As an industry, we're increasingly more comfortable with who millennials are, and what they want. It's taken a long time, but most brands are now attuned to their likes, dislikes and behaviors.
But don't get too comfortable. Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2011, is now coming of age in large numbers, and marketers can't afford to take as long to come to grips with Gen Z as they did with millennials.
The first cohorts of this new generation, who are now 16 to 19 years old, are increasingly relevant to a wide variety of categories and products. Globally, they are huge too: around 2 billion of the world's citizens -- approximately 27% of the global population -- belong to Gen Z.
The danger for marketers is that Gen Z is not millennial-lite or even millennial-extra strong, but different in distinct ways.
Born and growing up at a time of financial crisis and institutional instability, Gen Z are frugal and brand wary. But they are also industrious and collaborative. Smartphone-first and impatient of brands that don't offer them connected experiences, they expect visual and technical excellence and transparency at their fingertips.
While millennials coveted personalization in their media and advertising experiences, attempts at hyper-personalization often come off to Gen Z as intrusive. Ironically, while Gen Z places a great emphasis on personal privacy, they expect brands to be fully transparent. In an age where everything is knowable, brand imagery and values have to be consistent and discoverable across all brand touchpoints.
This presents something of a conundrum for marketers. Gen Z not only challenge how brands communicate, they challenge the very notion of a brand's authenticity and transparency in digital.
Appealing to Gen Z's unique sense of self and the world around them will require brands to embrace three key paradigm shifts in 2017: