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Marketing Moments | Not Another One!

Marketing Moments
March 24, 2022 5:00 PM

Sales and Marketing

Marketing content shared with Michigan Business Network by:

Bonnie J. Knutson, PhD

The School of Hospitality Business

Broad College of Business

Michigan State University

Knutson_Bonnie_FAR_0081For the first time in history, we are approaching six generations of customers (and soon-to-be employees), each with its own set of characteristics, values, buying patterns, and “hot buttons.” We already include the Traditionalists – who Tom Brokaw deemed the Greatest Generation, the large Baby Boomers group, Generation X, the smallest cohort, the infamous Millennials, or Gen Y, which is the largest, and Generation Z, who is the first truly digital generation. Well, move over, because here comes Generation Alpha. Yes, there is another generation that you can and must think more about now because it offers long-lasting challenges as well as for opportunities to attract, engage, and retain employees and customers.

The Alpha moniker is credited to Mark McCrindle who is a generational researcher in Australia. It is generally attributed to the demographic cohort that is the first to be born entirely in the 21st century. Researchers and popular media alike frequently use the early 2010s as its beginning and estimate the end of this cohort to be somewhere in the mid-2020s. Using 2010 as the starting point, the leading edge of this group turns 12 in 2022, just entering their teen years. They are also most likely to be the children of Generation Y parents and the younger siblings of Generation Z. Data suggest that a member of Generation Alpha is born every nine seconds in the United States. According to Pew Research Worldwide, that equates to more than 2.5 million Alphas born every week, meaning that by 2025, their total number will reach nearly 2.5 billion – making it the biggest generation in history. It is also projected that, by 2030, they will also make up about 11 percent of the workforce.

So what will the impact of this generation be on the world? Your nation? Your community? Your business? And why should you even really care? After all, they are just kids. And, you have real adults to worry about now. Well, anyone who has children can attest to the fact that today’s youngsters have their own opinions and know what they like and what they want. Marketing professor, Heather Dretsch found that children are very capable of developing brand associations as young as three years old. Just look at Disney and McDonald’s. “Whatever

the parents expose the child to, the more often he or she will come to identify with that brand even from a very young age…Those connections happen very naturally and almost non-consciously.” As one marketer put it, “While [the Alphas] are the youngest generation, they have brand influence and purchasing power beyond their years…[these] consumers shape the social media landscape, are the cultural influencers…and by the end of the 2020s will be moving into adulthood, the workforce and household formation...” The end of the 2020s is fewer than eight years from the time you are reading this.

While we do not yet have a clear image of what the Alpha generation will be like as adults, a picture, albeit still blurry, is beginning to develop. Their forebearers were marked by such events as the two world wars, the 1969 moon landing, the 1987 stock market crash, September 11th, and the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) between 2007 and 2009. Alphas’ markers are emerging as Brexit, the Insurrection, the pandemic, and, of course, the infiltration of technology in all aspects of life – from Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the Internet of Things (IoT).

So what do we know – at least for now – about our younger consumers? Here are what I call the Alpha Generation’s Top Three,

First, they are what are sometimes called digital natives, being “logged in and linked up” virtually 24/7. This is not very surprising if you remember that the iPad was launched in 2010, which is the same year that Instagram was created, and App was the word of the year. Alexa and Siri are their siblings. Their friends live next door, across town, across the country or even the world and exist in a little laptop screen. Some have even suggested that Gen Alphas will have multiple online identities or avatars for different reasons, each with its own purpose. For example, one identity may be for friends, another for family, still a different for work, and there may even be a separate one for your business. For them, it is all things visual. For them, it is all things immediate. For them, they don’t have to remember it, because they can Google it. So how can you serve these digital natives?

Second, they will be highly educated and continual learners. According to 2021 Census Bureau figures, almost 94 million Americans over 25 have earned an associate, bachelor's, graduate, or professional. This represents about 42 percent of the population. Alphas are more likely to be surrounded by smart, often entrepreneurial, college-cultivated adults. They see and understand the value of constantly learning because our bank of knowledge continues to expand, as predicted by futurist Buckminster Fuller. At the turn of the 20th century, he found that until

1900, human knowledge doubled about every century. By the time World War II ended, the time shrunk to every 75 years. As this article is being written, the average time for knowledge to double is down to 13 months. And according to IBM’s prediction, the Internet of Things will shrink it to every 12 hours. Such exponential growth demands that we continually upgrade what we know; it also requires education to be delivered in more ways and more places than the traditional classroom setting. This will enable Alphas to readily pop in and out of a learning setting. So what opportunities does this open up for your business for employee training and customer experiences?

Third, DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is an integral part of Alpha’s core structure. The well renowned Brookings Institute projects that the nation will become “minority white” in 2045. During that year, whites will comprise 49.7 percent of the population in contrast to 24.6 percent for Hispanics, 13.1 percent for blacks, 7.9 percent for Asians, and 3.8 percent for multiracial populations. But this new generation sees DEI far beyond race, gender, and ethnicity. It also incorporates the physically or emotionally challenged, body image, equitable opportunity, sustainability, bell-being, and family structure. These cultural shifts have already begun. All we must do is look at how movies, TV shows, commercials, print advertising, and even product labels are beginning to embrace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Putting your DEI foot forward is not an option for the Alpha Generation; it is a requirement. How credibly will your management, staff, offerings, and messaging reflect DEI? After all, this generation is already WOKE.i

Of course, the reality of who and what Generation Alpha will mean for businesses is still in its infancy. It will develop and clarify as it goes through their teen years and moves into adulthood. While that may seem way into the future, remember, that in eight short years, they will comprise 11 percent of the workforce. This recalls the old mantra that says the older you get the faster time seems to go.

Your bottom line will thank you!

i ) Described by Merriam-Webster as “chiefly US slang”, the dictionary defines Woke as: “Aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” Woke nowadays refers to being aware or well informed in a political or cultural sense, especially regarding issues surrounding marginalized communities - it describes someone who has “woken up” to issues of social injustice. https://www.nationalworld.com/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/what-does-woke-mean-definition-of-woke-culture-in-2021-and-what-critics-mean-by-woke-police-3215758 

Marketing Moments, hosted by Dr. Bonnie Knutson. With her wit and entertaining style, Bonnie, a frequent speaker at business and association meetings takes her perspective and brings it to our broadcast platform. She shares decades of knowledge and brand awareness, and gives us all a new lens on marketing for business.

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