A wise marketing sage told me once that to understand language and its rapid permutations, look to the arbiters who shape it – middle school girls.

Through smart phones and texting, these language pioneers shaped/are shaping culture itself. Condensing it. Simplifying it. Stripping it down to its bare essentials for the sake of efficiency.

When you can express a complex idea with a single character 😡, why bother with language at all right? The implications for cultural change are massive. Today, some of these change-makers are in college or recent additions to the professional workforce — and they are incredibly interesting.

It’s been my privilege as an older Millennial to work with Gen Z creators, designers, programmers, copywriters, film makers and strategists. Like my generation, they expect better from their employers, from the brands they buy from, and society itself. But there’s a diference. Their beliefs are fervent, deeply intrenched, and thoroughly vocalized. It’s awesome!

Most Millennials can claim digital native status, but Gen Z lives and breathes communication technology. Through their phones, Gen Z is shaping culture itself like no other generation before.

Most Millennials in the workforce want work-life balance, 3 weeks vacation, excellent health benefits, and a cause to believe in. And those expectations have moved the societal needle in a positive direction. But want and demand are totally different beasts. 

My younger colleagues demand equitable compensation, detailed (DEI) statements, unlimited PTO, regular salary bumps, praise and recognition, and so much more. And you know what? They are absolutely right.

Gen Z is shaping how business is conducted, how marketing is deployed and consumed, how much text will fit on a page, and yes — the language of today.

Oh, and Gen Z hate being labeled or placed into categories 😝. They are individualists who believe that they have a tremendous amount to offer society. They also know how to project that value by choosing the media channels that live and die.

I, for one, entirely agree with the strong preferences of Gen Z. 

When Millennials politely asked for maternity leave and the option to compost in the corporate kitchen, Gen Z demanded 6 months paid leave for both parents and a corporate policy on environmental stewardship.

When Millennials felt guilty for changing jobs after three years, Gen Z happily jumped ship every six months, always on the hunt for a job that fit their values and corporate expectations.

When Millennials… you get the idea. Gen Z and Millennials are basically value-aligned as two distinct but connected generations. We understand and use the same technology, we expect society to take care of its most vulnerable, and we shout down greenwashing, whitewashing, all the washings and bullshit for what they are. We expect more — a hell of a lot more from the brands we shop with and the employers we sell our time to.

Where Gen Z differs from its older sibling is how they make change happen. Whether in the workplace or marching on the streets, they push harder, demand fiercer, and they use their mastery of technology and communication to make their preferences felt. 

And, yes — they think that this 👍 is cringe and this 😂 is for old people.