Snapchat’s COO Emily White talking about Generation Z will make you feel old

Having been taken to the North American International Automobile Show, in Detroit, by Ford, I expected to see tons of shiny new cars, and, of course, I did. What I didn’t expect was to emerge feeling extremely old, and if you thought, us, Generation Y were the youngest and most tech-savvy group of people around, you’re also going to feel like a grandma now that Gen Z is officially a thing.

Gen Z are the youngest consumers, born 1993 and after, to be exact. That’s the year that Mrs Doubtfire and Beanie Babies came into our lives, just to put things into context.

In a talk at Ford’s Behind the Blue Oval at NAIAS, Sheryl Connelly, Ford global consumer trend and futuring manager, described Gen Z as ‘impatient and entrepreneurial’ and the ‘first digitally native generation, using digital media in ways we could never have dreamed of’.

They multi-task over five screens (although I’m not sure how this is actually possible, maybe, aged 23, I’m too old to understand), send and receive 109.5 messages a day, on average, and 52% use YouTube and social media for their school research. Imagine being allowed on Facebook or Twitter at school. That’s the dream, isn’t it?

Snapchat’s COO, Emily White, was at the talk at NAIAS too, and spoke about the way that Gen Z members, who skew heavily as Snapchat users are key players in today’s tech-driven culture, and using all their knowledge to inspire attitudes and behaviours among all ages to enact change for the good.

Describing Snapchat as, simply, ‘fun’, White believes that the reason for its success is that it was born at a time when ‘mobile was clearly where we were going to do most of our computing. Emotion could now be sent through the wires.’

She added: ‘Starting as a best friend network, as opposed to Facebook and Twitter’s network where it’s pretty much anyone and everyone looking in on your life, Snapchat finally allowed people to be people, rather than the online personas they were giving off.’

White went on to talk about how the addition of ‘My Story’ on Snapchat has made the app grow even bigger in popularity.
She said: ‘The My Story feature harkens back to old storytelling, clearly showing the beginning, middle and end of 24 hours of life. It’s a new way of telling stories that’s entirely visual, allowing people to have a conversation and walk away, but leaving the feelings and emotions.’

What actually surprised me about the figures that White and Connelly spoke about was how cautious Gen Z are in wanting to give out their data.

According to research carried out by Ford, 26% of Gen Z post fake information online, while 86% have taken steps to mask their data online.

White said: ‘Social media feels old to Gen Z. These consumers are so savvy and aware, and really appreciate transparency and honesty from a company.’

I can imagine you’re currently thinking, ‘This is all great, and everything, but what’s Snapchat got to do with Ford?’ Don’t worry, I asked the same question. Basically, as the Gen Z consumer evolves, Ford is looking at how these behaviours and trends will affect every part of the automotive business, from vehicle development to the experience customers will expect when the time comes to purchase or own a vehicle.

The 10 trends Ford expects to influence consumers and brands in 2015 and beyond include a Carryless Movement, in which we’ll no longer need to carry anything with us, and it’s, quite clearly, already happening. Technologies such as wearable gadgets and smartphone apps are transforming the mechanics of how consumers pay for goods and services, how and where marketers reach their customers, and who people trust with their most valuable information.

So, with this in mind, Ford really is thinking about how its in-car entertainment system, the all-new SYNC 3.0, can fit into our lives in the future, using AppLink to make it easier for apps from our phones to be projected onto the car screen, and controlled using our voice, all, obviously in the name of road safety.

Question is: Will we all be Snapchatting selfies at the wheel in the future?

Image via Wael AlNahari

Hayley Minn