We’ve all spent the last decade thinking a lot about millennials: what do they like, what do they need, what are their values? Their digital-native status was new territory, and their interest in shared values with businesses they support led to a wave of simple names (The Honest Company, Natural Bliss) and name-names (Toms, Harry’s). But now there’s a whole new generation to understand: Generation Z. Born between the mid 90s and late 00s, they’re becoming a huge part of our economy and it’s time to think about how to brand and name with them in mind.
While Gen Z holds strong values, that’s not their primary purchase driver. Price is by far the biggest factor for this generation right now when deciding whether to buy from a particular brand, and according to Business Insider, this makes brand loyalty a big challenge. While millennials and older generations found a brand they liked and stuck with it, Gen Zers will try a brand if it offers the value they seek, but they’ll switch to another brand in a hot second if it offers better value.
With that said, there are elements of shared values that are important to Gen Z. They have very sensitive BS meters and always have Google at their fingertips to fact-check, so they value transparency. They’re very aware of and concerned about the dark issues that face our world today, and they respond to this with dark humor and absurdism. And speaking of the issues that face our world, they appreciate brands that are doing something about them, like Tesla.
What does all this mean for naming in the next decade? Well, when Gen Z is a target audience, we’ll have a lot to think about, test, and learn. If price is all that really matters, maybe we can just go back to 90s style wacky coined names (perhaps even with available .coms, eh?) and not worry about what the names communicate! More realistically, we’ll still want to find a way to connect with Gen Zers and build brand loyalty where possible.
There are a couple of promising directions to consider. The simple, straightforward names that resonate well with millennials may be appreciated for their no-BS factor. Name-names could work, but they’d better be based on a real person or have another good reason, becausing false heritage won’t fly with these native online researchers. Abstract names may be quite appealing to this new generation of absurdists. Gen Zers like weird. They like quirky. They don’t need explanations for why weird things are the way they are. So a quirky name with no actual tie to the product, offering or company may be right up their alley, and has the bonus of potentially getting through trademark hurdles more easily than names that have relevant meaning. And, hey: while the earlier commentary on wacky coined names was tongue-in-cheek, it could be worth testing highly coined names on them, especially in areas with extremely crowded trademarks. A lot of elements of the 90s are back in style for this generation, and who knows — the generation who says price is all that matters just might be cool with anything. After all, it wasn’t all Compaq, Celebrex, Initech -- gems like Google and Fruitopia came out of the 90s too.
We don’t have all the answers yet, but we’ll be keeping an eye on what works for the next generation. They’re an interesting and diverse group, and we’re excited to get to know them as they continue to move into early adulthood.