Every couple of decades, a new consumer generation takes center stage--standing in the spotlight while an audience of marketers and brand strategists analyze and dissect their every action and reaction. When I began as a marketer nearly two decades ago, my generation--Millennials--basked in that spotlight.
Millennials were admonished for disrupting long-held marketing norms and turning once successful engagement strategies on their heads. Brands unwilling or unable to cater to this new generation of consumers fell flat while others thrived under pressure to evolve. The clear winners became those who embraced change by presenting new and innovative products and services, ultimately catapulting brands to success.
Fueled only by the adoption (or rejection) of a singular generation, brands today are facing a similar crossroads. A new generation is gearing up to take the baton as one of the largest and most influential consumer groups in the world--Generation Z. Currently accounting for 40 percent of all global consumer spending (that's a buying power of roughly $143 billion), Gen Z has been the focus audience for brands planning for their future.
With so many businesses suffering at the hands of missed Millennial expectations (RIP Blockbuster, MySpace, and so many more), it's understandable that most marketers and brand strategists are eager to get ahead of the curve in engaging Gen Z sooner than later.
But here's something to think about--what if all this newfound attention on Gen-Z is misplaced? What if solely catering to Gen Z alienates a far larger, and more powerful, yet often overlooked consumer group?
If you haven't already, I think it's time you hear about Gen V.
Who Is Gen V? And Why Do They Matter?
Gen V, otherwise known as the Visual Generation, is a consumer category that brings together a unique cross-section of young Gen Xers, Millennials, and older members of Gen Z (people born between 1978 and 2008) and all of whom are united by one driving force: visual communication.
Visual communication is the act of graphically representing information to efficiently and effectively create meaning. It relies on bespoke visual elements to carry meaning forward while using as little text as possible to further understanding.
While visual communication may not have been top of mind for older generations, Gen V cannot get through a single day (dare I say a single waking hour?), without it.
Consider the following:
- Gen V spends an average of 2.7 hours a day navigating between the apps on their smartphone.
- 91 percent of this audience demands visual content as their primary, secondary, and tertiary forms of information delivery from brands vying for their attention.
- 86 percent of this audience prefers to learn through visual content rather than text-based content.
- This audience will only read, on average, 20 percent of the text brands present to them.
- This generation sends at least 10 billion emojis every day.
- In just a four-year span, this generation grew Giphy ten-fold, subsidizing the dissemination of 10 billion GIFs daily.
- This generation spends an average of 4-7 hours every day watching videos online.
- Gen V accounts for 89 percent of all TikTok users.
If these statistics tell you anything, it's that the Visual Generation doesn't just surround themselves with visual media, they use it to power their relationships and inform self-expression. So while many marketers begin to shift their focus to Gen Z, they might be missing the bigger opportunity: leveraging high-quality visual content to connect with a far broader audience.
Don't Ignore Gen V In Pursuit of Gen Z
As a disclaimer, this isn't to say that businesses should ignore Gen Z altogether; instead, it's important to recognize that Gen Z belongs to a much larger tribe motivated by a desire to speak and connect visually more than anything else. By leveraging the shared interests of Gen V, brands can accomplish their goal of engaging Gen Z while experiencing additional growth from relevant sub-sections of Gen X and Millennials--and reap the benefits of both.
The Visual Generation is unique in that they are simultaneously content consumers and content creators. By simply employing the many tools at their fingertips (smartphones with amazing cameras, apps to edit and alter media, and myriad online venues to display their content and build followings), Gen-V produces over 70 percent of the user-generated content online today.
This overwhelming participation in content creation is yet another factor that sets this generation apart from any other. Unlike older generations, Gen V understands the effort required to create great content. As a result, they have grown very discerning. Brands vying for their attention must produce content that is better than what this generation can create on their own. In fact, most of this generation views branded content as inauthentic and bases 94 percent of their first impression of a brand on the design of that content.
This means that businesses must focus on quality over quantity when producing content for this audience. They must harness the power of visual communication to truly engage Gen V, because one can't join this visual conversation by leading with text. Instead, the brands that recognize and cater to Gen V see their revenues grow on average, 49 percent faster than those that don't. Needless to say, those who cannot master the art of connecting with Gen V won't have any chance of winning the eyes of Gen Z anytime soon.