Branding for Generation Z: Making the Most of Our Time On The Planet

“Till The World Ends” (Britney Spears). “Give Me Everything Tonight” (Pitbull). Catchy songs with a message – the future is uncertain. Live for today. Enjoy.

Washingtonian Magazine this week spotlights burned-out out private school kids. They and their parents alike are going nuts trying to keep those transcripts pure for the Ivy League. Educators and psychologists, confronted with their pervasive stress, are asking the question, Why? Let kids enjoy the time they have. They’re only young once.

I read this and thought, and let’s be honest – the economy isn’t exactly going to welcome these kids with open arms. What is the craziness around all this unnecessary busywork? Why does every kid have to be a 4.0, mountain-climbing bassist in an obscure rock band who volunteers 80 hours a week to be considered good enough?

Facebook has helped me to enjoy life more. At first I hated it. It’s just seemed so – open. I think I opened and closed my account twice before I figured out how to use it in a way I could be comfortable with. Now, it’s my real family and friends on there. It was fun to joke about turning the big 4-0. I like seeing my high school friends’ kids’ pictures. It’s nice just to savor the moment, and know that it is fleeting.

My friend posted a picture the other day of herself playing Uno with her kid. It is so nice. It’s just…peaceful. I think about it and I wish that I were so relaxed.

Yesterday we had a family lunch at our usual place. In the past we hurried up – “Where’s the menu?” “Gotta go!” But this time we just kind of…didn’t. I took some really bad pictures with my aging Droid. Maybe it’s the reflective time of year – the Jewish New Year is coming. I am not sure. But we just sat, talked, ate those fattening but delicious Chinese noodles they put on the table, and ordered a really bad cake at the end. And laughed at how bad it was.

“Speed kills,” an executive said recently at work. What a good saying.

Bringing it back to branding, especially for Generation Z (kids born between 1992-2010) - the children of Generation Xers like me.

Most of the brand advice I see about these kids, born and raised on brands, has to do with how sophisticated they are. They’re born brand creators with zero brand loyalty who use numerous technologies simultaneously to express themselves in hyper-individualistic ways.

But more potent advice has to do with slowing down. These are kids who use technology fast – in fact they are notoriously overstimulated – which is why deep down they want to take their time much more. Already in 2004, Gen Y started the trend (and was immediately named Gen Z, prematurely). Today parents are talking about letting their kids find their own way in life, and homeschooling - getting out of the rat race early, and defining your own race - is at the forefront of this movement.

Gen Z is the generation of Suri Cruise and the Brangelina kids. As Marie Claire magazine points out, though they may seem pampered and acquisitive they actually, deep down, want and need the gift of slowness:

“Experts point out many difficulties Gen Z face are redeemable, simply by parents committing to switching off TVs and computers to talk to children and spend time together in an unstructured way. Several told marie claire the greatest gift would be bringing back family dinners, where children could learn, among other things, vital life lesson skills, such as conversation, waiting until others have finished, serving others first and deferring gratification.

For any audience, building a successful brand has never been about rushing around, doing lots of different things, showing activity and quantity and volume. Racing around is for insecure people. People who feel better when they can look at a long list of communication activities and say, “I did that!”

No. Building a brand, like building a good life, is about proceeding thoughtfully. Sometimes that means moving fast, and other times it means slowing down. You have to be mindful about what you’re doing. Focus on a few things that make a difference. Talk about the message till you get it right.

I can see the desire for slowness in pop culture and I can hear it when I listen to today’s kids. Underneath all the talk about "apps," they’re tired of all the rushing and they’re sick of all the pressure. They just want to hang out with their friends, make a lot of money (they still think kind of magically about this) and have a meaningful life too. The brands that can package all these gratifying wishes together will win them over for life.


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