Naming Generation Z

Generation X, Y, and now Z? Why Z, because it’s the next logical letter in the alphabet? It’s about time this generation gets properly “named”. Give or take a few years, Generation Z is comprised of those born around 2003 until now. Their giant predecessor, Generation-Y, aka millennials, those born from 1982 to 2002, has largely overshadowed them. But it’s time to take a deeper look into this generation who seems to be a band without a name and is coming of age quickly.

Pic. Why do we use Z letter for the so-called “Generation Z”?


Aside from Generation-Z, they have also been referred to as Generation Next for literally being “next”, Generation-I for being born into the iWorld of the Internet, iPhones, iPads, and iPods, or Generation-M for multi-tasking, Digital Natives for having been born with digital technology, or even Generation-C for being constantly connected. However, none of these really define this still growing generation. They are a unique group that deserves a better moniker, one that doesn’t just state the obvious but a name that is more of a mantra they can grow with. Let’s take a look at why.


Coming Of Age 2.0.13

This generation is growing up faster than any previous generation. The oldest ones are entering their teenage years and there are new traditions in this coming of age – getting their own cell phone, computer, tablet, email account and independently debuting in the social media world. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study 69% of 11-14 year olds and 31% of 8-10 year olds already have cell phones. And based on a SodaHead survey, most people agree that 13 is the appropriate age for a child to have their first email account, it also happens to be the minimum age to join Facebook. However, the younger ones are eager to grow up even faster. From a 2011 NYU Child Study Center (NYUCSC) report, girls’ as early as age 10 are faced with “teen” issues such as dating and sex, and 73 percent of 8 to 12-year-olds dress like teens and talk like teens. We have to acknowledge that this generation doesn’t want to be treated like the younger siblings to millennials – they want to be contemporaries.

There is a trend for tweens to compete with their millennial cohorts in everything from attention grabbing channels on Youtube such as “SevenCoolTweens” which has over 22million video views to how tweens have developed their own “tweenstagram” game (via wisodomofpearl). The goal is to gain the most followers. If you have any tweens on your Instagram, you may have noticed the “padlock” icon with a number next to it. When they reach that number of followers, they change the icon to “unlock”. This competitive nature is part of their coming of age and we are sure to see more of this in all areas of their life.

Pic. Typical Instagram account of a Gen-Z tween

Billion Dollar Baby

As children, they influenced purchase decisions through their parents. But as they are getting older, they continue to influence purchase decisions but are also making their own purchases. In 2012, spending, bought by and for teens accounted for $208.7 billion in the U.S., according to Packaged Facts. The average annual income for a 12-14 year old is $2,167. They have allowances, birthday and holiday money, money from odd jobs, reward money for achievements, and so on. Earning and making their own purchases gives them a sense of ownership. They are earning younger and spending more, but they are also more cautious. They grew up in a recession surrounded by words like debt, loans, discounts, downsizing, unemployment, foreclosure, etc. This has taught them to have a better understanding of the power of money at an earlier age.

One trend we see here is the broadening of retail stores and brands available to these young tweens. They don’t want to be bound to the “kids” departments or to children’s line extensions such as Gap Kids, Crew Cuts, H&M Kids, Forever 21 Girls or PS Aeropostale. Stores that were originally branded for teens or even adults are being shopped by tweens. Size is less of an issue as most stores carry extra-small and petites. Over the past 2 years, Forever 21 has seen a 20% increase in purchases from tweens. The takeaway? The age gap between generations is getting smaller and smaller when it comes to purchases.


Virtual Education

They are growing up in multiple worlds. From Animal Jam, Pop Tropica, Nick, Club Penguin to Moshi Monsters, these virtual worlds created for kids are meant to be fun and entertaining but also teaches real world lessons such as building businesses, saving money to buy things, and creating friendships with people from various cultures. For example, Animal Jam by National Geographic is aimed at kids 5-11. (Started in the fall of 2010, by May 2011, there were 1 million registered players.) Here, they can buy, sell and trade merchandise to create their own identity and decorate their personal den. These sites are heavily monitored and paid versions, done through a parent’s credit card, can earn more spending power. However, in that virtual world, the child is making all the purchase decisions. Virtual worlds like this are laying the foundations about communication, earning, spending, wanting, saving and ultimately, building your own world. This is also the transition for these youngsters to move onto Facebook, Instragram, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. which they seem to be doing at a younger age than ever before.

Currently, one of the biggest trends with tweens online is hoarding Tumblr URLs. What is this? Well, it’s kind of like collecting Beanie Babies, but digital and a lot more controlling. It’s like a popularity contest. The more URLs you hoard, the more powerful you feel. Tween myth or not, there is a story of one tween with over 400 URLs. Why? It’s a thrill and feeling of empowerment within a virtual community. They have something that someone else may want. People reach out to these URL hoarders to see if they would give up a specific name. Few are worth any money; this is purely done for “status and power”.


Click Cliques 

Because of virtual worlds and social media, this generation has always lived in communities, on and off-line. They would rather belong to and lead within a community than venture alone. From a marketing perspective that means involvement. To reach this generation, you have to involve them in the process. Being the “crowd” in crowd-sourcing is part of their DNA. They are vocal and good communicators because of this. Competing to have your voice heard in a crowd takes a lot more skill and strategy. Just look at the success of the Teen Choice Awards and American Idol where tween and teen girls make up the majority of viewers and voters.

We predict that this young generation will continue to have their voice heard and more importantly will start an upward ripple effect – influencing the older generations. Their communities will grow to include those older than them as they become influencers and role models. Here are some tween celebrities already setting trends for all age groups, Elle Fanning, Peigi Barker, Willow Smith, Jaden Smith and Romeo Beckham.

Photo. Celebrity tweens

So who are they?

More so than any other generation, this group of young people must develop new ideas, values and solutions that move the world forward. It will be the minds of this generation that successfully inspires and creates a world of new innovations that will take us into the next decade and century. Saying they are a part of the “Innovation Generation” is more of a mantra that defines them as they grow and enter the workforce and begin to take over leadership positions and become innovators. The industrial and technological revolutions have happened. It’s now up to them to continue the growth of these industries with small steps and giant leaps. We see them innovating the worlds of technology, fashion, entertainment, travel, sustainable design and architecture, medicine and most importantly how people will stay connected on and offline. They are the innovation generation. 



We will continue to track these along with other trends in upcoming articles. If you would like to know more about Toniq, please email us at or tweet us @brandeffervesce.

About the Author

Ms. Swanson founded Toniq in 1999 after leading several design firms to world-class status with her emotions-based, visual approach to brand strategy development. At Toniq, she continues to evolve her strategic expertise by seeking new ways to connect with consumers.

Swanson’s years of trend tracking, design management and research have coalesced in a theory of “Brand Effervescence ™” an innovative approach to brand building. This image-based approach is a synthesis of cultural anthropology, consumer trends research, marketing and design, and a study of the psychology of symbolism and color.