Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Get Ready for Gen Alpha

Drawing upon the contrasts between the Millennials and Gen Z, Urooj Hussain looks ahead to what brands can expect from Gen Alpha.
Published 18 Jan, 2024 10:04am

In 2017 I wrote an article in Aurora about how Gen Z was set to replace Millennials as a prime target for advertisers. Six years on, as fate would have it, I find myself writing another article about how, as Gen Z ages, Gen Alpha (the generation born between 2010 and 2025) will become the new focus for marketers.

True, they are still extremely young (the oldest Gen Alpha is at most 13), but as lifestyles change and technology keeps growing at an exponential rate, marketers need to be ready to target the next generation of consumers even before they are born. How much of a challenge will this be? Frankly, quite a bit, it seems.

1 Marketers think they have Gen Z figured out: The oldest Gen Z turned 18 in 2015, and marketers are still describing Gen Z with overused terms like ‘authentic,’ ‘socially conscious,’ and ‘digital natives’ and brands continue to churn out cookie-cutter campaigns featuring rap songs, dancing teens, using words like ‘scene,’ ‘vibes,’ and so on; buzzwords that continue to dominate discussions and are found on every strategy slide presented to brands titled: our Target Audience.

It’s not that these strategies are entirely ineffective; they do resonate to some extent, which is why brands continue to deploy them. My point is not to criticise what brands are doing but rather to reflect on the contrast between the Millennial-focused marketing of about a decade ago and today. Gen Z grew up in an era characterised by rapid technological advancements and shifting social dynamics that have given rise to entirely new paradigms. Millennials came of age when we were just discovering cell phones, broadband internet and social media platforms.

2 Millennials – Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane: The year is 2004/2005 and you have just finished loading Jal’s new album Aadat on your MP3 player. You are also looking forward to going to the cinema over the weekend to watch The Grudge and Veer Zara with your cousins and are super excited to show off your new Motorola RAZR V3. You are also pretty curious about this new thing on the internet called Orkut. If you relate to this – newsflash – you are a Millennial and will understand the context of what was to come in terms of marketing.

Think about Ufone’s ‘Tum hi to ho’ humour-based advertising, and Mahira and Fawad featured in a mineral water ad after the success of Humsafar. Audiences eagerly waiting for the Olper’s Ramzan communication with 60+ second TVCs, and Telenor and djuice focusing on voice and SMS packages. At the time, YouTube was barely known, brands had minimal social media presence and websites rather than brand social pages were the main destinations. E-commerce was barely heard of, and ‘influencers’ were mostly Lollywood or TV drama stars. The biggest thing in everyday consumer fashion trends was the summer collection magazines published by Gul Ahmed and Khaadi.

Seems like a different world, right? Now compare it to the influencers we see today on TikTok and Instagram, and how they have become the norm in every major campaign launch: ‘Use my promo code for a discount’ – telcos, chips, candies, and fast food all use hip-hop and rap to target young audiences. Telcos no longer advertise voice and SMS packages; it is all about who can provide the most optimal data bundle at the lowest cost. Home-grown businesses now thrive on Instagram and in their own small way are making inroads in the market share of giants. People can turn into celebrities overnight if a piece of content goes viral and TikTok trends come and go faster than you can finish scrolling the day’s news feed.

3 Generational Shift – Evolving passions, motivations, and social causes: Even the social causes that drive the generations are different. For Millennials, it is climate change and social justice; for Gen Z, it is LGBTQ rights, mental health and, in some countries, gun control. We thus see a similar shift in causes that brands associate themselves with as each generation ages. For example, Jazz launched its ‘Ladies First’ campaign in 2006, offering SIM packages exclusively for women, with benefits that included SMS-based recipes, beauty tips and discounts. The communication featured the then-famous Sunita Marshall as an ‘all-round housewife’ who kept everyone happy while making her life more efficient thanks to the benefits offered by the SIM package. The campaign was considered very ground-breaking and revolutionary for its time. Fast forward 16 years, Gen Z has come of age, and Jazz launched its ‘Awaz Uthao Farq Mitao’ (Raise your voice, make a difference) campaign which focused on transgender rights in Pakistan and celebrates the spirit of ‘inclusivity.’ The campaign made waves in the market and was noted for being progressive in a country where it is still a struggle for many.

Reverse this and imagine that the ‘Ladies First’ campaign was released in 2022 and the transgender campaign in 2006. The former would be labelled as “just another women-focused campaign,” and the latter would have scandalised people and most probably elicited push-back or criticised for creating ‘shock value’ for the sake of it. Yet, they were both right for their time and the generation they were catering to. This is the importance of knowing the passion points, triggers and motivation of the generation that is your prime prospect.

4 Gen Alpha – Future Unknown: Just as we saw contrasts between Millennials and Gen Z, we are sure to see them as Gen Alpha grows up. Gen Z may not know a world without the internet, but Gen Alpha will not know a world without AI and given the exponential developments in AI, the world is changing every day. If Gen Z had Wikipedia to help them with information sources, Gen Alpha has ChatGPT to write out their assignments. Gen Z saw the trend of people leaving corporate jobs for start-ups or pursuing alternate career paths like freelancing or gaming. Gen Alpha sees that there are children around the world as young as five making millions on YouTube just by reviewing toys.

The shifting global landscape will also impact the way Gen Alpha see the world. Millennials came of age in the wake of 9/11, the global recession, the Arab Spring and Big Oil giving way to Big Data. Gen Z is seeing the global space race on again after decades; Covid has changed the way the workspace is viewed, and the rise of several global conflicts around the world are now fought on social media as well as on the ground.

With the world on the brink of both advancements and unpredictability, what impact will this have on Gen Alpha in terms of their personality, their passion and their motivation? Only time will tell, and as marketers, our job is to keenly observe. The only thing we know for sure is that Gen Alpha will be unlike any we have seen so far.

Urooj Hussain is Director Strategy and Planning, Brainchild Communications Pakistan.