Meet the Most Sophisticated Generation Yet: Gen We
In interacting with my daughter and her friends on a daily basis, it has become clear to me that this generation of kids is way more sophisticated than we were. Don’t believe me? Go find a 10-year-old and ask her what she wants to be when she grows up. I know what I said at 10, and it was President of the United States (sorry to disappoint you, Mom). In my generation, the answers you would have gotten were more simple -- doctor, lawyer, police officer. That is just not the case anymore. I did a quick poll of kids I interact with, and here are some of the answers I got:
- Fashion designer, Alexa, age 7
- SWAT team commander, Kevin age 7
- Roller coaster designer, Tyler, age 10
- Marine biologist, Abbey, age 10
- Video game designer, Jack, age 7
- Meteorologist, Cooper, age 12
- Architect, Josh, age 11
At that age, I had no idea some of these careers even existed. What’s interesting to me is not just that Gen We knows more about the types of careers that are available; it’s that many of them are actually getting the chance to try on these different careers at an early age. Where I began to really take notice of this is when I researched summer camps for my own child. Here is a sampling of some remarkable camps experiences that are available this summer:
- Dezign Kidz provides fledgling fashionistas age 7+ with hands-on instruction in fashion sketching, measuring, pinning, cutting, basic garment construction, hand and machine sewing and embellishing. Kids finish the camp with a wearable garment they can model at a camp-wide fashion show.
- iD Tech Camp offers summer technology camps at over 60 college campuses in the U.S. for kids ages 7–17. Within their camp programs, you can choose any one of the following paths: video game designer, app programmer, robotics engineer, web designer, and 3-D animator.
- The New York Film Academy offers hands-on 16mm filmmaking, digital filmmaking, acting, 3D animation, screenwriting, music video, and broadcast journalism camps for high school students. Kids at their LA camp even have the opportunity to shoot in-class production exercises on the prestigious Universal Studios back lot.
- Kids Culinary Camp of Vermont is a residential summer cooking camp in rural VT that offers kids 10+ the opportunity to learn culinary arts in their Sauté Kitchen and Bakery and Pastry Arts programs. Each day during the week, campers explore different areas of study, such as knife and chopping skills, meal planning, soup and sauce making and cake decorating.
- Fundy Marine and Science Institute offers Whale Camp, where kids age 10+ can have direct face-to-face encounters to closely observe and study whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and puffins in their own natural habitat. Kids actually work as marine biologists in training on board a 65-foot sailboat helping to collect data to document whale distribution, feeding and behavior patterns.
So admittedly, not every Gen We-era has the opportunity to attend camp, but according to the American Camp Association, 20% of them do. That equates to approximately 10 million kids, age 5 to 17, every year and a $2 billion industry that employs 1.2 million people. And these camps are giving them enviable first-hand knowledge that will certainly impact their ultimate career choices. In addition to camps, many Gen We-ers also have the opportunity to experiment with careers as part of their normal school curriculums.
So what does this mean for marketers like us? We need to recognize that kids today are more sophisticated at a younger age. Just took a look at today’s doctor’s kits—there is a lot more to them than when we were kids. And I would argue many of the play sets still aren’t sophisticated enough for these kids. My nephew had a cardiologist visit his kindergarten class to talk about how the human heart works. Afterward, he was eager for more specific information around that area of interest and it just doesn’t exist for kids his age.
One of the effects of this group’s higher level of sophistication is a greater awareness of marketing and its tonality. Gen We is smart and they don’t respond well to be talking downed to or what they perceive to be false claims. They see through when a product or toy is being touted to do something it likely won’t actually deliver. Case in point: my daughter told me yesterday after seeing an ad for Hot Huez hair chalk, “Sure it looks cool, but that is not true. It probably won’t work and is going to make a huge mess.” I not only saved $14.95, but it reinforced to me that marketers like us need to do a better job of getting to know this generation and talking to them in a way that reflects that they are often more sophisticated and skeptical consumers than we expect.
This generation has also grown up in a connected world. They are naturally adept at technology and are plugged in to others at all times, giving them unprecedented access to information that other generations never had. As marketers, we can no longer talk to this group as “little kids.” These are connected, complex consumers who are aware of the infinite possibilities and are powerfully transforming the marketing landscape.