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During “Now Generation: New Attitudes Driving Success,” Karen Ramspacher, SVP Innovations and Insights, GfK MRI, lists the brands that are winning over the youngest consumers.

APEX Insight: As companies scrambled to put the finishing touches on their booths yesterday at CES, thought leaders from across the industry spoke about the trends that’ll be making the biggest waves. According to market research firm GfK, it’s Generation Z, the youngest consumers, that brands should be watching out for.

Generation Z, post-millennial or the “Now Generation” – whatever you call them they are aged 15 to 25 and represent a huge opportunity in the American marketplace. Estimates show that up to $830 million has already been spent by this generation (or by their parents, for them), and in the next two to three years, they’ll make up one-third of the US population, says Kathy Sheehan, executive vice-president of GfK, drawing on recent findings from the market research institute.

During her segment of the session called “Now Generation: New Attitudes Driving Success” (co-presented by Karen Ramspacher, SVP Innovations and Insights, GfK MRI), Sheehan explained that brands are mistaken in their assumption that the Now Generation is similar to the millennial generation but more tech-savvy. Indeed, the latter is true, but members of the demographic don’t view their digital fluency as a defining characteristic, Sheehan says. Instead, creativity, internationalism, learning and knowledge rank higher, with the hedonistic values hitherto associated with younger people on the decline. “This is a younger consumer that in many cases is exhibiting a lot of pragmatism and a lot of grown-up attitudes. A very serious consumer, very different from their millennial predecessors.”

“Air France is a terrific example of a brand really embracing the Now Generation and thinking about that and being very successful in marketing to them.” — Kathy Sheehan, GfK

Sheehan cited Air France’s Junior Lab project, launched last year, as a “terrific example of a brand really embracing the Now Generation and being very successful in marketing to them.” The program brings members of Generation Z through a two-day creative thinking process about the future of air travel and passengers’ changing needs, with the best ideas developed during the lab implemented by the carrier. “They invite teenagers to essentially co-create around really big issues in air travel. They are soliciting feedback from teenagers to understand their desires, their aspirations, what inspires them, but they are also bringing them in and collaborating with them.”

The Now Generation also exhibits increased social tolerance, Sheehan says, and the marketplace is already responding in kind. APEX member Toca Boca, a company that develops digital children’s toys, is among the brands gaining footing with the Now Generation, Sheehan says, thanks to its commitment to gender neutrality. The studio exclusively creates games that can be enjoyed by both boys and girls, by ensuring that each product adheres to a “Unisex Checklist” developed by gender experts.

Security and digital privacy are other values that rank higher for the Now Generation than for their millennial counterparts, according to GfK findings. “They are more likely to shut off location services on their smart phone, put tape over the camera on their laptop and do a privacy check on their social media,” Sheehan says. So just as Apple popularizes facial recognition and brands explore the possibilities of personal data, the youngest consumer demographic may decline to participate.

Valerie is deputy editor at APEX Media.