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Marketing to Gen Alpha: how the 'little adults' engage with brands

Whilst we're all a bit bored of the generational naming convention cycling from Z back to A, the new Gen Alpha and how you market to them is well worth talking about. These little grown-ups, born from 21010 onwards, are going to be the most influential in decades; responsible for the fastest innovations ever in technology, medicine and societal behaviour we've seen since the caveman made fire and the Wright Brothers mastered flight. They're also the first generation to fully grow up in the new millennium.

And the influencing factors on their behaviours and consumer characteristics are based on extreme events. From COVID to the climate crisis, to gender and diversity, as well as AI and ever changing political and economic imbalances, they are weathering all the storms in their young lives, and shaping opinions based on their immersion in world needs and events from a far earlier stage of life than we ever did, largely due to social media and our constant connectivity online.

As a result, Generation Alpha have strong opinions, the confidence to share them, and the platforms to share them from. So how does that impact how they engage with brands and what they expect in return for their spend and onward loyalty?

Marketing to Gen Alpha

Whilst there are some instantaneous purchase factors like whether people that influence you are buying into something, whether it's trending on social and whether it adds to your lifestyle vibe, increasingly consumers want to know the story behind the brand and the reason behind the styling or messaging. Gen Alpha are starting to turn their backs on fast fashion because of the environmental and ethical impact, so they want to know about the creators behind a brand and the values they prioiritse. If their story resonates and their values align, purchase and loyalty is far more likely.

2. Purpose needs to be authentic

We know that price will always be an influencing factor but as Gen Alpha move into the world of work and have their own income to manage when they can (hopefully) afford to leave home and start being self sufficient, they will look at the purpose behind a brand. Social enterprise Invisible Cities (disclosure: client) is a great example - they offer walking tours of 6 UK cities, and train people who have experienced homelessness to be tour guides. Yes, the customer wants an amazing tour and experience, at a price they can afford to pay and seems fair, but they also want to know they're seeing the real city - and if that comes with the bragging rights of unique, raw and authentic content for their TikTok, then all the better.  On top of this, knowing the purpose of the organisation - to support communities at their grass roots and help people into employment who may face more barriers than others, means we will be even more invested in our purchase with a brand like this.

Other brands demonstrating clear purpose include Who Gives a Crap with their ethical loo roll, Lucy and Yak with their dungarees that promote kindness to the planet and the people that make their garments.  They also do some great stuff around body positivity.

3. Influencers are still influential

Whilst Gen Z and millennials have somewhat of a love hate relationship with influencers, Gen A are here for it.

But not in the same way that we were swayed by dodgy diet pills, detox juices or manifesting our millions - in a far more genuine way. Today's influencers are springing up from nowhere, not just Love Island and TOWIE (if that's still a thing). The influencers creating a real ripple effect now are broadcasting from their bedrooms and are on a mission to make the world a better place.  They're pushing causes before consumerism (although a huuuugggeee amount of that still exists - hello Temu hauls), and Gen A are onboard.

So if you want to engage through influence, it's got to be about the cause not the sale.

4. Nostalgia is a vibe

The parents of Gen A are incredible loyal to brands of yesterday, and to these little adults, the 80s and 90s may have been a different world entirely. Hence the popularity of Netflix hit series Stranger Things with a way too young age-inappropriate audience.  And the same goes for the boom in digital camera sales with this audience wanting that unpredictability of slight camera flare or blur to their photos.  We'll be welcoming Presto Print back to our high streets in no time. Take people back in time; it's well documented that this generation are heavily influenced by the decisions of their parents, want to skip the awkward young adult bit that we did, and go straight into full adult mode.

5. Attention spans are increasing

I say this with caution, as like the generation before them, Gen A are the greatest lovers of instant gratification when it comes to how they consume content and social media.  But on the flip side, they're using TikTok as a search engine and learning platform all in one. Whether that's planning a trip and consuming loads of in-destination content, or learning how to rewire a plug, hang a picture straight or make the best ever cheese sandwich with the ultimate cheese-pull.

6. Immersive experience is a basic expectation

Us marketers in our 30s, 40s and 50s are already exhausted by the immersive evolution but in the same way we resisted being on social media, and resisted 'immersing' people, it is fast becoming part of the standard marketing mix.

Whether that's virtual tours, bringing characters to life through AI or making content available through AR or VR, Gen A want a taste of what to expect beyond static images and even video content ahead of a purchase decision.  Think 'see this sofa in your space' and 'which hair colour suits you best' which we're already used to, but applied to everything and far more sophisticated in its presentation.

7. Online gaming adds expectations to the purchase journey

Gen A are the biggest generation of gamers so far, and to a large extent, they expect gamification in many other aspects of their online experiences.  When it comes to how they purchase, exclusive rewards carry kudos, as well as being given a platform and visibility in the brand space - that could be through featured fans, guest reviews from customers or league tables of super-users.  Being seen as being within the elite of a brand's followers is all-powerful.

8. Bricks and mortar stores are important

When Gen A were starting to get their pocket money and first experiences of spending on the things they wanted, the world shut down.  COVID hit and everything closed.  Even if they wanted to go to the shops, they couldn't.  Some when we resurfaced from the pandemic, many of these kids were desperate for the baby reigns to be released so they could find their feet in the real world and explore.  As such, the retail experience is important to Gen A - but it has to be an experience.  Not just rows of stuff.  Music, lighting, smell, touch - immersion is important.  That applies to experiences like eating out, cinema, crazy golf and the like, as well as retail experiences.  Trying stuff on, product demonstrations, guest DJs, you name it.  Make the shopping experience or leisure time experience as sharable as you possibly can.

So the tweenager is no more, and cultures are coining new phrases for 'the age of getting closer'.  Generation A will have the combined spending power of Gen Z and Millenials together. They bring together a warm and fuzzy mix of traditional values and uber-awareness of world challenges.

They're saying 'get ready me with' and 'shop with me at this thrift shop' as they share their content. And the rise of the 'shelfie', with people sharing what's on their bathroom shelf, bedside cabinet or in the condiments cupboard shows just how granular they want to go. So, are you ready for them to spend with you?

Want to take more about how your customer journey works as part of your brand proposition? Get in touch now.

Generation Alpha Gen A child on their phone

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