An insights guide to the youngest generation.
Understanding the digital natives who are shaping our future, Gen Alpha.
by Kevin Swann, Associate Director, and Steff Robbins, Associate Director, C Space
In June, we ran a
Better Why Peer Connection with insights leaders across industries to better understand how to build strong relationships and engage with the youngest generation, Gen Alpha. Here are key insights coming out of that session, and what they mean for brands and insights professionals…
WELCOME TO GEN ALPHA’S WORLD
1. Their parents went to college therapy.
(…and probably also college.)
Mental illness stigmas and demands for “grit” are out.
Compassion, mindfulness, and vulnerability are in.
Valuing EQ over IQ, Millennial parents raised their Gen Alpha kids
with a rich emotional vocabulary and a well-equipped emotional toolbox, making them better able than previous generations at naming and managing their feelings.
Nobody puts baby’s mental health in a corner!
Mindfulness or self-care experiences – such as fidget spinners – have a much wider audience than kids with mental health concerns.
We’ve seen that Alphas thrive in live co-creation exercises, where their high emotional intelligence makes them keen at surfacing and building on common needs.
2. Cynicism. Fear. Dependence. Empathy. Action. Citizenship.
Their world is falling apart, but Alphas aren’t giving in.
Unwilling to let the world’s intractable problems break their spirit or turn them cynical, Alphas are facing them with inclusiveness and empathy.
Inspired by Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, and the Parkland Survivors, they’re taking up the role of citizen-activists early – even if doing it feels scary.
Alphas aren’t looking for brands to lead them to a better world – that’s what they’re doing. They want genuine commitments to the movement.
Play with passion.
Alphas are motivated to do the right thing: connecting your aims to the problems Alphas care about is a strong way to build investment.
3. Digital natives. Digital co-creators.
Gen Z and Gen Alpha are natives to radically different digital worlds.
Born into the social media age, Alphas have fostered rich, obsessive micro-communities and fandoms on apps like TikTok and Discord.
Fandom isn’t the only thing they’re co-creating. These communities are also spaces for sharing hacks, mods, and anything else that lets Alphas remake their favorite digital experiences.
Find your fandom and let them hack your brand!
Brands can find a devoted audience in Gen Alpha but only if they know who they’re for. At the same time, find ways for Alphas to build themselves into your brand through hacks and mods.
Get them online (and skip the survey).
The “digital community” is already a language Alphas speak, but they’re not looking to do endless surveys.
Instead, give them open-ended ways to explore and share ideas.
WHAT GEN ALPHA IS UP TO
1. Conforming to others. Performing themselves.
“You do you!”
Alphas want friends as much as any other generation. But making friends these days is less about jumping on the right bandwagon and more about having the bravery to be themselves.
While Jordans will always be cool, Alphas are less and less likely to see having the “right” brands as their ticket to popularity. Instead, brands are tools for their own creative self-expression.
Blands need not apply!
Take a page from kids and be bold about your identity. Alphas can’t express themselves through you if they can’t tell what you’re about.
Identify your identity.
Letting them personify your brand versus others will give you a clear look at what work your brand is (or isn’t) doing.
2. DEI. DUH.
Their world is plural. So are the people in it.
Seeing diversity doesn’t shock Alphas – it reflects how the world is and how Alphas think it should be. This matters to kids across the board: race, gender/expression, sexuality, and disability.
Reflect their world.
You won’t get a sticker for tokenizing displays of diversity, but you will lose one if you only embrace diversity on a superficial level.
Alphas know the difference.
Do inclusive research.
RESEARCH PRACTICES NEED TO CHANGE
The majority of the U.S. population will identify as multicultural by 2045.
The makeup of our population is changing rapidly year over year. In fact, Gen Z is officially the first generation where those identifying as “white” are in the minority.
How do you ensure you’re staying relevant? C Space can help with our highly actionable, industry-specific Inclusive Insights Advisory.
3. Screen time is a privilege necessity.
Screens aren’t just for gobbling up content and playing video games; they are how Alphas live.
Where screen fears were once top of mind for parents, Alpha’s lives are increasingly built around screens. They’re where they play, where they study, where they socialize, where they explore, where they shop, and how they navigate their lives.
You’re no longer fighting to convince parents to give you some screen time crumbs.
You’re fighting for kids’ attention against a deluge of digital noise.
Worried if 6 Alphas can handle a video focus group? Don’t be. Alphas have better digital etiquette than most adults.
4. Screen-free time is a necessity luxury.
With their lives built around screens, unplugging is a luxury. Younger Gen Z’s are seeing what’s lost when their lives are increasingly digital. Some have even ditched social media and smartphones for facetime and dumbphones.
While most Alphas won’t be burning their devices any time soon, there’s a growing awareness that getting perspective (and peace) means less touching screens and more touching grass.
Don’t be thirsty.
Alphas are as sick of email and push notifications as adults are. Don’t take the bait! Digital experiences are not always the way to connect with Alphas.
Make research eventful.
In-person immersions, co-creations, and workshops can be generative, especially for kids who are looking for something more than screens.