For a decade, reports have been placing the death of various industries at the feet of Millennials.
In reality, as the oldest Millennials approach their 40s, they are rapidly aging out of the demographic whose buying power matters most to advertisers. For the foreseeable future, that honor will now fall on Generation Z, also known as Zoomers.
Like Millennials, Zoomers in America are coming of age in a time of economic and political upheaval. They have officially lived through two economic recessions and have experienced an abrupt rightward swing from Barack Obama’s presidency to Donald Trump’s.
With so much uncertainty in their future, Zoomers will likely have to forge a path in life vastly different from that of their parents.
If Millennials’ lack of financial security and changing values helped kill multiple businesses, it’s fair to assume that Zoomers could likewise ring the death knell for countless industries.
The “Millennials Kill” industry
Throughout the 2010s, news stories on the various industries that Millennials were “killing” became so ubiquitous that the writing of such stories became its own sort of industry. The “Millennials kill [x] industry” also became a meme online.
The Guardian reported on American Millennials “killing” mayonnaise. Reuters asked whether Millennials would “kill Silicon Valley.” The Washington Post feared the death of Costco and canned tuna.
The countless industries and societal norms being offed by Millennials were, by and large, not the victims of generational animosity. Instead, Millennials simply weren’t spending as much as previous generations had, which was due to myriad reasons including smaller paychecks, deeper personal debt, higher housing costs and a lack of long-term financial security.
Much of that insecurity was the result of Millennials coming of age during and in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession. At an age when previous generations were advancing in their careers and starting families, the economic reality for Millennials had largely eroded those options.
Of course, Millennials still spend money and there are plenty of industries that the generation has not only sustained, but boosted – coffee shops, fast casual dining and travel being among them.
What will the Zoomers kill?
If the Great Recession was the main engine behind Millennials’ spending habits (or lack thereof), it stands to reason that the current recession, caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, could similarly affect Zoomers.
The oldest Zoomers graduated from college within the last three years and are entering the job market at a time of record-high unemployment. Their employment and career prospects will likely be limited in much the same way they were for Millennials.
It’s too soon to see definitive spending trends for Zoomers, but as more of that generation enters the historically important 18-34 age range for advertisers, their buying habits will certainly be under review.
Economists are already predicting the demise of multiple industries, including print media, telemarketing, retail stores, DVDs and coal. Most of these industries have been struggling for some time, with their downward trend starting years, even decades, ago. If Millennials are left off the hook for the deaths of those industries, it may be Zoomers who take the blame.
ABC, an Australian radio network, has already charged Zoomers with the death of one thing: guilty pleasures. The younger generation, the ABC column argues, doesn’t feel the pressure to listen to the “right” type of music, they just openly enjoy what makes them feel good.
Hazy generational divisions
Defining generations is always a tricky proposition. While terms like “Gen X” and “Baby Boomers” can be useful cultural indicators, oversimplifying diverse groups that span years, even decades, is inherently unsound.
Efforts to define Millennials (who are also sometimes referred to as Gen Y) often come across like astrological horoscopes, especially in the use of absolute descriptors like “family-centric,” “achievement-oriented” and “craves attention.” It is inevitable that any type of blanket statement about Millennials will be fatally flawed.
Making things even more complex is that different sources rarely agree on the age range for generations. Some publications define Millennials as those born between 1980 and 1994. In 2018, Forbes defined Millennials as those born between 1983 and 2000. An age spectrum that spans two decades defies easy categorization.
Recently, the Pew Research Center’s (PRC) generational breakdown has become widely accepted. It finds that Millennials are those who were born from 1981 to 1996. That means, in June 2020, that the oldest Millennial is 39 and the youngest is 23.
Who are the Zoomers?
From there, PRC defines “Generation Z” as those born from 1997 up through 2012. PRC settled on the term Generation Z based on Google search trends, which found it was more common than iGeneration or Post-Millennials. The generation after Gen Z has yet to be officially named.
Merriam-Webster traces the first widely published use of the term “Zoomers” for this generation to a 2016 press release from HNTB, an infrastructure solutions firm. Prior to that, the term had been used for other groups, most especially active Baby Boomers.
Generation Z has been called the “most technologically saturated generation” in history. In terms of social media, they have largely eschewed daily use of Facebook and Twitter, preferring Instagram (which is owned by Facebook), Snapchat and YouTube. TikTok, a video-based social media platform, is also growing in popularity among Zoomers with its unending stream of quick, entertaining clips.
Twitter user @local_celeb found that Zoomers also use TikTok for another specific reason: making fun of Millennials for their love of Harry Potter and resistance to “adulting.”
Time will tell how Zoomers feel about being adults in a post-recession world.
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