Updated: Jun 27
Understanding what unifies and differentiates this generation is important to keep your brand relevant.
From Tiktok to Youtube, Generation Z has been the first generation to have never grown up without technology. Known as digital natives, organizations of all sizes need to understand the generation fully as they enter adulthood. As global connectivity soars, generational shifts could come to play a more important factor in defining behavior than socioeconomic differences, making it imperative to understand the role of brand in Gen Z decision-making. Educating yourself on "Zoomer" needs and expectations and applying this knowledge to your brand strategy, story and marketing communications will help you stay a step ahead from competitors.
Gen Z was raised in the aftermath of the 2008 recession which brought a time of global economic stress. As such, a common characteristic of Gen Z is that they are less idealistic than Millennials. This realistic, pragmatic view makes them evaluate their very act of consuming. They are purpose driven and desire to understand the big picture, which makes them most likely to support organizations that align with their values. Education, wellness and inclusion are key priorities for this generation.
It's important to note there are differences within this group. The current age range they fall into is 13 to 24-year-olds, encompassing those who are making a salary and those who cannot drive. Segmenting them into life stages such as middle/high school, college, and young professionals makes a difference for successfully targeting them.
There are a few common behaviors of this generation that impact how an organization can authentically and believably connect with them.
A top Gen Z behavior is their search for truth. With the readily accessible internet, Gen Z is on track to being the best-educated generation yet and the most likely to know when they are being "sold to." This makes the importance of transparency and authenticity paramount. Traceability and transparency are crucial. Gen Z doesn't distinguish between the ethics of a brand vs. the company that owns it, or its external partners, so it's important your brand values are upheld throughout your supply chain. If not done, companies are susceptible to being called out on social media for their poor strategic decisions. Olaplex hair care knows this first hand. One of the company's best selling products went viral as it was about to be banned in the EU and UK for a "reprotoxic" ingredient. The company tweaked the formulation and proactively communicated this via social media to alleviate concerns and address questions. Net, it's critical to be open and honest and incorporate these qualities into your brand strategy and brand activation.
An Affinity for Nostalgia
Along with growing up in a post-recession environment, Gen Z’s newest trend is reliving trends from the 90s and early 2000s. As a portion of Gen Z is coming of age, they along with Millennials are seeking refuge in the nostalgia of the simplicity of their childhood. Y2K is trending on Tiktok with videos referencing fashion, movies, food, and toys. These memories bring comfort and reassurance in an uncertain world. Tailoring your branding and marketing to reflect the essence of “vintage” 90s or early 2000s would resonate well with this generation. Abercrombie’s new rebrand is an example of how an iconic brand has once again found popularity by focusing on what's important to this cohort - individuality, diversity, authenticity and acceptance. Its new styles are updated yet familiar.
Gen Z considers themselves as global citizens, much in part, because they are. They are more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations. As such, diversity and inclusion are key values and they want to see representation in the brands they purchase and work for. Furthermore, they increasingly expect brands to “take a stand” against injustices happening around the world. It's important for companies to take a position on the topics that make sense for their brand and take action to create believability. Proof of commitment is critical to building trust with them.
Since its inception, Salesforce has focused on building stronger relationships as the company believes unity can change the world for better. The company's core values include equality and sustainability, which are supported by philanthropic, social justice and climate advocacy programs. Importantly, they publish reports to share their progress. (source: https://stakeholderimpactreport.salesforce.com/)
Seeking a Deeper Connection
Not sure how to learn about Gen Z? Definitely leverage social media. Per SproutSocial, "sixty-six percent of Gen Z consumers state that social media is an essential part of their lives, but their reasoning is unique. The most common reason Gen Z uses social media is to kill time, making them the only generation to rank that above connecting with family and friends." Entertainment value is an important consideration when creating content for them. They're also fast adopters of social commerce, using platforms to discover, purchase and engage with brands. And they want companies to personalize communications, to get to know them on an individual level and offer them opportunities to share their opinions. Insider Intelligence and Campaign Monitor offer additional perspectives about Gen Z and Heepsy can assist with finding the right influencers.
Learning what makes Gen Z unique will set your brand up for future success. Knowing this generation is soon to become of major purchasing age, leaving them out of your marketing strategy would be a miss. Understanding who they are, specifically their needs and expectations for your industry will help you establish and solidify a relationship that will build your bottom line.
The Brand Evaluator is a joint venture of independent brand builders – Michelle Thompson, BrandSpark Design LLC and Christine Sech, Brave Oak Brand Building LLC. We work with emerging businesses to help them clearly and meaningfully convey their organization’s value through brand building strategy, design and content that drives results.