Overcoming Cultural Blind Spots: Insights on Consumer Attitudes of Gen Z and Gen Alpha

In a recent webinar titled “Engaging the Next Frontier: Young Gen Z and Older Gen Alpha,” Collage Group presented insights on consumer attitudes of American kids between the ages of 6 and 17 and their parents. By analyzing these children’s consumer patterns through a gender and race/ethnicity lens, Collage Group aims to overcome some of the “cultural blind spots” most commonly identified by the world’s leading brands. Below are some of the key takeaways from their presentation.

Gen Z and Gen Alpha are Digital Natives

Gen Z and Gen Alpha are digital natives. Internet connectivity and mobile technology have profoundly influenced how these generations interact with media and the world around them.

Although specific device usage varies, technology access is virtually universal for kids today with 99% of children ages 6 to 12 having daily access to a device. By contrast, Baby Boomers and Gen X are considered analog natives, while Millennials are considered transitional.

Fitting in is Less Important

“Fitting in” is less important to kids as they get older. This trend applies to both the outward and inward perception of self. While kids are quick to identify appearances as a differentiator, the majority also consider that their thinking is what makes them truly unique.

Although fitting in is less important to kids as they get older, they still tend to gravitate towards other kids with shared interests and ideas for social engagements.

Social Engagements are Distinct

Pre-teens are more likely than other age groups to perceive online hangouts as an adequate substitute for IRL interactions and social engagements.

According to Collage Group, 80% of kids ages 6- 9 say that they have more fun when they see friends in person, but for pre-teens ages 10-12 this percentage drops to 66%. For teens ages 13-17 the percentage goes back up to 78%.

There are also distinct preferences when it comes to the ideal number of friends involved in a play date: 48% of all racial demographic groups prefer playing with only one or two friends, 34% prefer playing with three or more friends, and 10% prefer playing by themselves.

Gaming is the Most Popular Social Engagement

Video games are by far the most popular activity among kids ages 6 to 17, and kids regard gaming as a social experience.

8 out of 10 children game at least a few times a week. When looking at the racial demographic breakdown, black kids are the most likely to game every day, while Asian kids are the least likely to game daily.

Collage Group noted that there is a possibility that this question, which was asked of parents during their study, may be affected by parents’ aspirational goals for their children’s gaming hours, rather than the actual amount of gaming hours they spend each day.

Most kids also turn gaming into a social experience. They look forward to playing video games with friends and even include their parents, who may have gaming experience themselves. Kids and pre-teens enjoy building connections with others and curating their own persona and presence on the “virtual playground.”

World-building games such as Lego, Roblox and Minecraft are popular among the majority (59%) of these generations.

Gender Roles and Expectations are Shifting

Gender roles and expectations influence kids’ personal preferences for toys and games; however, girls are more likely to reject gendered labels in toys.

Although science toys, vehicle toys, action figures and building blocks tend to be more popular among boys and dolls and crafts tend to be more popular among girls, the boundaries of gendered play are subtly but certainly starting to shift.

Girls are the main drivers of this shift and are increasingly challenging and rejecting the boundaries of gendered labels in toys by choosing to play with building blocks, action figures and other toys formerly coded as “just for boys.”

Looking more closely at specific demographics, boys and Black children are more likely to maintain gender stereotypes in toys and games. Black kids under 13 are the most likely group to believe that specific types of toys are created for kids of a particular gender.

Implications for Market Research

Unquestionably, these takeaways have far-reaching implications when it comes to market research and our approach to engaging Gen Z and, increasingly, Gen Alpha recruits.

Did you find any of these insights to be particularly unexpected or, alternatively, particularly predictable?

How can we as an industry keep these so-called “blind spots” in our line of sight?

How might we use these insights to improve outreach efforts in market research recruitment?

What other cultural–or generational–truths might we need to take into account in the future?

Alexandra Norman | Project Manager