Brands, take heed: a rising generation of digital native consumers, born between 2010 and 2025, are primed to overhaul the consumer landscape. Raised on technology, eagerly principled and the apples of their parents’ eyes, this generation’s expectations already present a powerful force for brands.

Influenced by their millennial parents and gen Z role models, this rising cohort is characterized by their strong ethics and values. According to a 2019 report from VML (fka Wunderman Thompson Commerce), 59% would like to work somewhere saving lives, while 51% want a job where they can use technology to make a difference. Echoing the rallying cry of gen Z climate activists, 67% of 6-9-year-olds say that saving the planet will be the focus of their career.

These values will steer their purchasing habits and determine brand loyalty, with 66% of all gen Alphas saying they want to buy from companies that are trying to do good in the world. “They have definite views on how things should work,” Hugh Fletcher, Head of Thought Leadership (EMEA) and UK Marketing at VML, tells VML Intelligence. “They are very big into ethics, so the story of the brand is important.”

Canvas doll lineup 6
Creatable World, Mattel's gender inclusive doll line

While some of these aspirations - like job prospects - are admittedly far off for this young age group, other guiding values such as inclusivity are more immediately relevant. Brands like Mattel are already espousing these tenets to appeal to generation Alpha; in September 2019, the Barbie manufacturer announced that it would be releasing the first gender-neutral doll to accommodate shifting gender norms.

“Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels,” said Kim Culmone, Senior Vice President of Mattel Fashion Doll Design. “Through research, we heard that kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms. This line allows all kids to express themselves freely, which is why it resonates so strongly with them.”

Thus, “despite not necessarily being active purchasers right now,” Fletcher acknowledges, gen Alphas are undoubtedly already impacting brand decisions and guiding purchase behavior. According to a July 2018 study on gen Alpha parents, 81% of American millennial parents said the habits of their children influenced their last purchase and 27% said they asked their kids’ opinions before buying a new TV, laptop, tablet or phone.

While generation Alpha’s technological prowess is undeniable - when it comes to technology, they will reportedly outsmart their parents by the age of 8 - it may surprise brands to learn that they prefer a comfortable balance of tech to analog. “They like physical and omni-channels,” Fletcher reveals. “So although they’re digitally native, they’re not digitally exclusive; they want to be able to operate across the digital and the physical worlds and they want to see consistency across those experiences.”

To prepare for their future consumers, it’s imperative that “[brands and marketers] know what’s happening with this very young generation,” Fletcher emphasizes. “Generation Alpha will be the most formally educated generation ever, the most technology-supplied generation ever, and globally the wealthiest generation ever,” said Mark McCrindle, an Australian social researcher who coined the appellation generation Alpha. “Whatever [brands] start doing now needs to be built around what gen Alpha customers expect,” Fletcher advises.

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