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iGen myths and why they’re wrong

By Max Vitro

12 MIN READ

iGen myths and why they’re wrong

Step aside Millennials. There’s a new generation to obsess over: iGen. In this article, we’re breaking down some common generational stereotypes to better understand the hearts and minds of iGen, the now largest portion of the US population.

First, let’s start with defining “iGen” as it’s not common, though that’s beginning to change. The iGen generation is defined by the introduction of the Internet, smartphones, specifically the iPhone, and the rise of individuality discovered through it. While iGen is still widely referred to as Generation Z, we prefer the generational label “iGen” — as the name itself captures something about their experience.

For those needing a better understanding of how iGen is defined, check out our overview article: Who is iGen?

For those well-informed, let’s get right into it.

Let’s look below the surface of five popular iGen myths:

  1. iGen has an attention span shorter than a goldfish
  2. iGen is less brand loyal
  3. iGen are just kids living in the moment
  4. iGen wants experiences over things
  5. iGen is less reliant on physical connections

Myth #1: iGen has an attention span shorter than a goldfish.

Reality: iGen’s eight second “attention span” is actually a highly-evolved filter.

We’ve all heard this one. The younger generation’s attention span has dwindled to just eight seconds. But think of it as less of attention thing and more as a highly-evolved filter.

While the Internet has put an ocean of information at their fingertips, their time is anything but infinite. This means that more than any other generation, the iGen generation has adapted to process and sort through huge amounts of information to find what’s important to them.

Once iGen does find something relevant and time-worthy, they use the breadth of the Internet to dive deep.

According to Adobe Insights, students and teachers both view the Internet as the most effective platform for learning, with watching videos, online research and working collaboratively with classmates being the preferred methods to hands-on learning.

During these eight seconds, the iGen generation will decide whether or not content is worth their attention.

Myth #2: iGen is less brand loyal.

Reality: iGen’s loyalty can’t be earned with the old methods.

iGen is often described as being less loyal to brands than other generations, and studies suggest this is true. But in reality, it’s just harder to earn.

Tried and true techniques are not enough to win the loyalty and business of these young and powerful consumers. One example of this is loyalty programs: eMarketer reports that loyalty programs drive only 48% of iGen purchase decisions, as compared to 73% for Millennials.

Graphic from eMarketer outlining purchase influencers between iGen and millennials

Maybe it’s time to reconsider the brand loyalty metric and think about it more as brand enthusiasm, which would represent more active engagement between brand and consumer.

A study by IBM suggests that iGen has the potential to be more involved. iGens are more likely than Millennials to submit ideas for product design if given the opportunity.

iGen expects some control over the interactions they have with brands. Brands that concede it to a degree can convert iGen consumers into enthusiasts, just as long as they’re one-to-one and meaningful interactions.

Myth #3: iGens are just kids living in the moment.

Reality: iGens aren’t a bunch of kids living in the moment, they’re young adults preparing for their future.

As a result of growing up through the Great Recession, witnessing housing foreclosures, and seeing their parents become increasingly mindful of expenses, iGens are more money-oriented, more entrepreneurial and more pragmatic about their decisions.

Half of the iGen generation already has a money or payment app on their phone, which is a huge number given their relative youth. It shows they are thinking about money as they enter adulthood and untraditional banks are providing an accessible solution.

Worried about the rising costs of education, iGens are less optimistic than Millennials about finding the right job – one that fits their strengths and personalities. But they plan to do something about it. More than half of iGens have expressed interest in starting their own companies and creating the job that’s a good fit for them.

The opportunity for marketers is to help this generation “to adult”, and create experiences that help close the competency gap between kid and maturing adult.

Myth #4: iGens want experiences over things.

Reality: iGens want “experiences” and stuff too.

People are shifting away from a “society of stuff”, to a “society of experiences”, with travel being a popular one among the younger generations. But iGens have shown they’re not afraid to spend money, while at the same time maintaining a bank account.

92% of iGens own or plan to own a vehicle. Prepared to sacrifice for that big auto purchase, iGens are willing to give up social media, new clothes, and their cell phone if it means owning a car.

The same is true for purchasing a home. 97% of iGens believe they will own a home in the future and 82% indicate that homeownership is the most important factor in achieving the American Dream, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Nearly 100,000 members of iGen already have mortgages. Though some may be getting help from their parents, just 1.2% of iGen mortgages are 60 or more days past due. That’s less than the average for Millennials (1.6%), Generation X (2.3%) and Baby Boomers (1.6%).

While the shared or access economy is ever-growing, members of iGen value ownership, just as much as past generations.

Myth #5: iGen is less reliant on physical connections.

Reality: For iGen, tech doesn’t replace relationships, it enhances them.

Conventional wisdom says iGens miss out on building and maintaining meaningful, face-to-face relationships because of their phones. But in reality, their phones and the Internet actually serve as a conduit to community.

iGens use their phones as a tool to enhance their relationships, not replace them. In this case, arrange in-person connections. 91% of iGen admit to using social media daily as a main tool for communication, “staying in touch with friends.”

Hailed as one of the top social media trends in 2018, this rising trend for ‘social togetherness’ has redefined how relationships are being made. Examples of this are the growing popularity of digital hangouts like Houseparty or Twitch that allow friends to stay connected all through the comfort of home.

Brands should find more ways to facilitate community.

iGen grew up in an entirely digital world but they’re using it to improve their lives in the physical one.

What are the implications for marketing to iGen?

  • Talk to them like adults. Don’t oversimplify the issue or skirt the facts. Be straight with them. Honesty is essential. They expect authentic conversations with our brands and they expect to be heard.
  • Make something or help them make something. They will bond with brands that help them innovate and create solutions. There is no more positive way for iGen to come to know your brand than while building something or sharing their project with others like them.
  • Don’t just advertise, share an experience. iGens might be avid users of social media (90% access at least one of their accounts daily), but they also have a low tolerance for intrusion. In fact, a recent study from Kantar Millward Brown describes them as more “advertising-resistant” than any other demographic.
  • Human experience should always be first, think technology second. It’s an easy trap to fall into, starting with the new technology and trying to build the experience from there. Technology should enhance the experience, but it is not the solution. That’s how they use it.

Article image from Elijah O’Donell.

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Max Vitro
Max Vitro

Max Vitro

Strategist

SoCal scientist working on his Texas accent