If you want a peek into the future, a good place to start is observing a younger generation. Just ask any parent of teenagers and even pre-teens what sets the new generation apart and they’ll likely note: Glued to their phones, with acrobatic skills in computer games, seemingly unaware of their surroundings but somehow always informed about the latest news. Oh, and they have opinions! What’s more, they are already an economic force with over $150 billion in spending power.

Who is Gen Z? Born after 1997 in a world of technology and connectedness, they use their digital savviness as creators and to voice their opinions through social media. They demand to be heard and don’t shy away from taking action. They celebrate diversity. To kick off our look at Gen Z in this issue, P&G experts Anna Connolly and Santhi Gollapalli provided us with deeper insights on what defines this generation.

 One of the most significant traits of Gen Z is their seamless use of technology for every aspect of their lives; they don’t distinguish between their “online” and “offline” lives. In some ways, the much talked about “metaverse” is already here for them — consider the Roblox platform. What parents may see as an online game is a much more complex world with a significant internal economy, where people make and spend money on user created digital goods and experiences. To uncover the forces behind the trend and the ways Gen Z are interacting today, we interviewed Roblox Chief Business Officer Craig Donato to introduce Roblox and its impact. 

But for brands to connect with Gen Z, it’s not only a matter of where to find them (hint: they’re not watching TV at home) — it’s in understanding how to engage with them. So what should brands do? We asked a Gen Z expert, himself a member of this generation. “Above all: Be authentic,” writes Michael Pankowski in this issue. “Not the fake, forced kind, but the real kind of authenticity.” Pankowski, a senior at Harvard and head of Crimson Connection, a Generation Z marketing consulting firm, lays out how Gen Z is different from Millennials, the role of influencers, and the towering importance of “purpose.”

Well aware of the world they live in, Gen Z is a generation that wants to be heard and will raise their voice on topics that are important to them. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg is a clear example. Like Thunberg, this group of consumers are not shy to act on their words and convictions. Landon Brand, co-founder and CEO of sustainability startup Wren, explains to Signal360 why he and his co-founders translated their drive for action into starting a company that helps individuals offset their own carbon footprint.

The next generation are creators of our future. They will take the opportunities and challenges we provide and make them their own. While the future is hard to predict, watching Gen Z play and work today makes us excited for what’s ahead.

Until next month when we will look back on a remarkable year,

Stan Joosten & John Battelle,

Editors-In-Chief, Signal360 / Co-founders, Signal P&G