Millennials are a thing of the past, especially for marketers! Why? Well, because Gen Z (those born after 1995) is, or should be, top of mind when it comes to overall brand success. A Recent study by brand consultancy BBMG and strategy firm GlobeScan suggests that Gen Z is twice as likely as any other generation to care about issues of equality and three times more likely to believe the purpose of a business is to “serve communities and society.” Gen Z believes businesses can make a difference through their own online efforts, a claim made by 43% of this generation versus 30% for all others. On top of it all, Gen Z is increasingly skeptical. They are only likely to trust that large companies are operating with society’s best interests in mind when the companies show it through action. Now let that sink in. Really sink in.
The verdict? This generation of consumers wants brands to do more than just make and sell products. They want brands who care. Brands who are at the forefront of issues related to equality, closely associated with a social cause, and committed to making ethical business decisions. They expect brands to be open, honest and provide complete visibility into their successes, failures and everything in between. Earlier this month, a study from DoSomething.org found that two-thirds of Gen-Z consumers experience an increase in positive feelings about a brand because of its association with a social cause, and 58% said such an association could spur a purchase. This information provides valuable opportunities for brands to win the trust, loyalty, and active participation of this emerging generation. Accounting for roughly 61 million people in the US, Gen Z is not a market businesses can afford to to miss.
With that said, the affection for "authenticity" that Millenials have carried into adulthood is not going anywhere. Gen Z, too, can sense authenticity, or inauthenticity for that matter, and it can dictate the success of a brand. BBMG said its research points to five strategies that brands can employ to appear more authentic to a Gen Z audience. These include; standing up for Gen Z’s values and beliefs, viewing Gen Z as active co-creators to help shape conversations, standing up for those left out, acting as platforms for the personal journey of Gen Z-ers, and speaking honestly about the brand’s strategies and challenges. According to the DoSomething report findings, many efforts are not breaking through and getting noticed by Gen Z. This is largely because brands are failing to effectively broadcast such associations and sufficiently integrate across them their supply chains. On the opposite end, new research recently published in the Journal of Advertising Research suggests that brands should avoid being overly emotional or relying on guilt in their cause-related marketing. It sounds like the space between getting your social association noticed and being over-the-top emotional is a fine line for brands to walk. Procurement can help navigate this unchartered territory by supporting Marketing in identifying agencies who can successfully execute on these strategies without overdoing it.
With the growing shift towards sustainability and “green” efforts, dare I say that Gen-Z is going even further? More than even their predecessors, they’re pushing brands to create meaningful solutions to meet the needs of society and leverage their influence to move humanity forward. Social and political views aside, there is no denying that sustainability initiatives and positive brand experiences have the power to inspire. This inspiration to join forces and shape a future we can believe in is what matters most.