Kids these days
14 Jan 2022
This week: What’s with the generational divide?
Over the next decade, Z is set to account for 40% of global spending.
No wonder they’re in the growth sights of DTC brands.
• “Targeting teenagers and twenty-somethings is a smart move because many brands are focused on courting millennials because they have more money right now,” noted Bloomberg. Just chart the rise of Parade, the underwear brand founded in 2019 by 24-year-old phenom Cami Téllez. It’s now worth $140 million, and just opened its first store in NYC’s SoHo. Consumer products giants like the 150-year-old Colgate are also rolling out new lines expressly developed for the kiddos, shiny packaging and all. “What we kept hearing from Gen-Z was… brushing their teeth is like doing taxes,” said Colgate VP Dana Medema. Hence: Co., a range of “oral beauty” products.
• Beyond spending power, Z is also starting to shape funding for new businesses. 16% of new retail investors during the pandemic were Gen-Z. “Now, you have the college dropouts, the creative kids, totally different kinds of players,” said Emily Herrera, a student and founder of investment community The Wiress.
• “To Hold Gen-Z’s Attention, Brands Need to Show Some Personality,” ran a headline in The Business of Fashion. And what better way to show you’re down with the youth than going viral? We’re talking: TikTok, which beat out Google as the world’s most popular website. Last year, over a dozen public retail brands across beauty and fashion cited marketing strategies on the platform. While Z is more likely to use social media as a discovery tool, 81% still prefer to shop in stores.
For being one of the most digitally immersed cohorts, it’s a surprising stat that Z is more interested in IRL connection. 90% believe that the best education comes from real-life experiences.
So, who comes after Z?
If you were born after 2010, that makes you an Alpha. (And with half of Z’ers believing the gender binary is passé, we can only imagine how fluid Alpha males will be).
• “A host of new kids brands have launched to meet the needs of today’s youngsters – or, perhaps more accurately, the desires of their demanding parents who hold the purse strings,” observed Thingtesting. “Babies and toddlers tend not to really care about the wider curated lifestyle aesthetic that their clothes fit into… but their parents do.” People seem to be living vicariously through their tots, especially with work wardrobes not really looking like they used to. Dopple, a childrenswear subscription service, saw 2021 revenue grow 5x from 2020.
• Childrenswear sales in the U.S. hit $34 billion in 2020, and were projected to grow another $6 billion last year. 50% of American kids today call a millennial “mom” or “dad”. (Terrifying, but true!). And brands are marketing accordingly. Workwear for bebe? Kith x Okhkosh B’gosh is the collab we didn’t know we needed.
• But influence is a two way street. Although the youngest of Alpha might still be in diapers, Gen Z’s shopping preferences are steadily shaping those of their parents. “The results point to the growing adoption for sustainable purchases, with Generation Z influencing other generations towards sustainability,” according to a recent consumer survey by the Wharton School. The good news is, from Boomers to Millennials, the willingness to pay more for sustainable products has increased across the board.
As handy as the categories may be, generalizing the experiences and behaviors of people by birth year is probably, well, kinda dumb. “The social scientists are right: Generational labels are stupid,” wrote Joe Pinsker in The Atlantic.
But as the people deciding policy, leading business, and shaping brands get younger – it looks like the kids are alright.
Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.