The Plural Phenomenon

30 August 2018
By: Ruthie Jenkins (Sr. Strategic Planner)

Who They Are

In a culture where marketers are constantly vying for attention from various groups, Generation Z, AKA the Plurals, will be the ultimate challenge. In fact, they are projected to reach 40% of all consumers in 20201.

Just look at anyone you know under 20, and it’s easy to see how their perspective is radically different from older generations. Born in the mid to late nineties, they grew up with the world at their fingertips in the height of the Information Age. They never knew a world where they couldn’t access what they wanted when they wanted it. Moreover, because they grew up amidst uncertainty, they value choice and control.

“Plurals have grown up in a world where their options are limitless, but their time is not. As a result, they’ve learned to quickly sort through enormous amounts of information2.”

Because of this, they have evolved entirely new expectations. Gen Zers expect things to function seamlessly—from tech to the global community. So, when that seamlessness gets disrupted, their innate knack for solving problems rises to the surface. Ultimately, they have a need to set things straight.

 

Evolving Needs

Some post millennial generation characteristics go beyond the idea of high expectations—the modern world has created a new outlook on needs. Consider Maslow’s original Hierarchy of Needs, for example. When climbing up the ladder, many of the original human needs can be seen as amplified through a modern lens.

In order to feel safe, individuals have to secure things like good health, property, and employment. However, how can we really achieve good health today without things like access to affordable health insurance? We need phones and the internet to access others immediately nowadays, especially in case of emergencies. Also, in an environment with a new crisis around each corner, the Plurals can even mark themselves safe on Facebook! The idea of sustainability is core for the Plurals when it comes to preserving the world for future generations. In addition, social stability plays a role here as well. It’s crucial to be culturally aware today—they can’t move up the ladder and develop new relationships without having some common cultural ground (agreeing on political matters, enjoying the same content, etc.).

Building off common ground, Love and Belonging is the next need that has slightly evolved with the mentality of Gen Zers, as well as the rise of Multiculturalism. Their concept of developing friendships is often about gathering networks of individuals who can offer different perspectives to add to their point of view. These individuals realize there is a need for love in the world and are embracing complete acceptance, inclusiveness, and hunger for diversity.

The concept of Esteem is all about understanding who you are as an individual, achieving goals in life, and embracing yourself. This level has evolved especially with younger, Multicultural Plurals over the years. People don’t want to be pinned down to one culture or a single box anymore—they want to embrace all aspects of themselves. They want to choose how they identify, because their identity is fluid and much more complex than we, as marketers, think it is.

Finally, Self-Actualization is understanding your personal purpose in life and framing your morality to fulfill it. Today, the Plurals often seek higher ground for their purpose and tend to have a larger world view. It’s not only about the purpose of their own lives, it’s about how that purpose can impact their larger communities, culture, and world.

Plural Thinking

Given these evolved needs and expectations, the name ‘Plurals’ for this generation is actually quite fitting when trying to understand where they devote their attention. In fact, there are many series of dichotomies in their way of thinking that can give us context into their mindset.

 

Attention vs. Spread Attention

In many ways, the Plurals can be extremely focused. With access to multiple platforms for viewing, and with brands like Netflix and Hulu producing a huge spectrum of quality shows, the Plurals can pick and choose content that specifically speaks to them and will make time to binge it all at once.

Another example of hyper attention would be the Gen Zers’ self-starting mentality. There are many cases now of young prodigies who have impacted the world with their relentless pursuit of that top need: Self-Actualization. According to a recent study, 72% of current high school students want to start their own businesses1. Jack Andraka and Mikaila Ulmer are just two examples. As a high school student, Jack developed a potential method to detect early onset pancreatic cancer. And at 11 years old, Mikaila used her grandmother’s 1940s lemonade recipe to secure a four-state business deal with Whole Foods.

On the other hand, the Plurals can also have their attention widely spread. They are expert multitaskers and are often using multiple devices to get the full experience. Where Millennials use 3 devices, Gen Zers use 5—smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and tablet2.


1 Boston Globe: PSA: If you’re 20 or younger you are NOT a millennial
2 Forbes: 10 Tips for Marketing to Gen Z Consumers

The future of marketing in gen z

“71% of them look up content related to the shows they’re watching before, during, and after consuming linear content3.”

Instant Gratification vs. Delayed Consumption

The Plurals’ high expectations create a desire for instant gratification. It makes sense to them to take advantage of every moment given the political climate, national tragedies, and shifting economy. What better way to deal with uncertainty than the time-tested mentality of Carpe Diem?

However, even though these consumers are used to getting what they want instantly, they are also experts at allocating their time accordingly. In other words, the “when they want it” piece is key. We’ve seen the rise of DVRs and On-Demand content throughout the past decade. A recent study claims that 55% of total content viewership for all consumers is now delayed, and that number skyrockets to 72% for the Plurals5.

 

Attention to Self vs. Attention to the World

How the Plurals present themselves is important, and they are adamant on documenting that “Carpe Diem” mentality in all of their daily activities. Yet, some also realize the emptiness of sharing with online networks vs. real-life friends. That’s why platforms that allow for selective audiences are more popular with Gen Z. From Snapchat, to Instagram, to private “Finsta” accounts, they can now post very personal things to close friends.

However, we’ve seen that the Plurals are not as completely self-absorbed as their online lives might lead you to believe. They truly believe they are the generation to change culture. They focus on doing good and expect brands to exhibit a baseline amount of corporate responsibility.

 

Progress vs. Tradition

Obviously, the Plurals are all about progress in culture and technology. They are redefining many industries today as they are reading e-books, ditching newspapers, and streaming YouTube4. However, they also recognize how so many advancements can turn humanity cold. To combat this, they value traditional things like craftsmanship, artisanship, retro items like old record players, and the DIY mentality.

 


3 Social Media Week: Forget Millennials: Meet the Plurals
4 Business Insider: Gen Z is already moving away from Facebook, and 6 more industries could be next
5 Geoscape Intelligence System

How to attract gen z

What this Means for Marketers

Taking a Multicultural Approach is a Must to Reach Plurals

From a cultural perspective, Hispanics value brands speaking to them directly regardless of language. Nearly 60% of Hispanics have a positive resulting impact when brands talk to “people like me”, 61% have the same result when brands advertise in Hispanic media, and 62%-73% (depending on language) have a positive impression when bilingual ads are shown on both Spanish and English language TV7.

There’s something to be said about that extra effort that creates high levels of loyalty within Latinos. But as the Hispanics and Plurals are blending and overlapping their points of view, it is even more important to take a Multicultural approach. Gen Zers will notice which brands are talking to which groups and will expect nothing but complete inclusivity for everyone.

 

Marketers Can’t Be Preachy, or Assume Too Much with Plurals

Although this Plural mindset means Gen Zers live in a world of dichotomies, it’s important that we listen to them as marketers, and try not to put them in a box. Recently, Clearasil discovered the same truth—this generation appreciates complete honesty and are tired of brands pretending to know them. So, Clearasil launched a campaign that basically admits this fact.

“We work at Clearasil, and we’re just trying to tell you that Clearasil Ultra works fast,” the friendly, yet bemused-sounding female voice says. “But we don’t know how to do that. Because we don’t really know teens. We only know teen acne. So, we’re just going to guess what you guys like. A lot of times. So, you’re into this.”


6 Media Post: Multiracial Gen Z and the Future of Marketing
7 Focus Latino Wave 3: Advertising & Social Media 2017

Sometimes it can be as simple as being genuine and sticking to what your brand does best.

 

How to attract gen z

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