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What the sigma is going on with Gen Alpha?

Group of four young people walking along in jeans, jackets and backpacks. The shot is looking down at them walking so you can only see the tops of their head and concrete beneath them.
Courtesy of Unsplash

If you’re tasked with engaging youth audiences, in particular with an eye on ‘Generation Alpha’, those born from 2010 onwards, then this is for you.

There’s been a lot of data and insight shared about Gen Z but as the generation growing up fast behind them is hitting adolescence, we’re seeing more of their habits and preferences, giving us an idea of what’s to come.

As ever, trends won’t tell you exactly how to engage with every cohort of young people within an age bracket, but they may give you grounds to further explore and test what will work for those you’re trying to reach.

Here are some of the common themes being used for Gen Alpha and how they might be of use within your marketing and communications activity.

1.      The most diverse generation yet

This is probably a term that can be recycled for every generation but it’s certainly one that’s being used for Gen Alphas, specifically more racially and geographically diverse.

Growing up in a more diverse and socially aware society, diversity and inclusion are likely to be more important when it comes to education, workplaces and even down to their content preferences and spending.

GWI found that when US Alphas were asked what was more important in life, 61% said helping people, 51% said protecting people from bullying, 51% everyone being treated the same, 46% what their family things of them and 41% family background/culture.

We’re seeing the likes of Disney push their DEI strategy through to content creation and advisories on older, less inclusive content. We’re also seeing the younger end of Gen Z valuing DEI strategies at both Universities (The Ambassador Platform on what future students want) and the workplace (TapIn research on Black GenZ talent) and expect this to go far beyond just having a policy and working group.

2.      Millennial parenting is in the room

The majority of Gen Z has Millennial parents, with many Gen Xers in the mix and this is having an impact on how Alphas’ characteristics are being nurtured.

There’s an excellent white paper from Beano Brain that looks at exactly this, finding Millennials are assuming the role of parents with the same level of planning, purpose and professionalism as they’d approach a career move. Their democratic parenting style and emphasis on being present has led to a close relationship with their Gen Alpha children, celebrating individuality and encouraging them to stand up for their beliefs.

Being more digitally savvy as parents brings a digital nervousness for their children and a perfectionism pressure as parents that the online world can bring. Many say being happy is more important over being “successful” and there are definitely themes of pushing back at systems and structures that don’t serve this – from career choices to school systems. There’s also a recognition that their children are inheriting a planet damaged by previous generations.

From workplace parental policies through to providing mass individualisation, potentially from a position that is viewed as part of the problem – you definitely should consider the impact of Millennial parents on this growing generation if you’re wanting to engage them now or in future.  

3.      The most educated generation?

Many Gen Zs had their exams and further/higher education disrupted by the pandemic, but for Alphas, this was a formative period of nursery and primary school. In the UK this has led to a widening gap in attainment at primary school, particularly between those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

So while some reports (McCrindle) suggest half of Gen Alphas are expected to earn a university degree, there is a growing divide that could impact social mobility (this briefing policy from The Sutton Trust sets out the impact this could have).

With more access to the internet and devices both at home and at school, their learning experiences and expectations are evolving too. The type of courses, how-to content, ways in which they want to learn and access information, will be far more developed by the time they reach university. We’re seeing developments such as hologram lectures and influencer partnerships with universities now, but expect more disruption as Alphas become of age for higher education.

4.      Social spending on another level

McCrindle has coined the phrase ‘upagers’ for Gen Alphas, in reference to being more socially aware and consumers at a younger age. In short, growing up faster.

But within this you can see a commercially driven segmentation at a younger age. The ‘tween’ market for example, those 8-12s who are between childhood and adolescence, have emerged with more of their own identity and as a target market within Gen Alpha. They are more digitally connected, many will have online banking systems set up with pocket money, and shopping online on social media and gaming platforms has become easier than ever before.

According to a report from DKC, 82% of parents have changed their personal consumer patterns based on feedback from their Gen Alpha child and 94% are paying more attention to online influencers to better understand how they impact their children.

The targeting of beauty brands to Gen Alphas has been much publicised and even this week Ipsos held a webinar with beauty brands talking about targeting the tween market. The TikTok growth and reach of beauty content among Alphas is causing a rush for many brands, with Sephora making it’s UK return after 20 years, betting on success with Gen Alphas. 


Want more?

I’ll be sharing a few more articles like this over the coming months, maybe even another Engaging Youth report who knows. If you’re up for getting regular updates on insights and things going on for youth audiences, I share a short and sweet weekly email with everything I find each week which you can sign up for here.

*if you don’t know the phrase ‘what the sigma’ you probably don’t have a child aged between 8-13 who repeatedly says it at school, but check out this recent article on all things tween slang. You’re welcome bro.

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