We had a letter this week – not an invoice, a statement, a piece of direct mail or a magazine – a real-life, honest to goodness letter.
Good quality, cream A4 vellum paper – signed by hand. A paper clip attached a CV, printed on the same high quality stock and it all arrived in a matching handwritten, non-window envelope. The cherry on the top? It had a first-class stamp, perfectly positioned in the top right-hand corner.
Aside from the novelty and the quality, the other thing that was remarkable about this letter was that it was from a teenager looking for work experience.
A few issues ago, a View from PressPoint concerned itself with the rise of the Millennial consumer as a purchasing force, since then we’ve become a little bit obsessed with these demographic ‘cohorts’.
From the Silent Generation born in the thirties and forties, through the Baby Boomers, Generation X from the mid-sixties to the early eighties, then the Millennials and arriving at Generation Z – who were born after 1997.
What is noticeable is that the time periods that define a generational group are getting shorter. It is impossible to predict when these generational shifts will occur, or indeed what will be the cause of the change.
These cohorts or generations are created when a section of the population becomes connected through shared events in their formative years. A generation that possesses its own common, yet personal experiences and beliefs.
The post 9/11 world is the world that made Generation Z, they have witnessed the global war on terror as children. Millennials saw it from a more adult perspective. That’s the game-changer for this generation.
Perhaps the most important characteristic of Generation Z is that they were born into the digital age – they are the first true digital natives. Millennials have lived through the introduction and proliferation of smartphones, tablets and the growth of a connected digital world, but Generation Z have never seen a world without them. We thrust devices into their tiny, eager hands and they found Google, Facebook and Amazon were already major phenomenon.
Generation Z is now starting to graduate from our universities, and as our letter shows, they are entering the job market. As they do so, their importance to businesses will grow too, they are starting careers and with jobs come salaries and purchasing power.
Will the letter-writer be a good hire? We’ll find that out at interview, but the very fact that they have understood and successfully used the power of interruption, to cut through the day-to-day noise and make us sit up and take notice, bodes well for a career in marketing.
And it raises an interesting point about going against the flow. They could have contacted us via social media, and that would have been fine – it’s become a well-trodden route for job enquiries – making the medium the message and all that. But maybe this will be the characteristic which defines Generation Z and truly makes them different from their Millennial predecessors. As businesses, it’s those differences we should be focused on, to ensure we’re ready to compete for their new and growing wallets.
Accenture recently released research which showed that Generation Z in the US and Canada were the most likely to visit a bank branch at least once a week. Which is completely counter-intuitive for this digital generation.
Accenture has also found that Generation Z, “act differently both in stores and online compared to Millennials. Higher percentages make visiting a store a multi-media/multi-channel event. More of them engage with sales associates, comparison-shop on mobile devices in the store, and ask friends and family about purchases (either in person or remotely via social media, texting or mobile devices). They’re also more likely to interact with in-store, self-service digital information sources.”
If we were a manufacturer or a retailer with a product targeting the 18-24-year-old market, either now or in the very near feature, we’d be arrowing in on research like this. Finding out how to make this mysterious new phenomenon substantially less mysterious and how we might shape our sales and marketing to appeal to their new needs and wants.
As this will be the last ‘View from PressPoint’ before Christmas, may we take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very happy Christmas and a highly prosperous New Year. Inspired by our prospective new employee, it’s letter writing time for us, here too, “Dear Santa – we’ve all been very good this year, please could you…”