November 14th 2023

Herberts World #11

GenZ as a problem? No, GenZ as an opportunity!

As always, Herberts World Welt No. 11 has been published on the portal and aggressively promotes a new, fresh and above all positive view of the young Generation Z.

Or are you also making the same equation? New & young equals difficult & perhaps even dangerous?

Herbert's opinion: GenZ is better than its reputation, even if it is exhausting and will call structures into question!

Enjoy reading!

A look back at August this year. The sun is blazing down from the sky, it's hot. Outside, the world is once again asking itself: is this climate change or is it still weather? At the same time, a completely different case pops up in my inbox: The sender is succeet23. It's about this year's trade fair in Wiesbaden and whether we want to pitch for the succeet award, which is being offered for the first time.

The topic of the award: Generation Z and how the market research industry should deal with this age cohort in the future. The briefing for the pitch is as follows: impatient, demanding young people up to the age of 27 are difficult to reach for studies and are comparatively unmotivated and distracted as test subjects. How can these two problems be solved?

GenZ as persona incognita?

Aha. GenZ again at last. It feels like there's not a day without excited articles, critical opinions and, of course, fresh studies on this group every day. If I didn't have a copy of GenZ at home, you'd think it wasn't about young people but about mysterious aliens.

In the meantime, succeet23 is history and we have actually applied for the award. Our concept even made it onto the shortlist, but in the end we had to give way to our colleagues from Statista Q. Congratulations again at this point!

In a nutshell, here is our approach to the pitch: Our concept was divided into five phases, with which we wanted to find out how to not only get people between the ages of 13 and 27 excited about market research, but also how to motivate them more strongly so that reliable results can be obtained from a survey of this generation.

Phase 1: Summary of the results of previously published studies on GenZ using secondary statistical analysis. Particular attention is paid here to psychographics and media use as well as the identification and quantification of subcultures or sub-segments of this target group - in other words, a kind of map of GenZ.

Phase 2: Recruitment of GenZ people for the implementation of creative workshops. Use of the protagonists not only as test subjects, but also as those conducting the study. Use of a variety of creative techniques and gamification elements in order to identify as concretely as possible (and first-hand!) the most important pain points during recruitment and operational fieldwork.

Phase 3: Test of the initial workshop results, i.e. recruitment of real test subjects via various social media channels using a wide range of measures (e.g. reels, micro-influencers) as well as different language styles, incentives or "call to action" elements. Initial findings on effort and wastage as well as the effectiveness of the other workshop hypotheses.

Phase 4: GenZ interviewers survey GenZ participants in a peer-to-peer constellation. The focus is on the respondents' assessment of their recent recruitment and whether the hypotheses on attitude and motivation in market research projects established in phase 2 can be validated.

Phase 5: Reporting with AI-supported text analysis of all interviews conducted and thus the translation of the most important findings into very practical recommendations for action for future market research projects relating to GenZ.

Negative framing of GenZ?

With a little distance, I take another look at the award briefing. It talks about "impatient, demanding young people" who are obviously "difficult to recruit" and "unmotivated and unfocused". Isn't that already negative framing? And yet is it fairly typical of the way the discussion about GenZ has been conducted in our media over the last 2-3 years?

Just three examples since the beginning of the year: "Salary? Working from home? Sabbatical? That's the most important thing for the Gen Z elite", was the headline in WELT in January. Or the tagesschau in its online portal: "Generation Z - demanding and willing to change". ZEIT ONLINE also stated last April that GenZ is "demanding and less loyal to employers"

And how often do we hear that today's young people demand a work-life balance instead of working, tend to be lazy, ask about their next sabbatical as early as the job interview and will sooner or later jeopardize the prosperity WE have worked so hard to achieve anyway?

Let's be honest: is this the kind of meeting at eye level that every new generation rightly deserves? This tendentious undertone bothers me. Why don't we market researchers shout "stop" when it comes to looking at an entire age cohort in as differentiated a way as possible? After all, we know best about the heterogeneity of people within all age groups - whether baby boomers, GenX, Y or Z. And soon Generation Alpha too

Only differentiation helps against generalization.

We no longer work with target groups, but with the much more specific "personas" as an individual customer model. This is precisely because the differences, even within seemingly homogeneous groups, are far too great to be lumped together.

By eye level, I also mean approaching a new group not only with interest and curiosity, but also in a positive way. Without clichéd prejudices, as already Socrates is said to have said over 2500 years ago: His words: "The youth of today loves luxury. They have bad manners, despise authority, have no respect [...]". Does that sound familiar to you? Same here!

According to the latest figures from Statista, this "youth" in Germany comprises 12.1 million citizens (5.8 million girls and women and 6.3 million boys and men, as of October 12, 2023). That's an impressive 14.3 percent of the population, which, however, represents the entire spectrum in terms of origin, education, wealth, consumption, socialization, psyche and attitudes.

The new ones are coming! Let's look forward to it!

One thing is clear: every new generation is at least to some extent a black box that we have always had the task of deciphering. We must continue to research what makes GenZ tick and how we can best deal with it as a new player in the research landscape. Above all, we should talk less ABOUT them and more WITH them to find out what they are looking for, what they want and what really excites them.

The choice of topic for the succeet award was undoubtedly the right one. But I would like to see a different attitude in the future: With even more respect and openness to the fact that these young people will soon be playing the leading role in society and the economy

What counts is our ability to adapt and, above all, the will to do so!

So it's high time that we as market researchers asked ourselves critically: How do our structures, processes and our overall actions fit in with this age group? Where and how do we need to develop further in order to provide our clients with high-quality insights, reliable advice and solid guidance, even with GenZ as a protagonist?

One thing is clear in any case: whenever new players enter the playing field, be it of a technical or social nature, old structures are called into question - sometimes more, sometimes less. This is called progress and should be shaped as proactively as possible. After all, it is always better to be in front of the wave than to see nothing behind it and gasp for air in vain. With this in mind: Always fair winds and following seas

Herbert Höckel

Herbert Höckel is a managing partner here at moweb research GmbH. He has been a market researcher for more than 25 years. In 2004 he founded moweb GmbH, which he is still the owner today. moweb from Düsseldorf operates internationally and is one of the first German market research institutes specializing in digital processes.

You are welcome to purchase his book "Customer Centricity Mindset ® - Really Understand Customers, Master Disruption Successfully" here.

Your success, our goal!