The gamechangers of the next decade

Generation Z (Source:


Standing at the beginning of a new year in a new decade is exciting. This new decade, in particular, will herald in an important time for our continent, as countries scramble to meet the global United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals; and the real work on implementing the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) starts.

AfCFTA is a real gamechanger for Africa, as it will create the largest trading block in the world once trade barriers fall, boosting internal trade on the continent, which will lead to economic prosperity in many regions and an infrastructure boom and job creation – sorely needed for the continent with the biggest and youngest population in the world.

What this means for every industry, including the creative industries, is that opportunities to do business within Africa will increase because investment will increase. It won’t be easy or without major challenges, but to anyone launching or growing a business in South Africa’s depressed economy, Africa presents another opportunity for growth – particularly since, in 2018, seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world were in Africa! (South Africa and Nigeria weren’t on that list – everyone is still waiting for us to grow into our potential!).

I believe this decade will signal that it is Africa’s time and an ‘Africa Rising’ presents unique opportunity beyond our borders for every industry. The impact of AfCFTA and its potential should feature in all long-term business plans of all industry in South Africa going forward. That is my most important trend for this decade and this year.

The other massive gamechanger, globally, for this coming decade, is Generation Z. Apart from the fact that we can finally stop talking about Millennials, this next generation of youth have the onerous task of saving our planet. They will also, like the generation that heralded in massive social change in the 1960s across the world, have one of the biggest impacts on our consumption patterns. They are also going to be the most vocal in calling out everyone – from politicians to companies to brands – if they are corrupt in anyway and do not behave in a transparent and authentic way.

Think Gen Z, think Greta

Going forward, into industry specific trends for the creative industries, Generation Z and their consumption habits will probably be one of the biggest gamechangers since social media revolutionised the last decade which was dominated by the focus on Millennials. Generation Z is a surprising generation and their poster child is Greta Thunberg.

Also called the iGen or Centennials, this generation of youngsters was born between 1996 and 2010, following on from the Millennials. They have been immersed in our digital society, growing up with the internet and on social media. The oldest of them are now just finishing their tertiary education and entering the workforce.

This generation will very much likely have as much impact as the 60s generation, whose marches were for peace at the beginning of the Cold War. Except their platform is climate change and they will have to save our planet from mass extinction.

So how will brands, marketers and advertising creatives market to this generation? What can you sell a generation that is starting to reject conspicuous consumption and anything that raises their carbon footprint?

Global thinktank, McKinsey, says the one characteristic that defines this generation, is “truth”. Generation Z avoid labels, preferring to express themselves individually. They believe in standing up for causes they believe in; and believe dialogue and negotiation is the way to resolve conflicts, not war.

“They make decisions and relate to institutions in a highly analytical and pragmatic way,” reports McKinsey, calling them the “True Gen”. This is in contrast to the Millennials, called the “Me” generation, which focuses more on itself. Remember, it was this generation that invented the ubiquitous selfie!

McKinsey advises brands and business to think about how they deliver value to this consumer and make sure they practice what they preach when addressing marketing challenges, work ethics, environmental issues and impact on the planet.

Time is not on your side: within just five years, this generation will be leaving school and becoming students that will agitate for change or they will be joining their peers in the workplace and creating change – from within or as consumers.

This quote from McKinsey is striking: “Companies should be attuned to three implications for this generation: consumption as access rather than possession, consumption as an expression of individual identity, and consumption as a matter of ethical concern. Coupled with technological advances, this generational shift is transforming the consumer landscape in a way that cuts across all socioeconomic brackets and extends beyond Gen Z, permeating the whole demographic pyramid.”

Don’t think for one moment that we are immune down here in Africa, either: Africa, including South Africa, has the single biggest youth demographic in the world. This decade to come is one of the most important in history – change is coming, there is no doubt, for our way of work and how brands are consumed – in fact, the entire marketing eco-system will be impacted.

Personally, I have hope for Generation Z, that they can save us from our worst excesses. They are searching for authenticity and embrace greater freedom of expression, while they are more tolerant and accepting.

There are three types of consumer behaviour that Gen Z display that will profoundly affect brands:

  • Sharing economy: Gen Z does not believe in ownership. For them, consumption means access to products and services, not necessarily ownership. They value services that connect them, as services they use, rather than products that they own (like car-riding services, video streaming and subscriptions). McKinsey advises that companies need to rethink their value-creation models and look at leveraging “more direct relationships” with consumers, as well as alternative and new distribution channels.
  • The cult of the individual: This generation want more personalised products; they do not want to look like everyone else. And here is where they will pay for it. Interestingly, they also don’t want brands which classify them by gender, as male or female. So, dump the pink and blue, male vs female thinking. For some brands this will be a stretch. The other significant consumption trend is that this generation sees no “line” between online and offline shopping. They want to be able to access products they want to buy or use 24/7, anywhere.
  • Purpose-driven marketing: More than any other generation before them, this generation expects marketers to believe in something and “take a stand” with their brands. It makes sense too. Brands have worked so hard in the past two decades to appear ‘human’ – with human characteristics and emotions – to consumers that they now have a generation of consumer that does not make a distinction between individual causes and corporate causes and corporate ethics. Ownership, ethical behaviour, giving back to the community, taking a stance on causes that matter, having an articulated purpose – these are all things expected of brands and organisations, as well as anyone Gen Z connects with. How’s this for a scary stat: 80 percent of Generation Z surveyed by McKinsey indicated that they refuse to buy goods from companies involved in scandals.

I love this generation; I think they will make the world a better place. And we could sure use some of that after these past few difficult years in our own country’s history as well as the shenanigans going on elsewhere in the world. They bring as hope. And that is what we want trends to do: provide hope for the future so we can take that next step, launch that new business, plan for a future. Happy 2020!