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Generation Z attention spans

Posted in: Brand Marketing

For Marketing staff to reach their audience effectively it is necessary to categorise people into age groupings.  Here is a brief history about the list of generations leading up to Generation Z;


YouCom Media - List of Generations: The Lost Generation

The Lost Generation

Also known as the Generation of 1914.  This is the age group who fought in World War I. The members of the lost generation were born between 1883 and 1900.  This was the first of the list of generations marketing categories created.  Sadly, none of this group are alive today.



YouCom Media List of Generations - The Greatest Generation

The Greatest Generation

Also known as the G.I. Generation.  This includes the veterans who fought in World War II. The members of the G.I. Generation were born between 1900 to 1924.  This group had high attention spans like their predecessors of approximately 1 hour plus, as they spent their time reading detailed newspaper articles that looked more like academic texts than the snappy stories we read today, or authors like Dickens.  They required intelligent marketing, editorials, localised Direct Mail works well.  They are of high morality and ethical.  They fought, they served, they gave us our freedoms we enjoy today.



YouCom Media List of Generations - The Lucky Few

The Silent Generation

The Silent Generation are also rather romantically known as the Lucky Few.  This includes men who fought in World War II, the Korean War and many who fought during the Vietnam War.  Similar to the Greatest Generation, the Lucky Few respond well to localised direct mail and (formal) personalisation, possessing long attention spans like their ‘greatest generation’ parents. Typically an attention span of this generation (decline of older age aside) is between 40-60 minutes as they often read the lengthy novels and newspapers of their parents.  The members of the silent generation were born between 1925 and 1945.



YouCom Media List of Generations - Baby Boomers

The Baby Boomers

This is the generation that was born following World War II.  Members of the baby boomer generation were born between 1946 to 1964.  At this time due to the end of the World War, there was a marked increase in birth rates and prosperity.  This generation is the generation still alive today which common consensus agrees has the most wealth for brands marketing products and services to sell to.  They are also widely regarded as the most educated and self-motivated.  The baby boomer is most likely to own more than one home in more than one country with more than one car.  They worked hard and saved for a good pension.


Baby boomers were the first generation to see a marked decline in attention spans due to the changes of the world around them. Consequently, they respond well to localised direct mail and personalisation, catalogue marketing, coupons and voucher marketing, cinema advertising, billboards, signage, TV advertising, editorials, radio advertising and PPC.  Baby Boomers are less knowledgeable for online marketing (unless their career required later learning), so PPC to this group is simply the first results on the search page and more effective than natural search results.


Directory marketing run by our Direct Response department works very well for this generation and most would use their local BT Phonebook rather than look for a business online. Attention spans for baby boomers would be typically 20 minutes as their novel of choice became more Jackie Collins, Danielle Steel or Jack Higgins than the Dickens of their parents i.e. shorter novel length, smaller vocabularly and faster plots. With a penchance for broadsheets requiring more time to digest, 20 minutes was broadly what the brain required and therefore became the approximate attention span of this generation (Darwinism states the brain evolves to meet its environment and advertisers must evolve to meet the same changes).



YouCom Media List of Generations - Generation X

Generation X

Usually abbreviated to Gen X, this generation were born after the baby boom and retained a lot of their parents’ traits.  They also desire to exceed their parents’ achievements.  Generation X are highly educated, active, balanced, happy, and family-oriented.  They were the first generation to have a great surge in entrepreneurs.  These are the go-getters and self-starters.  They are ambitious and were the last generation to have a good attention span (although further decline was noted in comparison to their baby boomer and silent generation parents).


Attention spans of Gen X people declined by approximately 9 minutes from the previous generation to approximately 11 minutes. This generation grew up with Thundercats rather than Thunderbirds and with Dungeons and Dragons rather than The Jetsons (childrens cartoons for Gen X and Baby Boomers respectively). However compare both those differing cartoon types to the Teletubbies of 1997 (Millenial generation era) and you can see one example of why attention spans shorten from an early age.  Members of Generation X were born between 1964 and 1980 and will still be found reading a broadsheet or novel.


Generation X are the greatest group for multi-channel marketing, able to process the editorials effective with the Baby Boomers, yet still be at ease with mobile app advertising and natural search results.  Cinema advertising works well with this group the most frequent audience and radio advertising also.  Localised direct mail starts to become less effective with this group and personalised mail whilst still effective is starting to become less able to stop the journey from the letterbox to the bin.


Outdoor advertising such as out of home and alternative marketing like guerrilla marketing is effective for Generation X people.  TV advertising is still effective but less so as people can now pause live TV and turn to services such as NetFlix and Amazon TV.  Generation X looks past the PPC results for the natural search results.  In some studies, participants ignored PPC completely beginning their reading at the first natural search result.  Printed directories are less effective for this generation although the earlier members still use them.  Online directories are however highly effective because of how they filter through into the natural search results on Google, Yahoo and Bing.  Members of Generation X were born between 1964 and 1980.



YouCom Media List of Generations - The Millennials


Often known as the Millennial Generation, or Generation Y. The Millennials are generalised as having traits of greater confidence and tolerance, but also a new sense of entitlement and narcissism that wasn’t seen in such numbers from the previous list of generations.  In the millennial generation this group are a mix of those still with traits of generation X and those whose attention spans were beginning to shorten dramatically.  By the end of the millennial period, attention spans had shortened to just 12 seconds (compare that to 11-12 minutes of their parents).  This has had a great impact on advertising campaigns to this audience and many brands were too slow to adapt their marketing.


