Honey badgers and iPad kids: Experts weigh in on Gen Alpha

    In conversation with trend-forecasters and strategists, here are the consumer behaviors of those born between 2010 and 2024. Meet the iPad kid generation.
    Born between 2010 and 2024, Gen Alpha are the most fluent in technology than any other generation before them. Photo: Shutterstock
      Published   in Technology

    IPad kids are growing up with the World Wide Web wedged between their hands, unaware that a universe without instant gratification via video games, and instantaneous global connectivity ever existed.

    The cohort, otherwise known as Generation Alpha, was born between 2010 and 2024; a demographic that is predicted to be the biggest in history.

    As insight strategist Martina Rocca at WGSN explains, around 2.8 million new Alphas are born every week.

    “With these high numbers, they’ll [personally] inevitably hold the biggest spending power,” she says. “Though Alphas are not all yet teenagers, they’re already impacting household purchasing decisions. And since children are capable of creating brand associations as young as three, it’s essential to look at what’s shaping their interests.”

    Last year saw the generation labeled as “honey badgers” for their fierce boldness. Along with dissecting that confidence, here are the characteristics that brands need to know about society’s youngest consumers, in China and beyond.

    Newly-formed netizens

    Unlike the majority of Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012), this group of consumers was born in an era of iPhones (first released 2007) and iPads (2010), and has always had the likes of photo-sharing apps and advanced gaming tools at their fingertips.

    This familiarity with technology is influencing their perspective on the internet and technology as a whole.

    “The main difference [between Gen Zers and Gen Alphas] is the approach to technology,” says Rocca. “While Alphas adopt an explorative, creative, innovative and enthusiastic approach to digital media consumption, Gen Z prioritizes security and privacy over newness and discovery.”

    However, each generation has its own anxieties surrounding tech. Gen Zers have experienced the growth of social media into a universal phenomenon. Whereas, for their successors, internet domination is an ingrained part of life, for every age group, not only young demographics.

    “The starkest differences between those generations will be informed by how Alphas have seen Gen Z use, respond to, and be affected by a life lived online,” says senior editor of Pop Culture and Media at trend forecasting and market research company Stylus, Annie Corser.

    “[As a result] I think Alphas are going to be deeply private. They’ve seen Gen Z turn being digital native into digital Stockholm syndrome, and the level of personal openness, public vulnerability, and the radical honesty of cringe culture that Alphas’ elders perform instinctively will seem bizarre to many Alphas as they move into their teenage years.”

    Corser says that this closed nature, compared with Gen Z, will likely fuel the rise of virtual selves, especially due to their comfortability with the Metaverse.

    “This means they’ll happily use avatars to protect themselves in digital spaces while moving through them freely and confidently,” she adds.

    iPad kids’s digital fluency is way beyond that of any other generation, particularly in China — a nation where 76 percent of the population use the internet according to the Report on China's Internet Development by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

    Chinese media strategist Yujia Bi tells Jing Daily: “Brands seeking to establish resonance must craft strategies that seamlessly integrate cutting-edge digital experiences. From interactive content to immersive technologies, the key is to create an engaging and tech-centric brand narrative that mirrors the preferences of these digitally fluent consumers.”

    Honey badgers and ‘prosumers’

    One key aspect underlined by Corser is how Gen Alphas are steering their own content.

    “The word ‘prosumer’ has been used a lot in recent years, but Alphas are already taking this concept to the next level. They consume cultural content at a clip, but it is increasingly content they have produced, designed, ideated, imagined, and built together with their peers,” she says.

    Taking control of their digital realm is infiltrating their physical attitude toward life, too. Going viral on TikTok as "the honey badger generation," these consumers exhibit unapologetically independent characteristics.

    View post on TikTok

    “Alphas will conduct themselves differently, in spaces that they alone control,” says Corser.

    Providing freedom for these young consumers to have autonomy over their purchases is one way in which brands can excel.

    “Brands need to be aware that the children of today live in a different digital world, with new rules, humor, language, and practices. To participate, companies will need to let Alpha keep hold of the reins,” Corser adds.

    Brand morals will matter

    Gen Alpha’s fearlessness will also extend to its morals and brand loyalty. In a 2023 interview, Qu Qiang, assistant director of the International Monetary Institute at Random University in Beijing, described China’s Gen Alpha as “contradictory,” being “very open-minded and very traditional.”

    Referencing a generation in China that has confidence in the nation’s growth, Bi said: “Brands aspiring to make a mark must champion eco-friendly practices and social responsibility. Articulating a sincere commitment to sustainability not only aligns with the values of Chinese consumers, but also establishes a brand identity that resonates with the environmentally conscious Gen Alpha.”

    Following in the wake of their progressive predecessors, members of this new demographic look to unashamedly stand up for their beliefs — a trait that will determine the brands they accept.

    “They will inherit the strong social, cultural and ecological values of their parents and will expect brands to reflect this,” says Rocca. “From their increasingly diverse, non-traditional family structures, to ecological awareness and climate integrity, Alphas will approach consumption politically, looking to vote through their brand choices. Although they’re tech-driven, they’re looking to engage with brands that promote wellbeing, inclusivity, creativity and self-expression.” As a result, brand transparency becomes all the more important.

    If Gen Alpha has anything to do with it, the luxury industry is going to have to adapt to become a fluid space that balances progressive ethics with business practices, as well as technological innovation.

    With the Metaverse influencing marketing and retail, assessing and catering to the needs of this tech-native generation, one that wants to take the steering wheel, will determine brands’ success in the medium to long term.

    • Around 2.8 million new Alphas are born every week, with the cohort of ages born between 2010 and 2024 predicted to be the biggest in history, and thus the largest spending power.
    • Gen Alphas are already influencing household purchasing — it is a heavily tech-first demographic, familiar with avatar use, as well as a prioritization of brand transparency and morals.
    • Brands need to shake up their presence in the Metaverse for Gen Alpha, producing seamless AI experiences in online retail to meet the rising desire for immediacy and digital entertainment.
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