Cultural Tension: Adulting Alphas

April 4, 2024

Members of Generation Alpha, born between 2010 and 2024, span from infancy to early adolescence, with the oldest turning 14 this year. They represent almost two billion individuals globally, making them the largest cohort in history. This 21st-century-generation is the first entirely brought up in the digital age (complete with the internet, smartphones, AI, and virtual spaces) and that access has shaped their childhoods and habits in ways we’ve only begun to understand (see The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing Mental Illness). 

And their time spent online is influencing household purchases. Gen Alpha’s content consumption blurs the line between entertainment and commerce unlike any other generation. Nearly 60% watch direct shopping content like hauls and unboxing videos where they get ideas about new brands or products from influencers.

Look at the headlines and you’ll find Gen Alpha consuming “adult” brands that weren’t intended for them, be it drinking vessels, athleisure apparel, or beauty products. That might be advantageous for brands in the short-term, but this generation still has a lot of childhood to live. 

Brands can be built that meet this generation - and their families - where they are without encouraging them to grow up before their time. Yes, this generation is consuming content and information unlike any other generation before them, but that doesn’t mean that life has changed completely. They are still going to school. They are still doing after school activities. They are still being given a chance to relax a little on the weekends while their parents try and recover from the week in their own right. 

That’s why some brands are meeting Gen Alpha’s needs by taking into account their digital diet while going back to the basics of childhood staples. Blox Snacks - a snack brand selling healthier options inspired by their favorite YouTube creators - is trying to meet kids where they are at on the weekends (literally and figuratively) and aim to be part of better, “fun” snack options. Alphas go ballistic for SNACKS! SNACKS! like they have for generations that have come before, and all the generations that will come after. This one simply has a new cast of characters. 

One of the most visible effects of Gen Alpha’s digital footprint isn’t only their advocacy for products they see online, it’s their struggle with mental health. They are being exposed to more advanced stimuli at less sophisticated ages than any other generation, and that’s hurting them. “Thirty-seven percent of parents believe their kids’ mental health is worse than theirs was at the same age,” per Fast Company

This means that brands can be built in more direct opposition to the tension-filled trend as well. We have been tracking and talking about the extremely complex “Digital Detox” in our Cultural Themes and woven throughout our writing for some time now. Brands for Gen Alpha have the distinct opportunity to serve as a respite for the most online generation ever. 

One brand that fits the bill is The Light Phone. The company was founded by two people who were designing applications for Google - being briefed on how to make the technology more addictive - who could not go on in good conscience. They decided to not wait for someone else to help make a change, so they designed something to be a part of the solution. For Gen Alpha users that means having access to a phone, but not the applications that make them anxious.

Gen Alpha has more knowledge of brands than any generation before them and they have information beyond their years. But that doesn’t mean they should grow up before they’re ready. We’re bullish on products that allow Gen Alpha to participate in the culture they’re absorbing by remembering they are still growing up and serving their needs today.

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