Everybody’s talking about a new generation – of youth. “Generation Z”, or “Gen Z”, is a catch-all term for those born since the mid 1990s (exact dates vary depending on the source).

Gen Z has grown up in a fast-paced world, with a lack of political and economic stability – meaning as a group they are as fragmented as ever. Yet marketers often try to stereotype and over-generalise them – just like their predecessors, the Millennials.

Keen not to let history repeat itself, the7stars recently joined forces with social enterprise VisionPath. We conducted research with a core group of 15-19 year olds, involving a 1,000-strong quantitative sample, as well as face-to-face interviews and in-school workshops in Norwich, Cheshunt and Liverpool.

From this we identified key themes when considering this highly engaged and connected audience:

Connection Obsession v Expression: When it comes to communicating, they are not a one-platform-fits-all kind of group. They flex between many different social platforms in order to engage with their multifaceted social circle. WhatsApp is used to facilitate group chats and organise family circles, while Instagram and Snapchat are almost exclusively reserved for their closest peers.

This flexing is not only relevant when communicating with friends and family – they also like to interchange between channels to serve specific needs – e.g. relying on YouTube for homework help and using Twitter to keep up-to-date with the news and current affairs.

Experience v Education: When it comes to their future many feel confused, and lack relatable role models to prepare them for what comes next.

The idea of a “9-5 job” is divisive one. As we found, negativity towards the idea of an office job is evident among this generation, who view the office environment as stifling and confined. Creativity is the currency this generation seek in their future jobs.

However, 1 in 3 also stated that money would be the most influential factor on their future career choice, while their purchase power is not to be overlooked – 44% of them were already engaged with some form of part time or paid work.

Empowerment v Disillusionment: There is a consensus among this generation that they are more accepting and more inclusive than those who have gone before.

When it comes to social activism, Gen Z are often quoted as the flagbearers for change, however, we found there were two opposing mindsets. Those who felt passionate and empowered to make change, and conversely those who felt unprepared and unable to get involved.

In fact, 56% feel that current affairs only act to make them feel worried about the future.  And only 1 in 2 say they feel confident about the future, which means that almost as many simply aren’t sure.

So, what can brands do? Here are our three takeaways:

Take it Offline – Promoting diversity of experiences, knowledge and entertainment in both the offline and online world will have most impact.

Inform and Upskill – Brands that can help them understand and navigate the future choices available to them will fare well.

Celebrate Progression – Continue to celebrate equality progression with them, but don’t view them as a panacea.