by Anna Nelson (Washington State University)
Generation Alpha, those born between 2010-2024, are predicted to be the largest generation in history, estimated to reach 2 billion by 2025, according to generationalpha.com. The oldest of Gen Alphas are coming of age and have strong purchasing power. Other generations, such as millennials and Gen Z, have made significant contributions to our current zeitgeist through their purchasing power; think Fortnite, Minecraft and virtual reality in our everyday lives. Where will Gen Alpha’s purchasing power take us?
Gen Alpha has coexisted with screens since birth – a screen is only a pocket’s distance away. They have an unprecedented understanding of technology because they’ve been immersed since a young age. And Gen Alpha also has notoriously short attention spans, making it difficult to catch their eye with products and campaigns. Mark McCrindle, Australian social researcher of Gen Alpha, predicts that they will be the most formally educated, tech-savvy and globally wealthiest generation to date (https://generationalpha.com/). This holds tremendous power in understanding Generation Alpha, as they will likely be product-driven, but more difficult to advertise to. Lastly, despite their young age, Gen Alpha has a strong passion for sustainability, according to Hotwire, with 38% claiming recycling is very important, compared to only 22% of millennials and baby boomers (https://www.hotwireglobal.com/feature/genalpha3).
So, how can you build expertise, trust and authority with the emerging generation?
I think that boils down to a few points that companies and campaigns must implement if they want to be successful with Alphas – authenticity, honesty, curating a new digital experience, customization and sustainability. Marketing initiatives will have to be transparent with this new audience. Because of higher levels of education and an unprecedented understanding of technology, Gen Alpha will not accept anything at face value. Brands, companies and campaigns will have to put their money where their mouth is when targeting the youngest generation.
Companies will need to go beyond simply making claims to Gen Alpha and visibly prove their product’s value. This trend emerged with millennials and Gen Z, which can be observed through the increase of reviews and customer feedback. Alphas will likely take their need for authenticity to the next level. Companies and brands will need to show their authenticity in the real world by being transparent in their initiatives for equality and diversity, as well as giving back. Companies that cannot show authenticity should not expect trust or respect from Gen Alpha.
Honesty & Transparency
Honesty and transparency go hand in hand with authenticity. Companies need to prove to the new generation that they are worth Alphas’ time and money. This goes beyond just avoiding superlative claims about a product that are exaggerated or untrue, but also into the territory of corporate transparency. For example, make the actions and composition of your diversity committees public, showing people that employees are being compensated equally, regardless of gender and race and openly admit to mistakes that the company has made. Gen Alpha will likely expect companies to hold themselves accountable, and if that is not something they see happening, they will choose another company. To develop authoritativeness and trust with Gen Alpha, make a commitment to transparency and honesty.
A New Digital Experience
Think back to when brick-and-mortar stores attempted to stay relevant in the retail world by competing with online shopping through creating an in-store shopping “experience.” This will likely be an expectation of Alphas due to their complete immersion in technology. Creating a “new digital experience” will set your brand, company or campaign apart by giving them something they have been craving – something new or revolutionary in the world of tech. Think along the lines of shopping through VR or VR product trials. Curating a unique digital experience will allow for brands to build authoritativeness with Gen Alpha.
Gen Alpha grew up in a world with customization at their fingertips – storybooks with their name and likeness inserted into them, cards with personalized messages recorded into them and toys modelled after them. This will likely lead to a desire for increased customization across all products. In addition to customizable products for the consumer, campaign managers should look at how can they cater to the customization desires of Gen Alpha. Campaigns, in general, will likely need to become more niche to properly serve younger audiences and get their attention. To build expertise with Gen Alpha, think along the lines of, “how can I serve the individual, as well as the larger audience?”
Sustainability & Giving Back
Environmentalism and sustainability are already well documented as important issues for Gen Alpha. Alphas growing up in the politically-torn world of climate change and seeing the negative effects of a changing climate will likely only become more passionate and outspoken on the issue. As these issues come to the forefront of their minds, companies must build trust with Alphas by making transparent commitments to sustainability. This generation will desire more than a company’s commitment to cutting back their carbon footprint, but will also expect donations, engagement and interaction with climate justice organizations as well as politicians. Developing expertise and trust with Gen Alpha will directly align with sustainability.
Authenticity, transparency, digital experiences, customization and sustainability are healthy and positive changes for companies to make, even if they are difficult and long-term changes. Gen Alpha, more educated and technologically inclined than ever, will expect positive changes from brands, no matter where they expect to see them.