Alexa Is Raising My Daughter


For a couple of years now, I’ve been interested in the sea changes new generations launch upon society.  As the father of an eleven-year-old GenZ daughter, I was curious to understand her generation’s promise, and how they would view and interact with the world in a unique way.  

(Understanding generational differences is a big rabbit hole, and one I hope to write more about in the coming months.) 

This morning, I got hit smack in the face with one obvious GenZ distinction.

It's picture day at school, which is a big deal for an eleven-year-old.  She wanted to get up a little early to have time to tend to her hair and outfit properly.  Ten minutes before her alarm was set to go off, I took a seat on the side of her bed and started to gently ease her awake (my favorite time of the day).  We talked for a few minutes, and the conversation drifted to her new favorite music.  She rolled towards her nightstand, where an Amazon Echo was resting, and said:  

Alexa - Play my playlist

Lola by the Kinks came on, and we reminisced about how I used to hum that song to her as a baby.  One of those tender moments every parent cherishes.  Moments later, her alarm started going off. 

Alexa - Stop

Alexa - What time is it?

It's 6:45 AM. It’s currently 63°.  The high in Park City today is 74°.  Have a good morning.

Alexa was so affable with my half-awake 11-year-old and I didn’t want to spoil the moment.  However, I knew damn well it wasn't 63 degrees outside, and I was frankly offended by Alexa’s false optimism.  I turned to my daughter and said: “Sorry, but she's wrong about the weather.”  

I know dad, but don’t make her feel bad.  She’s doing her best.

It's a mistake to think that Generation Z, currently aged 10-24, is a simple extension of Millenials.  I frequently hear people ascribe millennial tendencies to a generation that has far more in common with GenX than their immediate predecessors.  GenZ kids have grown up in a very different world, with very different influences than Millennials.  Lumping them into a larger homogenous pool of young people who seem good at technology misses key distinctions that are poised to shape culture and the world we live in.

In this small example, there’s one demonstration of a clear distinction.  Millennials are known for considering their phone an appendage more critical and useful than their own foot.  For GenZ, their experience with information technology is far more tactile, far more integrated into their lives and surroundings.   Instead of being considered magic, instant access to a world of information is standard and, more importantly, expected.  While GenZ still have smartphones in record numbers, they are just as comfortable interacting with the digital world with their voice, or their watch, or even their refrigerator.  The digital world is no longer novel, it's just there.  And while it is cute that my daughter defended Alexa for fear I would hold her disinformation against her, the personalization of the technology, and the opportunity to mine that information for smarter, more effective AI, is right on the horizon.

For now, I think it's interesting for marketers to ponder the fact that a new generation is coming of age.  With them come new behaviors and trends that we have to react to in order to be effective communicators.  We need to be particularly focused on how we stay relevant through new channels like voice search and ensure that the message we are delivering through those channels is contextually appropriate.  Most of all, we have to make sure our young GenZ kids don't miss the bus on picture day because we are too busy writing blogs.