Brands and marketers looking to tap the mobile-first and digital savvy Generation Z—people aged 13 to 23—will need to discard some old habits and pursue new strategies to cater to this demographic, the oldest of whom are just entering adulthood and beginning to work. Growing up in a time of widespread flux—intense geopolitical conflict, climate change and societal shifts on everything from sexuality to savings—this cohort is making and living by its own life rules.
In Asia, this group is optimistic about its future, highly engaged in socio-economic issues and more open-minded than ever when it comes to race, religion and relationships. According to a new study that uses original consumer data from its in-house data unit Sonar of 4,500 consumers aged 13 to 23 years, Wunderman Intelligence APAC has identified what drives this group of consumers. The data from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam cover shopping, finances, technology and media, as well as gender and politics.
Despite the turbulent times they live in, Gen Z is optimistic that they will be better off than their parents generation, with a full three-quarters of respondents stating they will be more strongly placed. Gen Zs in China are most optimistic (94%) about being better off than their parents, followed by Indonesia (91%), Thailand (88%), Vietnam (84%), Philippines (78%), Singapore (74%), Hong Kong (71%) and Taiwan (60%) and Japan (28%).
Meanwhile, unlike any other generation in the past, members of Gen Z are comfortable with the mobile phone being at the centre of their universe and tend to use their devices constantly. Some 76% of respondents overall say they use their smartphones multiple times a day, even if nearly nine in 10 feel they spend too much time on their gadgets.
Even as they get increasingly comfortable in their mobile first environment—a vast majority of respondents (89%) think carefully about what they post online—marketers should be aware that this cohort isn't giving up on the physical world just yet. According to findings, 76% overall say they are as comfortable purchasing online as offline, rising to 88% in China. But, 62% overall say they prefer to buy in a physical store.
Marketers looking to sharply target this audience face other challenges too. Despite the rise of the mobile phone, social media and influencers on several platforms, a significant chunk of this generation is most likely to pick family members as personal heroes, mostly followed by teachers, especially in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam. While those in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are most likely to pick celebrities as personal heroes, the younger crowd in China also reports holding scientists, entrepreneurs and politicians in higher esteem.
As this audience actively seeks to engage in activities to change things for the better, brands would be advised to align their messaging accordingly. As they become more conscious and aware of how they eat, shop and travel, their purchases and loyalties will be dictated by these perceptions. This also permeates into a more inclusive view of gender and race, with LGBTQ ideals more widely accepted and gender-equality increasingly the norm, brands will likely benefit from dropping gender stereotypes in their communications.
Unlike perhaps any other generation previously, brands today face the challenge of selling to a group that is acutely more aware of the turbulent world in which it lives. For example, 80% say gender doesn't define a person as much as it used to, three-quarters say they would date outside their race and at a time when the effect of global warming is heating up, over half of respondents said they are trying to eat less meat than in the past.
As this audience actively seeks to engage in activities to change things for the better, brands would be advised to align their messaging accordingly. As they become more conscious and aware of how they eat, shop and travel, their purchases and loyalties will be dictated by these perceptions.
“This is the most global, connected generation ever,” says Chen May Yee, APAC Director of Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. “Gen Z Asia are coming of age amid a climate crisis and stormy geopolitics and they worry about everything from future job prospects to online privacy. Yet roughly three quarters say they will be better off than their parents’ generation. That mix of positivity and maturity is already influencing how brands think and act.”