I have always been a marketer in some way or another. As a child, I would persuade my parents by presenting a compelling essay, a creative presentation - or through (hearty) debates. Convincing people came naturally, and before I knew it, I was roped into creating press releases, business presentations, and speeches for my Executive father at the ripe old age of 16.
Growing up as a millennial came with its own unique challenges - to none of which you’re a stranger. Generational bias was strong and became increasingly prevalent with our “my way” attitude, opinion on boundaries - and most recently, our “innovative approach” to parenting.
Having been raised in households where phrases like “a minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips” or “don’t cry or I’ll give you something to cry about” - millennials are accustomed to just getting on with it. We’re a generation that has (mostly) paved its own way. Driven by external validation, deemed “the snowflake generation” - we’re somehow still hopefully optimistic. (One of our fatal flaws, perhaps?)
In high school, I was the weird kid - (not in any way helped by the fact that I was the lone redhead).I was the one that wrote stories, joined the drama club, and tried my hand at sports (failed dismally). I planned ahead - to the point of obsession. I had a contingency for every backup plan. I was also the one people ran to, money in one hand and an almost-due assignment in the other. Writing in any shape or form seemed the logical choice, and then, life happened.
During my university career, I found myself becoming a statistic in more ways than one, and before I knew it - I was a single mom at 22. (I’ll spare you the details - and save that story for another day). My professional and academic career took a hit that would take 5 years to recover from naturally. But - regardless of where I worked or what my title was - I was somehow always in the marketing office, writing for someone else’s credit.
A few years into my motherhood career (I use this word because, well - kids are a full-time job, right?), I took a risk - and left everything I knew to pursue a career that I had chosen at 16. With little to no support, disapproving looks, and snide comments from family - I jumped in head first. Two years later, I was the marketing manager of a local agency.
But - I digress. This is not the point of the story. (But if you’re looking for a moral, perhaps something like, just do it?)
My firstborn son is now 9 years old. I (barely, I’ll be honest) made it through the terrible twos, threenagers, f&*k it fours - you name it. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought my approach to parenting was just the right one. Gentle, loving, encouraging - and stern where necessary. Regardless of my efforts - I recently heard the words parents dread and fear most.
I hate you.
I will admit: my response was golden. No mess, no fuss, just millennial-type respect for his feelings.
I made the mistake that most generations do, and that is - to compare. I thought back to my own childhood. I first told my mom that I hated her at 15. I prepared for a timeline akin to my own - that was my first mistake.
That also brings me closer to the point.
Raising a child is not for the weak. Forgive my boldness, but raising Gen Alpha is more challenging (disruptive, exhausting, draining, inspiring, terrifying, beautiful, and empowering) than most would think.
Sure, my opinion is laced with bias here - but Gen Alpha is quite possibly the generation that will grow to save us all.
They’re a generation that has learned how to express themselves.
A generation who have been allowed to cry.
A generation who have experienced true love and healing.
A generation born out of virtual connection and innovation.
A generation that chooses to focus on personal growth and development.
They’re passionate, wise, and diverse. They're advocates for a future we could only hope to dream of.
Most of all, they have an opinion now.
A generation with the eldest member being only 12 years old, they’ve already achieved more than most.
While recently observing (okay, spying on) my son interacting with a few of his friends, I found myself feeling… shocked. Are they smarter than us? Wiser? Just - better? The level of awareness, a highly developed EQ, and confidence mark a generation that is paving the way for a better future. For once, this observation left me speechless. My mind was overcome - overwhelmed with curiosity and respect. Would we have been this “in touch” had we been given the same opportunities? (Doubtfully).
Gen Alpha is the light at the end of the tunnel. They tackle issues head-on - and they’re simply not afraid to say it like it is.
When I joined the world of education marketing, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Coming from an eCommerce background, I figured that I would just wing it - you know, as we do. To my (absolute) horror - Google was of little help. My virtual pleas for guidance were left unanswered. I found myself starting from scratch again - and it was the best decision that I ever made.
Education marketing is its own beast. It’s not something that we can just Google or wing and hope for the best. Sure, a can-do attitude is beneficial, but really - it’s just an industry with little rhyme or reason. That’s what makes it so beautiful.
Gen Alpha has a lot to say - if we let them.
As marketers, we’re in the (opportunistic) position to listen. Really and truly hear what this generation is saying now. If we do, if we take this opportunity today to observe, respect, and admire the next generation of students - we can and will change the face of education marketing. To make it better, more personal, more connected, and more relatable.
We’re on the frontline of generational growth. We learn, every day. We’re allowed into the minds of the next generation of consumers. We pave the way for disruptive education. We use our words. We rest - and then we do it all over again.