Advertising messaging needs to be much shorter to this group with more imagery.  Millennials have a sense of being let down, that the world isn’t the way they thought it would be.  This entitlement factor mostly isn’t met by reality.  Sujansky (2009), states that Millennials “continually show up late for work, ask to leave early, always turn down overtime requests and wonder why they haven’t been promoted after just one year on the job”. There is a lot of ‘job-hopping’ in this generation, rather than patience to learn a trade. In fairness to this generation, they are simply adapting to the changing world around them and will be more tech-savvy than their predecessors, less content to accept the status quo and more likely to question saying ‘why not?’.


Offer based advertising, money off, price match advertising all works well to this group.  Aspirational advertising and advertising better suited to storytelling using real-life examples of other customers work best. Channels such as radio isn’t suited to that.  Cinema advertising works, Mobile apps, outdoor, out of home and natural search including online directories all works well for this generation group.  Signage is less important as this group are less brand loyal and drive vehicles less than previous generations.  Members of Generation Y were born between 1980 and 2000.



YouCom Media List of Generations - Generation Z

Generation Z

The list of generations concludes (until 2025) with the group that follows generation Y (the millennials).  They are occasionally referred to as Generation Alpha but more known as Generation Z.  Generation Z is highly skilled with technology.  But they are also under more social pressure than any other generation before them.  Their lives are all shared and online.  Society has moved toward expectations for all young people to aspire to University education while apprenticeships and early employment are all but unheard of.


Unfortunately, due to the changes observed in the millennial generation, the average Generation Z member has a documented attention span of only 8 seconds (for context and we apologise to use such a worn analogy; a goldfish has an attention span of 7 seconds). Yes Generation Z multi-task, yes they can do more simultaneously than their parents, but 8 seconds is not anything to be proud of and is something brands need to adjust to with their marketing plans.  Members of this generation were born from 2000 and the category won’t close until 2025.



YouCom Media List of Generations


How to Advertise to Generation Z and to prepare for when they form your main customer audience

Generation Z are most notably at ease with today’s communications.  They have grown up with the internet and social media.  They are familiar with viral videos, virtual interfacing, international gaming, and comfortable with technology in general.  Unlike previous generations a greater than average proportion of their social interactions is from social media websites.


It is a widely held view that growing up through the crisis or recession of 2008 has given this generation a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity.  This combination of social factors makes Generation Z one of the hardest to advertise to.  They are clued up and will switch off from traditional advertising.  With today’s options to pause live TV they have more resource to remove themselves from brand messaging.


Indeed, Generation Z watches more YouTube and online video than traditional TV (and TV advertising or sponsorship).  In a way, this shows how brands must change how they organise their advertising and marketing (more emphasis on digital, social media, video, imagery and reviews).


YouCom Media Generation Z advertising - Images are Important

Advice 1 – Images Are Important

Generation Z has grown up with visual communications. Every one of them has tablets or big screen smartphones. They can filter and edit pictures and have entire conversations with just photos (think Pinterest, Instagram or Snapchat).  We advise clients to keep imagery as a constant central theme through their messaging to this generation.



YouCom Media Generation Z advertising - Keep it short

Advice 2 – Short Attention Span

The average Generation Z member has an attention span of only 8 seconds (a goldfish has an attention span of 7 seconds).  Generally, attention spans have decreased by 4 seconds since the Millennials (Generation Y) who were the last to actively challenge the world around them in a way where they were forced to memorise, learn, adapt and multi-task without the help of an electronic device or peer sharing.


Therefore, Generation Z marketing must maintain short, snappy content. Lots of soundbites, use of repetitive slogans and jingles.  You will begin to notice politicians adopting the same strategies of repetitive short slogans to cover both this (increasing) generation plus their parents.

Reach out and yank their attention fast or they will be past your content and on to other brand messaging.



YouCom Media - Generation Z advertising - Reviews

Advice 3 – Real Life Reviews

Generation Z is the social media generation.  They will share content and therefore will more quickly identify advertising.  If brand messaging is or appears to be genuine advice and useful guidance (or just interesting to their group) Generation Z will retweet, repost, or share it digitally or by word of mouth.  This increases importance to review management and review gathering (services offered by our Direct Response team).  Good Google+ reviews will increase your brand engagement with this generation.



YouCom Media - Generation Z advertising - Social Media

Advice 4 – Hunt Them Down

Facebook is now more popular with the previous generations (including the baby boomers).  As it becomes populated with mum’s and dad’s, Generation Z are turning to other channels such as Twitter or Tumblr.  For this reason, YouCom Media had chosen to focus our own brand engagement on social platforms other than Facebook.


Social Media Management will become increasingly important for your brand as this generation Z gets older.  Remember, the first of this generation Z (born in 2000) are already 16 years old now.  In a few more years they will become your main customer audience, looking to move out, requiring driving lessons, insurance, storage, banking, finance, car rental, solicitors, and with increasing disposable income for opticians’ products, mobile phones, clothes etc.



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Required reference:

YouCom Media News, January 2017, London, ‘Generation Z  attention spans’