Decoding Gen Z

Written by RDSi

There’s a reason Gen Z are so fascinating for us and our clients – they are the generation that is sneaking up fast on the consumer marketplace. As part of our generational work here at RDSi and following on from our hugely successful Gen Z : Ask Me Anything event (October 2017), we have uncovered insight into how this diverse generation compares to their Millennial counterparts, as well as understanding relationship dynamics and some surprising similarities with their parents and grandparents – who span across Gen X (The ‘forgotten generation’) and Baby Boomers.

So what similarities do Generation Z and Millennials have, I hear you cry?

Well, on the face of it, there are two key similarities both generations share:

Firstly, they’re both digital natives. Both generations have grown up with technology at their finger tips, and process masses of information every day, hour, minute… Leading them to be more open minded, outspoken, inclusive and less likely to see binaries than their older counterparts.

And secondly, they are both success seekers: they’re eager to get ahead and crave success and can put themselves under enormous pressure to do so.

HOWEVER, while their similarities are clear, there’s no doubting the fact that the cultural context in which Generation Z have grown up in is vastly different to Millennials, and this has carved out nuances between the two generations…

How is Generation Z digitally different?

Social media has changed vastly in the last 10 years and Generation Z has been careful to learn from Millennials’ mistakes. They spend less time connecting and sharing with others, and more time exhibiting their lifestyles in a carefully enhanced way. Move over Facebook, hello Snapchat.

Generation Z are the first to admit they’re glued to their phones, and because every moment is carefully crafted & documented online, they are more likely to admire ‘self-made’ celebrities (instafamous / YouTubers) as aspirational vs. Millennials who grew up idolising world-famous celebs.

But with perfectly crafted personas, comes pressure. While they talk about the importance of being genuine, much of what they themselves produce online is highly performative and keeping up appearances can be hard.

What does success mean to Generation Z?

Success means… Stability
Unlike Millennials, Gen Z have grown up in a time of economic downturn. They are one of the first generations to believe they will struggle financially more than their predecessors. Therefore, Gen Z is more conservative when it comes to money, making them less likely to take risks, with 57% of them regularly putting money into savings1. This ‘save before you spend’ attitude is one of the many influences from time spent with the boomer generation, who are often their grandparents and key secondary carers.

Success means… Balance
Concerned about career mobility, housing, macro issues (environment / politics), Generation Z claim to feel more ‘stressed’ and hard done by versus their parents’ generation. But they have also grown up with more of an understanding of the importance of mental health, balance and wellbeing… Providing them with the tools to express their feelings of stress and anxiety, potentially more cohesively than their millennial counterparts.

Success means… Being you
They’re the most diverse & inclusive generation that ever was… With only 55% saying they are completely ‘heterosexual’2 and only 78% of young men identifying as 100% male1… They’re making great strides in embracing the power of diversity.

Success means… Having a point of view
They’ve grown up in a time of political change and extremes. They were born into a world of terrorism, witnesses to a refugee crisis and have felt the effects of global events like Brexit at a formative stage of life. Increased awareness and debates around social issues means that having a point of view is more important than ever before. Gen Zers must align themselves to a cause to show their finger is on the pulse.



Generation Z is no doubt an interesting and complex bunch. If you find yourself asking the question ‘Is our brand doing enough to prepare for this future generation of consumers?’ This is where we can help…

Get in touch with us to find out more about this fascinating generation, and how RDSi can help you and your brand be ‘Gen Z ready’.

Want to find out more about how to win with Gen Z? Check out our infographic here.


1. The Guardian & VCCP Media (2017) Debunking the myths of Generation Z | 2. MRS Customer Summit (2017)