Meta is making a bold move to capture the attention and spending power of Gen Z, intensifying its competition with platforms like TikTok. The tech giant recently revealed a wide array of artificial intelligence (AI) features, ranging from chatbots imbued with distinct personalities to AI-generated stickers. In addition to their existing conversation assistant, Meta AI, users can now engage with AI personas inspired by celebrities such as Tom Brady, Naomi Osaka, Snoop Dogg, and Kendall Jenner, while also creating personalized stickers.
Meta has previously ventured into the Gen Z arena with Reels, which garners a staggering 200 billion daily plays according to Insider Intelligence. Nevertheless, this marks Meta’s inaugural concerted effort to leverage AI for this demographic, and opinions among experts vary regarding its potential success.
Kobie Fuller, an AI investor and partner at Upfront Ventures, sees potential in the concept but believes that execution is key. He expressed reservations about Meta’s celebrity-referencing chatbots, stating, “From the way it was initially marketed—or lack thereof—it just seems cringe”. Fuller emphasized the importance of authenticity, expressing concern that users might find it off-putting if celebrity alter egos are managed by Meta rather than the actual celebrities themselves.
The stakes are high as Gen Z is a prized demographic for both retailers and tech giants. Meta’s AI chatbots will face competition from other AI-driven platforms online and within social media apps, including OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Snapchat’s My AI.
McKinsey research indicates that Gen Z is a willing consumer base, even during economic uncertainty. Dr. Muddu Sudhakar, CEO and founder of Aisera, estimates that Gen Z accounts for over 40 percent of global consumers, while approximately 20% of the U.S. population falls within the Gen Z category.
Younger demographics exhibit a strong affinity for AI, making them a prime target for Meta’s evolving features. According to University of Pennsylvania professor Chris Callison-Burch, as digital natives, Gen Z is poised to become the primary adopter of generative AI.
However, Gen Z also harbors a degree of skepticism, as indicated by data from EY’s “2023 Gen Z Segmentation Study”. Consequently, the successful launch of new AI products is crucial, as missteps could result in Gen Z moving on to alternative platforms.
Marcie Merriman, EY Americas’ cultural insights and customer strategy leader, emphasized the importance of getting AI product rollouts right, noting that poorly functioning technologies can erode trust and alienate a generation of users.
Nonetheless, for Meta and other companies seeking a foothold with Gen Z, this endeavor extends beyond immediate adoption. As Dr. Sudhakar remarked, “This revolution will take 10 years, 20 years”. Gen Z will grow up with these technologies, making it a long-term investment rather than a fleeting trend.
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