Generation Alpha: Who Are They and How Do We Engage Them?
In 1960, half of the U.S. population was under the age of 30, so it's no surprise that some of the most memorable campaigns from that era were targeting their messaging at younger generations.
For example, in the 60s, Pepsi ran a campaign targeting the younger generation – tagging them the “Pepsi generation.” The campaign was clean. Simple. It featured young people with Pepsi to help embrace a lifestyle of fun and enjoyment. The brand knew its target audience, used the relevant channels to share its message, and executed effective product advertising.
Fast forward to today, where audience segmentation looks like a NASA organizational chart. As of now, there are seven generational categories starting with the Greatest Generation (born 1901 to 1924), the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, and all the way up to Gen Alpha (born 2010-ish and later).
Just when we feel we have a good handle on how to connect with the whole range, from Baby Boomers to Gen Zers, this new generation is nipping at our heels, begging the question: Who is Generation Alpha and how do we reach them?
What Are They Watching and What Are They Using?
Gen Alpha has had smartphones, streaming services, and social media sites like YouTube since day one. Look around any restaurant and you’ll likely see a child glued to a smartphone or swiping furiously at an iPad.
As they get older, what will Gen Alpha be into?
- Social Media — This is a huge part of the content they digest online. Memes are so 2000-late. Gen Alpha is watching reels, and as controversial as TikTok may be, this channel has captivated their attention. In fact, 25 percent of TikTok users are age 10 to 19, capturing a segment of Gen Alpha. But as they grow, will they continue to use TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube? Or will something else come along to snag their attention?
- AI Technology — Artificial intelligence is becoming more prevalent in this generation. Virtual reality gaming headsets and voice command technology are constants, as this generation routinely asks Alexa, Google, or Siri to perform basic commands. New data shows that fourth graders are behind on their reading skills. Will this cause Gen Alpha to enlist the help of AI software to write essays in school? ChatGPT may be getting all the attention, but there are loads of AI writing software programs out there, and likely many more products to come that will influence learning and productivity.
- Streaming — I tried to explain what cable television was to an 11-year-old the other day and was met with a slow blink and an overall look of confusion. Gen Alpha has come of age watching their shows, movies, and influencers on demand. And boy, do they love a good binge sesh.
What Do They Care About?
New data is gradually emerging on Gen Alpha, and they are all about:
- Family and friendship.
- Climate change and the environment.
- Diversity (less than 50 percent of Gen Alpha are non-Hispanic white).
- Inclusivity and representation.
- Video games.
- Social networks.
This generation cares even more about authenticity than Gen Zers. But the augmented reality and virtual reality worlds they’re immersed in, combined with their seclusion and isolation during the pandemic, has had a negative impact on their socialization skills and grade-level learning. As the world returns to pre-pandemic normalcy, Gen Alpha is putting down their devices and playing sports, getting involved in extracurriculars, and spending more time with friends and loved ones.
When marketing to Gen Alpha, you need to understand what they care about and don’t care about. Messages need to be focused, relevant, and topical, understanding too that the Gen Alphas who are hitting their pre-teen years now will have different tastes in one year, three years, and five years. As this generation returns to group sports and other face-to-face activities, will their screen time decrease as a result? Will it be harder to reach them on their devices?
How Can You Connect and Engage?
Gathering information is vital. Marketers just love statistics, but much can be gleaned from anecdotal and behavioral observation as well. If you walk into a typical household with children aged 13 and younger and the family is gathered around watching television, Gen Alpha will be multi-tasking — using their devices while simultaneously watching a TV show or movie.
How can you get their already divided attention?
- Know what channels they use and be aware of new channels as they emerge, as well as which ones fall out of favor.
- Form authentic connections through those channels.
- Research continually to understand what is topical (i.e. will a Gen Alpha pre-teen who cares about the environment still care when they turn 15? What may change?).
- CTV and OTT advertisers will need to think of a way to hook this audience to get them to look up from their smartphones and stay tuned for the pre-roll/mid-stream ad.
- Ideate ways to reach them outside of their devices. What does that look like in today’s digital world?
No matter the generation, understand the channels they’re using since those channels are the highways for the message. In this overly digitalized world, choose selectively which highways to hop onto – perhaps take advantage of a route less traveled.
Above all, make sure the content you share is true to the brand you are presenting so it connects with the audience you’re trying to reach.
Even when you are trying to reach a 10-year-old.
Julie JalowiecDirector of Content and EngagementA copywriter at heart, Julie loves to write...but that’s kind of a given. More specifically, she loves writing stories–for clients and for the literary agent who will one day sign her. When she’s not spending time behind her laptop, Julie loves hanging out with her husband and three boys and walking her two rowdy Huskies, Loki and Scarlet.