or those born between 1995 and 2005, are considered a microgeneration that possesses some unique consumer habits and is therefore worth closer scrutiny.

Researchers have found this age group may actually spend less time online and show more loyalty to brands compared to millennials, according to a new whitepaper by Exverus Media and Branded Research provided to Digiday. With some having been in the workforce for some time and some now just entering, “Zennials” have started to establish their brand loyalty and purchasing habits.

Exverus estimates that between about 40 million and 48 million Zennials exist in the U.S. currently. As Talia Arnold, managing director and author of the report, explained, “Generations are no longer homogenous across a period of 20 years — things change more quickly today. The difference between someone born in 1995 vs. 2005 is wider than in the past.”

“We’re interested in this generation because they’re newly entering the workforce, rapidly increasing their disposable income, yet are still cultural tastemakers — a critical combination,” Arnold said. “We were lumping them in with Millennials and Gen Z, two groups they’re surprisingly different from.”

Ed East, CEO of influencer agency Billion Dollar Boy, agreed that discussion of Zennials is necessary, because “a generational view to audiences is very limited.” His agency defines Zennial as those born between 1993 and 1998, and advises clients to consider subcultures and microcultures rather than demographics.

“Generations generally span around 15 years, so treating that broad of an age bracket the same is not going to deliver the personalized approach that consumers want or that will drive value for brands,” East said. “We need to be looking at more psychographic data. There’s more that [can] tell us than demographics. Brands have so much data at their disposal, they can afford to do this.”

Exverus’ research included surveys of more than 1,200 U.S. respondents, two-thirds of whom were millennials and one-third of whom were Zennials.

While millennials and Gen Z are considered digital natives, the research found that Zennials embrace digital tech but also value in-person and analog experiences. The study found 10% of them are more likely to be regularly using mobile apps and 10% are less likely to be using social media than their millennial counterparts. Exverus noted this was consistent with previous research in which Zennials reported that they post less often on social media, which was different from Gen Z and millennial respondents.

Over the last year, Zennials have spent more time with video games — 77% more than reported by millennials. Interestingly, Zennials are also reporting spending more time listening to AM/FM radio compared to other generational groups, listening to radio 29% more than millennials.

In mostly all categories surveyed, Zennials said they were less likely to switch brands in the next 12 months compared to millennials. They are 16% less likely to switch beverage or personal care brands and 24% less likely to switch pet-related brands. Researchers noted that Zennials may be spending more time with these brands, because they do not have “pressures of providing for families yet.” They are still establishing routines and favorite products at this point in their lives.

This means consumers in this Zennial cohort could be less price sensitive as well, willing to pay more for products and services that are “perceived as high-quality” and research product reviews before buying, according to the study.

Zennials also seem to be more interested in saving for long-term goals like starting their own business (they’re 64% more likely to do this than other groups) and thinking about retirement and other investments. One in four Zennials said they were saving up to buy a car, while one in three said they were saving up to buy a house.

When it comes to influencer content, which particularly appeals to younger audiences, East said Zennials are driving a shift toward “more authentic, socially-conscious, and creative content.” East explained that Zennials are like the bridge over to Gen Z, who do not want to see curated, polished content.

“They want raw and more reactive/spontaneous content,” East added. “They’re drawn to influencers who are genuine and transparent, vs. those whose content is overly polished. … Even more so than authenticity, Zennials crave relatability — they want to see their lives reflected back at them in the content.”

Read more about how agencies are also studying the upcoming younger Generation Alpha.


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