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How Marketers Can Engage Generation Alpha

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Just as marketers have finally started to connect with Millennials and Generation Z, there’s a new challenge on the horizon: engaging Generation Alpha. 

Generation Alpha succeeds Generation Z, which means members of this cohort are still in their formative pre-teen years. Differences in the way Generation Alpha has been brought up — including the role that digital technology has played in their upbringing — mean marketers will need to adapt their strategies if they want to connect and engage with the more socially-aware generation. 

According to a new report from Cassandra, the strategy and insights group that studies younger consumers within Big Village, a global media and marketing and services company, being digitally native plays a large role in how Generation Alpha sees themselves. More than half (55%) of Generation Alphas between the ages of 7 and 12 use social media, and 64% say they would rather be a YouTube star or social media influencer than the President of the United States. 

Perhaps unsurprising for a generation that’s grown up with iPhones and iPads, 77% say they learn best when they use technology. And when asked how they introduce themselves, 58% say they introduce themselves as “gamers.” 

As a whole, members of Generation Alpha value humor, kindness, and creativity, and they care a great deal about mental health. Fifty-nine percent of Gen Alpha say mental health is a “big issue” and 62% say their schools should focus more on mental health education than physical education.

“Generation Alpha is the most socially aware generation we have studied. Between living their most critical years in terms of development through a global pandemic and carrying the weight of previous generations and their decisions on their shoulders, they are coming of age in an infinitely complex world full of infinite challenges,” explains Kathy Sheehan, senior vice president at Cassandra. “Despite this, they exhibit kindness, empathy, and fluidity and the belief that they have also been handed what they see as the answer to a lot of these challenges — unmatched technological access and ability from a very young age.”

Why should this matter to brand marketers?

For starters, Cassandra found that 94% of parents want their Generation Alpha children to have a say in family purchase decisions. Brands that can successfully connect with this demographic stand poised to reap the rewards for many years to come, not only by selling to pre-teen consumers today and in the future, but also to their Millennial and Gen Z parents.

As the first cohort to be entirely born in the 21st century, Generation Alpha knows more about new media formats and how to engage audiences than most agency practitioners. Agency heads should be working now to understand what motivates this group, so they aren’t rushing to play catch up in five or 10 years.

Sheehan says brand marketers are making a mistake when they label this generation as “just kids.” The Generation Alpha cohort is already driving many of the biggest trends on social media, entertainment, and in retail.

“Our study shows that more than half of Gen Alpha parents say their child is somewhat or very influential when it comes to family purchase decisions,” Sheehan says. “They may not have their own money, but they are certainly influencing purchasing.”

Forever 21, LEGO, and Barbie are just a few examples of brands that have already started working to connect with Generation Alpha through campaigns that use Amazon Alexa’s smart voice assistant technology and metaverse-based experiences. Appealing to this generation means offering more personalized, authentic experiences that integrate into daily life, as opposed to static advertising across more traditional channels.

Generation Alpha’s concern over mental health and social awareness also creates an open door for brands to break in and build the types of supportive and respectful relationships that lead to long-term brand loyalty.

“We hope that brands see [Generation Alphas] for who they are today,” Sheehan says, “and not just an extension of the Gen Z marketplace.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.