Generation-Z began around 1996 and continued to arrive on the scene until 2011 or 2012, when Michael Phelps received his last gold medal in London. Now stretching from age ten to their mid-twenties, this group drives the social media space and the tech that fuels it. As the first generation born in the digital age, Gen-Zers own an influential role that will shape the future of the industry. In turn, tech companies shoulder the responsibility of mitigating the potentially dangerous online influences on this dynamic generation.
Gen Z holds untapped potential.
Gabb Wireless was founded to empower youth to thrive, connect with family, and secure the life skills necessary for digital balance. To learn more about their mission, I visited with their CEO Nate Randle.
Jeff Fromm: What motivated you to focus on developing products for today’s youth?
Nate Randle: Gen-Z has grown up on digital platforms, and a barrier to their success is a result of being plugged in constantly. The unintended consequences of this digital tethering are profound. They have not been afforded the space to develop self-regulation, to know when to shield themselves from harmful content. This generation needs room to form healthy, meaningful, and lasting relationships–ones that can only happen off screens.
Fromm: How has being a parent to Gen-Zers yourself influenced how you run Gabb Wireless?
Randle: I am a dad of some incredible kids, and like most families, we’ve struggled with how we want to handle tech use in our home. I do everything I can to keep my children safe, but I also want them to understand the world they live in. Gabb was founded to provide parents with peace of mind, and we also support families with resources that promote open dialogue. And my kids don’t hesitate to tell me how we can improve.
Fromm: What is unique about marketing to parents of this generation?
Randle: Parents of Gen-Z kids recognize the dangers of the digital world and are seeking thoughtful solutions. It’s important for marketers to be aware of this, and raise awareness about the impact of too much tech, too soon. We’ve got to listen to kids’ struggles and obstacles, and then provide families with tools to solve those challenges.
Fromm: What marketing trends are you seeing emerge in Gen-Z?
Randle: The old way of advertising isn’t going to cut it with this demographic. They’ve never known a world without a touch screen, and they’re accustomed to having any information they want at their fingertips. We need to meet them where they are, and where their headspace and priorities meet.
Being the most diverse generation in history, Gen-Zers expect companies to have a clear stance on issues, and authentically communicate how they’re impacting their community and the environment. This generation knows their power, and isn’t afraid to speak with their spending money or their social media accounts. Brands need to earn every dollar and every like, beyond making products that are appealing. Gen-Z expects companies to act responsibly and contribute to society in meaningful ways.
When it comes to specific ways to market to Gen-Z, it’s important to understand what’s driving the success of platforms like TikTok. It’s unfiltered and unproduced user-generated content. For lack of a better term, it feels honest. Whether it’s a kid in Boston making pastries, or a girl in England practicing her stand-up jokes, it has the authentic feel of people just recording from their phones and sending it out into the world.
I’m not saying marketers should be on TikTok. What I am saying is that Gen-Z craves unfiltered authenticity and honesty, in substance and execution of the media they consume. Companies and marketers who aren’t afraid to take bold stances, create genuine engagements, and offer unfiltered truth will succeed.
Fromm: What would you tell other leaders who want to understand more about Gen-Z?
Randle: I believe these kids are so talented, with untapped potential. When we’re invested in creating a space for them to really take flight, we propel them forward instead of holding them back. They’re smart, they’ll recognize genuine intent, and they will respond with allegiance to brands that see them for who they are and are willing to meet their high expectations.