Consider the 2011 top brands among 6- to-12-year-olds as measured
annually by market research and consulting firm Smarty Pants. While
McDonald's, Oreo and Disney rank high, the top brand was the
Nintendo Wii (Nintendo DS was No. 6); the iPod touch was No. 7 and
iPod was No. 10. Both the iPhone and the iPad had huge jumps in
popularity from 2010 to 2011, to No. 29 for the iPhone (up from No.
96) and to No. 25 for the iPad (up from No. 109, and the biggest
increase in the survey) earning them the true title of iGeneration.
"Apple is changing
the way [the iGen] consumes content, connects with each other and
connects with their parents," said Wynne Tyree, co-founder and
chief at Smarty Pants. "Apps are the way children are consuming
content. There really is "an app for that ' from math facts to
comparison shopping to calling their mom on FaceTime. The app world
is changing the way that kids get content."
TV networks such as Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, in
fact, all dropped year over year in the Smarty Pants survey, and no
longer hold the same portal and all-access brand for kids. Instead
the devices themselves have become the portals, Ms. Tyree said.
And they certainly own plenty of them. More than 75% of teens
own cellphones, according to Pew Internet & American Life
Project research, with the overwhelming majority (69%) on family
plans paid for by their parents. They also own iPods (76%);
hand-held gaming devices (66%); and laptop computers (29%),
according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's media study of
Of course, just because they own a lot of devices doesn't mean
they use them like the rest of us, or even their closest
generation, Generation Y, aka the millennials. Take texting, for
instance. We all know college students love to text, but check out
teens. Teens ages 13 to 17 sent an average of 3,364 messages per
month in the first quarter of 2011. That's more than double the
1,640 that 18- to 24-year-olds sent, according to Nielsen Co.
"Most teenagers and many tweens are now equipped with mobile
phones, with smartphones gaining popularity as they become more
affordable. Gen Zers use these devices largely for texting,
listening to music, playing games, and taking photos and videos,"
reported a recent global study of Generation Z by Euromonitor
They also use the phones for watching videos, consuming seven
hours and 13 minutes of mobile video content vs. the average
person's four hours and 20 minutes. So it should be no surprise
that they watch less TV than all other age groups -- about 24 hours
of TV a month, vs. the average American's almost 35 hours every
month, according to Nielsen.
For marketers, that means finding new ways to reach them. It's
probably no surprise that one of the best ways is through social
media. But it's not just about putting up a Facebook page and
garnering "likes." The iGeneration understands marketing and
advertising. While they're generally OK with marketing messages,
they prefer their friends' stamps of approval. Around 78% of teens
trust recommendations from their peers, according to Fuse, and 77%
rely on their friends to tell them about new products and brands,
vs. 59% who look to TV advertising.
"Influence with and over each other is extremely important, and
while that 's not terribly different than it was before, it's much
more widespread because of social media. So many of them now find
out about bands, brands of jeans, or new snack foods from each
other on social media," said Ms. Finlayson.
That influence is then turned on their parents. While the
iGeneration's parents, Gen X, weren't born into technology, they
did come of age with it, and are therefore more comfortable with
it. As a result, Gen X, the original MTV generation, and the
iGeneration, the resurgent MTV generation, often share tastes in
music, fashion and especially technology, witnessed by the
importance of iPads and iPhones with youngsters.
"Few kids own iPhones and even fewer own iPads, but there is a
lot of "passback' usage, as in passing it back in the car to play
while traveling or allowing play on an iPhone when stuck in
traffic. ... Brands that are doing well are the ones that do well
with families, ones that can co-entertain kids and parents.
Families today are just happy to connect with each other whether
that 's Chuck E. Cheese, on an iPad or over a great Oreos
commercial," Ms. Tyree said.
Behold -- Now We
Present: the iGen
The generation coming in behind the millennials is nearing
adulthood. If we take 1995 as the end of the millennials -- and
opinions vary wildly here -- they're already 50 million-strong. The
oldest will start turning 16 in just 10 weeks. The youngest are
already shaping their parents' spending patterns. How many
4-year-olds have iPads before -- or as an excuse for -- their
So meet the iGen. Ad Age is credited with coining the term
Generation Y in an August 1993 editorial, according to no less an
authority than Wikipedia. In retrospect, the name didn't age well
and seemed to presume that the generation was an iteration of the
Gen Xers we called "cynical, purple-haired blobs watching TV." As
the oldest turn 30, we tend to call them millennials now.
Ad Age isn't the first to plant this flag; the Wikipedia page
for iGen exists already. But we've looked at a lot of choices and
think this one is the best fit, so henceforth iGen it is . Perhaps
we should just say we're doing it in honor of the late Steve Jobs,
who will have done a lot to shape this group even if he's no longer
around to see the full impact.
The "i" can stand for many things. Interactive, naturally: These
kids were born after the rise of the internet. They're not just
accustomed to it, like the millennials, they know no world without
it. They're immersed in more media than any generation before them.
They're international -- those being born today are already a
majority-minority population, according to some of the leading
The "i" can also grow with them. It could stand for their
self-reliance (all about "I") or their independence -- a
counter-punch against their helicoptered predecessors. Perhaps
they'll be iconoclasts or idealists. Maybe they'll all just seem
like idiots. It could stand for, well, something we haven't thought
to apply to them yet. But however you want to fill in the variable,
And now they're identified. -- Matt Carmichael