Do you know anyone under 9? They represent the world’s next age group: “Generation Alpha,” the demographic after Generation Z.
Born between 2010 and 2025 to millennial and Gen Z parents, the Alpha Generation’s first members are beginning to emerge as consumers as they enter middle school.
Here’s what communicators need to know about this key, emerging group:
Understanding the generation
The Alpha Generation will be one of the smallest generations, based on birthrate, compared with previous generations. Parents worldwide are having fewer children. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. birthrate in 2018 reached its lowest level in 32 years.
According to Jonathan Vespa, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, Generation Alpha will be the most racially diverse generation in the history of the United States. He projects that by 2020, less than half (49.8 percent) of children in the U.S. will be non-Hispanic whites. Alphas are also more likely to be raised in non-traditional households — with single parents, unmarried parents, mixed-race parents or same-sex parents.
By 2035, 35 percent of the U.S. population will not be affiliated with any organized religion, predicts Allen Downey, a professor of computer science at Olin College in Needham, Mass.
Forecasting their impact
Alphas are using mobile devices earlier in life, and they’re adept at connecting with friends and family members via online platforms such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and the video game Fortnite.
As technology advances and “smart” devices become commonplace in our homes and offices, Alphas will also leave the longest trail of data ever collected about a generation. Through technologies from social media to sensors, manufacturers and tech companies will be able to see how Alphas interact with their brands.
Alphas will also likely be the first generation to maintain avatars in virtual worlds where they will go for entertainment, school and work. And because they will be skilled at searching for information and sharing it with their parents, members of Generation Alpha will likely also have more influence than previous generations over adult decisions and family purchases such as eating out, taking vacations and other entertainment activities.
It’s difficult to forecast what the impact of this constant exposure to technology from an early age will be. But Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of the book “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age,” argues that mobile technology is already profoundly changing the way that people interact with one another in face-to-face situations and large social settings.
Marketing to Alphas
How should PR professionals and marketers connect with members of Generation Alpha as they become consumers, voters and donors in the years to come? Here are some suggestions, based on insights from more than a dozen futurists and experts in politics, real estate, child psychology and marketing:
- Consider their generation-shaping event(s). Every generation is shaped by a seminal event that defines their generation. We don’t know yet what events will shape Generation Alpha, but marketers and communicators need to be cognizant of the major and minor events that may affect this demographic. And we’ll have to put our messages into the context of those events.
- Appeal to their flexibility. Perhaps no generation will be forced to adapt to greater change than Generation Alpha. As these young people reach adulthood, the world around them will face seismic shifts — artificial intelligence, robots in the workplace, driverless vehicles. Appealing to this generation’s mindset of uncertainty and flexibility will help marketers generate more relevant messages.
- Communicate via mobile devices. According to a 2017 report from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that promotes safe technology and media for children, 42 percent of kids ages 8 and younger have their own mobile devices. They spend an average of two hours and 19 minutes a day looking at screen media. Accordingly, marketing messages delivered via mobile technology will take up a larger share of PR and ad budgets.
- Connect with video stories. Where previous generations dreamed of being astronauts or professional athletes, nearly 30 percent of respondents to a 2019 LEGO survey of more than 3,000 children in the U.S., the U.K. and China said they wanted to be a “vlogger” or a “YouTuber” when they grow up. Connecting with Generation Alpha through video stories will be crucial for future business success, as will allowing its members to generate their own content for brands.
- Prepare for voice searches. Generation Alpha is also growing up asking for information from voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa via phones, voice-activated speakers and in-home robots. According to Comscore, a media-analytics company, by 2020 half of all information searches will be conducted by voice. As the technology becomes routine for Alphas, organizations will need to reconsider how their brands are discovered and experienced.
- Keep up with new social media platforms. To avoid the prying eyes of their millennial and Gen Z parents, Alphas will likely gravitate to new social media platforms. This means they’ll likely shun Instagram and Snapchat just as Gen Z avoids Facebook today. Learn how to communicate using the latest social media platforms.
- Offer transparency. With deep fakes, fake news, VR and AR “normal” part of today’s media world, Alphas will demand more transparency from their institutions, says Gen Z consultant Tiffany Zhong. “Transparency will become the gold standard when it comes to marketing to future generations,” she says.
We shouldn’t mistake Generation Alpha for an extension of Gen Z or millennials. It’ll take the work of savvy communicators to watch closely and learn how to offer relevant, authentic messages that emotionally connect with this next generation of American consumers.
Stephen Dupont, APR, is vice president of public relations and branded content for Pocket Hercules, a brand creative firm based in Minneapolis. He blogs at www.stephendupont.co. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more, join Dupont for his presentation, “Are You Ready for Alpha Generation? Communicating with the Generation Coming after Gen Z” at the PRSA 2019 International Conference in San Diego on Oct. 21 at 10:15 a.m.