Tuesday 17 September 2019

Generation Z gives way to the tech-savvy Alpha consumers

Marketing and Media

Technically, those falling within the Generation Alpha cohort were born in 2010 (or after), the same year Apple launched its iPad (pictured), an earthquake devastated Haiti and Mark Zuckerberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year (stock photo)
Technically, those falling within the Generation Alpha cohort were born in 2010 (or after), the same year Apple launched its iPad (pictured), an earthquake devastated Haiti and Mark Zuckerberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year (stock photo)

John McGee

Earlier this week, Ryan Tubridy announced on his radio show that one of the jewels in RTÉ's crown - The Late Late Toy Show - will be broadcast on November 29, slightly earlier than previous years.

While the announcement is all part of a familiar PR and marketing splurge in the build-up to the ratings-busting TV show, there's no doubting the fact that it has acquired institutional status in households around the country down the years. For most kids in the know, however, they will probably have seen many of this year's most coveted toys on Ryan ToysReview.

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Sharon Walsh, Heineken
Sharon Walsh, Heineken

No, this is not Ireland's highest-paid broadcaster moonlighting with his own parallel media empire, but rather the YouTube channel hosted by an eight-year-old American social media sensation called Ryan.

With nearly 22 million subscribers around the world, the eight-year-old is clearly one of several go-to Ryans when toy manufacturers want to showcase their wares to kids.

Due to privacy protection laws covering minors, Ryan does not disclose his second name, nor his location.

But who cares, because last year Forbes magazine estimated he pulled in a cool $11m (€9.95m) from endorsements, sponsorships and TV deals with the likes of Nickelodeon. In many of the videos on his YouTube channel, Ryan can be seen unpacking the latest toys, trying them out in different environments - often with the help of his social media savvy family members - and generally, well, playing like kids normally do.

While Ryan is the poster kid of a growing band of young social media influencers who were born in the last 10 years, he is clearly big business and his pulling power has made major global brands sit up and take note. But Ryan is also part of a new demographic cohort called, wait for it, the Alpha Generation.

In the wacky world of marketing comms, we love to pigeon-hole huge swathes of the Earth's population with neat, stereotypical and catch-all titles that conveniently define and, possibly, judge them.

From the post-World War Two baby-boomers, right through to my generation X, the millennials of Generation Y and, finally, Generation Z, we have covered the entire first world with four easy-to-remember tribes.

Now that we have exhausted the English alphabet, we have moved on to the first letter of the Greek alphabet to define the generation that was born in 2010 and after.

Dubbed the Alpha Generation by the Australian social and demographic commentator Mark McCrindle, these kids are the progeny of their millennial parents, are tech-savvy and, with the help of pester-power, tend to have a major influence when it comes to the purchasing decisions of their family unit.

Around 2.5 million of them are born every week around the world and, by 2025, the global population of Alphas will be in excess of two billion.

Technically, those falling within the Generation Alpha cohort were born in 2010 (or after), the same year Apple launched its iPad, an earthquake devastated Haiti and Mark Zuckerberg was named Time magazine's Person of the Year.

In 2019, the first group of Alphas are already halfway through primary education and they are expected to be the most highly educated and technologically connected cohort to date.

They are already seeking out entertainment on phones, tablets and voice-activated smart speakers. When they grow up, they will work in jobs that have not even been invented yet.

It's easy to scoff at the pulling power of this emerging generation. But it's even easier to be concerned about the marketing industry's eagerness - never mind ability - when it comes to targeting this young and impressionable demographic, especially on the digital channels and platforms on which they spend much of their time.

As young Ryan has already demonstrated, his pulling power owes just as much to a clever, keyword-stuffed digital marketing strategy - which he is clearly too young to understand - as it does to his cute child-like demeanour.

But this has not deterred brands from chasing - some might say exploiting - Alphas in their quest to hook and convert them at a young age.

If Aristotle had studied marketing, he might have said, 'show me the boy or girl at seven and I will show you the future consumer'. But he knew better.

While targeting young kids is nothing new in the marketing world - yes, I am looking at you Kellogg's - it is difficult to shake off a sense of despair about the direction in which all of this is heading and where it may actually stop. What's next? The Early Wombers, anybody?

Advertising pays its way

New research carried out by Core for IAPI has found that 49pc of consumers say advertising is an important factor when choosing between similar products. In addition, 41pc are encouraged to choose brands with a memorable campaign. The findings were published at a conference organised by IAPI and the Institute of Directors. Speakers included David Haigh, Brand Finance; Damian Devaney, Smurfit Kappa; Sharon Walsh, Heineken; and Alan Cox, Core.

Beattie gets Serious

Serious, the Belfast-based PR firm, is merging with Beattie, one of the UK's largest integrated communications agencies. A new company, Beattie Ireland, will employ 20 staff and has plans to open an office in Dublin. The new Irish business will be headed up by David McCavery, the founder of Serious. Clients will include Tesco, Brightwater Recruitment, AG, the National Association of Shopfitters and Cumberland Group.

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