Ella Hoogerbrug is my eldest granddaughter. She’s 19, a second year law student at Victoria, Wellington and is back at home until Level 2 allows her to return to join her flatmates and companions.

In Kelburn they experience a great student lifestyle where they relish exploring ideas through conversation and good times. They identify as Generation Z with a whole fresh set of values that will influence the post-Covid decade.

“Me and my friends aren’t economists or anything, but we think that coming out of Level 3 into Level 2 and beyond, it will be the businesses that were already using online sales and delivery who will experience the least change to their operation. They will have the advantage over more traditional businesses, even those with a strong client-based business. “Imagine how hard it must be?” she says. “After the shock of the Covid lockdown, realizing you have no way to effectively communicate with your customers, and then having to adapt to an online service to stay afloat?”

In her view it’s a generational matter. Generation Z (pronounced Zee) are those born from 1995 to 2010. They are true digital natives: from earliest youth, they have been exposed to the internet, to social networks, and to mobile systems.

So it’s easy for them to say, and Ella acknowledges such massive and sudden change caught everyone off balance.

But, more importantly, she believes that those businesses that do survive will need to look beyond the immediate recovery to the Generation Z era for their marketing priorities, an era that is rapidly approaching.

This cohort has a personal investment in the future of the planet, experiencing a high level of anxiety for the world they are about to inherit. As children they watched powerlessly as their elders squandered resources in a fever of greed and over production. They were hearing about climate change and feeling frightened and incredulous at the callous disregard of the world’s wealth- and ego-driven power brokers. They are appalled at the fossil fuel industry and are more likely to use public transport, aghast at the fast fashion industry, preferring creative op-shopping, and are happy to live modestly.

In 2018 a McKinsey study revealed Generation Z’s values as being the search for truth, individual expression, believing profoundly in the efficacy of dialogue to solve conflicts and improve the world. They are pragmatic and analytical, it says; its members are more idealistic, more confrontational, and less willing to accept diverse points of view (think, Greta Thünberg and the Hong Kong democracy battles). And, they are the next generation of decision-makers.

The Covid-19 pandemic has given humans time-out to think about what is really important. There will be a reset, on that many of us agree, and the archaic attitudes of growth at all costs represented by some of our current world leaders will be less relevant. Because, in just 5-10 years time Generation Z will become the influencers and the power will shift, giving us all reason for hope.

I hope she’s right.  Fingers crossed!

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