Benchmark This!

Latest Trends Impacting Marketing and Higher Education
from Director of UPCEA's Center for Research and Strategy, Jim Fong

Generation Z Isn’t Generation Z-ombie

Generation Z has been inappropriately and ignorantly labeled by other writers from the other generations as Generation Z-ombie. These authors have drawn a conclusion that the generation may be focused selfishly on themselves and their sustenance. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Generation Z is a wildly informed group that moves very quickly, not like the zombies traditionally portrayed in the movies. Being focused on the things that matter most to them, and not to be distracted, is often confused with selfishness or seeking the blood of others.

We’ve defined the iGeneration as a subset of Generation Z, those 14 to 22 years of age. The one zombie-like quality is that this generation moves in packs. They have strong social and family networks to draw on and they have the power to change. However, much of this power has yet to be unleashed. It is estimated that between 1.5 and 2 million Gen Z’er’s will graduate this Spring with about 15 million currently in college. There are also another 8 million that bypassed college who are already in the workplace.

Most have had mobile technology at their fingertips for over a decade now. During that time, they learned how to research brands and products and have become loyal to a small set. They have a strong resistance to not shop for brand alternatives as a result, unless their current brand fails them. Their iPhones work, there’s no reason to shop Androids. Snapchat meets their peer communication needs, why invest in Facebook? However, with new products, Generation Z will intensively research alternatives. They are a data-driven generation seeking information to make the best new product decisions or to stay with a faulty incumbent. In fact, when Chipotle had issues with food quality, leaders at the company were transparent to Millennials and Generation Z and replaced lost perceived value from issues related to sanitary conditions and food poisoning with information that they’ve fixed the problem and a free burrito offer after a nationwide one-day restaurant closure for cleaning.

Generation Z is a force to be reckoned with. They are part of a peer-to-peer sharing economy that ride-shares, home-shares, and even clothing-shares. The marketing and credential development of higher education will not be immune to this sea change. UPCEA released a draft of the new whitepaper “An Insider’s Guide to Generation Z and Higher Education” at the 2017 UPCEA Marketing and Enrollment Management Seminar last week. Our membership will have access to it beginning in January and the general public in February. The guide addresses how product preferences, brand, social media, housing, transportation and other factors impact how this generation interacts with higher education and how higher education will need to change.

Jim Fong, UPCEA

Lead consultant Jim Fong, the founding director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy, has extensive background in marketing at Penn State, as well as experience in private industry. Jim brings a rich understanding of the dynamics driving today’s higher education leaders, providing research-driven strategy and positioning. Jim often presents at UPCEA’s regional and national conferences, sharing vital information with attendees.

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