No One Puts GenerationZ in a Corner

GenerationZ ignored by major political parties

If you’re old enough to remember the classic movie, Dirty Dancing, you’ll recognize the iconic line from the script, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner. Come’on Baby.” While Millennials have been courted as crucial voters by both major political parties, GenerationZ (teens and tweens born after 1995) has understandably been ignored – and they’ve noticed. There are more of them than there are millennials. They wield the influence inherent in $44 billion in annual spending. They’re tethered to their smart phones, are media addicted, and consume information faster than a “snap” disappears. Results of a Sports Media Challenge WeAreGenZ survey, indicated that many are surprisingly savvy about the potential impact those realities have on the political process and their future. The recent survey of 291 tweens and teens, also suggests that members of GenerationZ aren’t shy about what they might do when pushed into a corner.

Thumbs up-down-sideways

Results of the survey of teens aged 13 through 18, from North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, California, Virginia, Washington and Nevada, make it crystal clear that they consider being left out of the conversation a dumb move by older generations. It has also stirred up rumblings of activism. Respondents firmly believe that as future leaders, they should have gotten much more love in this election cycle and that the winner may pay for that omission.

When asked what made a GenZ’er interested in this election, one person surveyed said, “The future relies on us. Even Donald Trump was a kid at one point.” Another put it this way: “…whomever is elected the new leader of our country could make or break our lives…”

Survey Highlights

The three top themes resonated throughout the survey results.

  1. GenerationZ has long been plugged into the political debate because of important issues that were and weren’t discussed and which affect their lives
  2. Though not surprised by it, they felt soundly ignored in favor of their millennial counterparts
  3. The candidates and parties were severely shortsighted to ignore their positions on the issues and that omission can and will affect future GenZ votes when a second term is up for grabs.

89% of respondents agreed that the candidates and parties should cultivate their generation even before they reach voting age. They repeatedly said this was prime time to start building a relationship with their generation. Over and over again, respondents stated their disdain for being left out of the process, that was fundamentally crafting the world they had to live in.

“In the next election, we will be able to vote. If current candidates focused on the younger generation that can’t vote yet, they’re almost guaranteed our vote in the next election.”

It’s common to hear those in power focus on the Snapchat-like fleeting attention span of GenerationZ. However, at least in terms of this election, the GenZ crowd was thinking long term. “They’re setting the stage for us, we will shape the future. We’re already affected by their policies and will vote in the future.” “If current candidates focused on the younger generation that can’t vote yet, they’re almost guaranteed our vote in the next election.”

GenerationZ have strong opinions about the election process, and being left out.
What would it take to get your attention? Answers ranged from, “you’ve got it;” “you’ve already got it but for all the wrong reasons;” to ”talking more about issues that we’re interested in like the war on drugs, civil liberties, college tuition, student loans, and the environment…” And as one response put it, “Getting it isn’t the hard part, but keeping it is a whole other question.”

What is the best digital platform to engage you? While Facebook was in the cellar, the top three were Instagram 23%, YouTube 20%, Snapchat 18%. By the way, did you notice that all three are inherently visual, and are built on or include video content?
And even though GenerationZ is the first truly digital generation, respondents opted for issues over platforms as the best way to get their attention, and in-person communication as more convincing than social media.

The Payoff

Will the effort exerted to reach GenerationZ now, impact your loyalty in the future? 87% answered “Yes” or “maybe” while only 13% said “No.”
Whether driven by resources, practicality or ignorance of what makes this generation tick, things really got interesting when respondents talked in no uncertain terms about the consequences of ignoring them.

“If they want to get re-elected, they better focus on us.”


“Whoever gets elected will probably run for a second term in which we will be able to vote.” “We can decide who will stay in office.” “They’re going to have to live with the consequences of their actions.”
Their reasoning may as well be summed up like this: “We are the next generation that can greatly influence our economy.” “We are the future, and we will shape the world.”

It seems to me, that it’s time to reassess our fixation on Millennials and add GenerationZ to your long-term strategy.

Vote 2020

–Kathleen Hessert

ABOUT WEAREGENZ: SMC partnered with the Northwest School of the Arts (public magnet school grades 6-12) in Charlotte, NC to create an ongoing dialogue with a team of talented GenZ students who meet weekly to provide insights into a wide variety of teen trends. Content is distributed through social media accounts @WeAreGenZ on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. The first #WeAreGenZ project focused on the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. We launched a survey to examine what difference (if any) it makes to a variety of members of GenerationZ – (especially in a swing state like North Carolina) that they’re largely being ignored by the political process. Although most can’t yet vote, they constitute more than $44 billion in annual spending and influence the spending of many more billions. They also are the next crop of young leaders with strong opinions, commitment to and involvement in their communities, and are significantly larger than the sought-after Millennial generation.

For further information on this and ongoing GenerationZ insights, speaking and consulting, contact:
Kathleen Hessert, President of Sports Media Challenge | 1-704-906-3600 | @kathleenhessert

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