Whether you call them Generation Z, iGen or Net Gen, people born starting in the mid to late 1990s through today are starting to capture the interest of researchers, marketers and advertisers. They may not have an official title, but Gen Z, as they are most often known, are taking over the conversation Millennials have dominated for years as the new and still mysterious “it” generation.
Definitions of when this generation begins vary, with some suggesting that it starts with people born in 2000 or 2001; others say the oldest in the group are about 20. Either way, this is a generation born into technology, with the majority of the group not remembering or knowing a world before smart phones.
But their comfort with technology and digital know-how are just part of the story, says Ann Fishman, author of Marketing to the Millennial Woman and president of Generational Targeted Marketing. She likes to call this the 9/11 generation, because the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were the defining moment of their formative years.
“Because they are exposed to so much protective behavior by their parents and grandparents — for all the right reasons — children who are overprotected to this extent tend to avoid taking risks as adults. That means, that as adults, even though they are just 14 years old today and younger, I can say to you with great comfort that as adults they will be a generation of conformists,” Fishman says. “I call them the ‘just want to fit in’ kids because that’s what will define them in the marketplace. They will want to fit in with everybody else.”
While the Millennial generation has been defined by its laid-back, adventurous spirit, individualism, confidence and feeling of entitlement, there will be a sea change with the new crop of humans, and Gen Z “will never know the freedom Millennials knew,” Fishman says.
“They’re going to be the modern-day version of the 1950s, when we all did the same thing, when we wanted to fit in, when we weren’t protesting,” she says, adding that sometimes conformity isn’t a bad thing. She says sometimes, as a society, we need a moment to breathe.
Does this mean this generation is going to reside in the suburbs, taking note of neighbors’ lawns and gardens and making sure they keep up with the Joneses? Is this good news for the industry?
Most likely, Fishman says. This generation will want a comfort zone in their home, a backyard retreat, a protected, peaceful space in an unpredictable world. She envisions a generation of homebodies who will invest in their nest. We may be embarking on the “Golden Age of the garden and lawn,” she says.
“You’re not planting a backyard, you’re planting an oasis,” Fishman says.
She predicts that the first priority for this generation will be safety over beauty, meaning they’ll have preferences for non-toxic plants, plants without thorns or other prickly features. They’ll also want to incorporate the latest technology into their gardens, with options to water their plants with their smart phones and monitor their gardens via camera. Fishman recommends targeting children as young as possible, and comforting new college students with houseplants to help ease the transition, for example.
“Instill in these children a love of plants and Mother Nature … and that taking care of the Earth is necessary,” she says. “They may not be able to control the climate, but they will be able to control their backyard. Offer them field trips, have them come look at how flowers are grown and how to take care of flowers. Go to their school and hand out a potted plant. But make sure it’s in a non-breakable pot.”