Five Macro Considerations When Influencing Gen Z

Generation Z - we are hearing a lot more about you! As is the way with demographic cohorts, there are many names for this generation (The Founders, Post-Millennials, the iGeneration to name a few...).

It is thought that the term was coined by Crispin Reed, Brand Strategist at Sterling Brands who stated, “Generation Z [are] a new set of people who take media fragmentation and multi-tasking to a further level”. Although there are no exact dates for the Gen Z group, demographers typically consider their birth dates to be from the mid-1990’s to early 2000’s. The cited significant aspect of this generation is that they are ‘digital natives’.

Although research has showed that fundamentally generational societal patterns do repeat (the Strauss-Howe generational theory details the influence of parents on new generations), the changed technological landscape has created some radical shifts in behaviours and interactions. Never before has a generation been so digitally savvy, with social connectivity at all stages of life. And arguably in this bite-size culture, where there is instant access to everything, Gen Z are a tough crowd to please.  

Importantly, all content needs to justify its value as being ‘time well spent’. It needs to benefit the user at all times and feel worthwhile, with a core driver being the need for authenticity.

Here we outline five macro considerations for brand marketers when targeting Generation Z and spotlight five brands that have done well.(Backed-up by conversations with our Gen Z friends)

1. Foster Tribe mentality

We live in a world full of contradictions. On one side we have access to more information than ever, with a greater sense of transparency and global connectivity. On the other side, there is much more fragmentation and a lack of trust. As a result people are leaning towards being with those they feel are ‘their own’; Generation Z love to feel part of a tribe.

We are seeing brands harness this, creating communities and aiding a sense of belonging. Eat With is an online social dining business and app that brings people together in different cities around the world to eat together at host tables. With a view to bridging the gap between technology and interpersonal relationships through dining and food, businesses like Eat With facilitate like-minded communities and sharable experiences.

2. Curate shared experiences

The rise of ‘influencer’ marketing is an example of how brands are using social influencers to help people choose what products to buy. Furthermore as much of social media revolves around curating everyday experiences, Generation Z take huge pride in their online self and what their experiences say about them. Brands that help facilitate this ‘curation’ can become a partner in experience.

In order to take advantage of Valentine’s Day whilst promoting a good cause, Axe asked consumers to submit photos of themselves kissing using the hashtag #kissforpeace in honour of the brand’s global mission of nonviolence. Axe shared its favourites across its social media channels and digital billboards in Times Square, New York.

3. Champion holistic health

The world health organisation forecasts that by 2020 depression will be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease and one in four families worldwide is likely to have a family member with a behavioural or mental disorder. Generation Z will be exposed to mental illness a lot more than previous generations. Therefore, we can expect Gen Z to truly embrace the notion of 'mindful' or ‘holistic’ health and to explore the power of the mind and its effect (both negative and positive) on health and wellbeing. 

We have seen a big shift in the beauty industry, led by brands like MAC, Dove, Lush and Illamasqua, who are championing individuality and the idea that feeling happy and empowered is the best form of beauty product. Although some may argue that connecting our mental wellbeing with personal care is a step too far, we are seeing a positive attempt from brands at connecting their products with the idea of self care. Johnson & Johnson’s Clean and Clear skincare range made history with its #seetherealme campaign that curated personal coming of age stories through social media that dealt with the personal struggles that come with learning to understand our true identities. 

4. Design for individual needs

With more data than ever at people’s disposal, Generation Z will need tools for combating ‘data deluge’ so only truly valuable information reaches them. Brands will be able to know more about their consumers than ever before and as a result need to be more focused on who they are targeting and why. Personalisation will remain key and should become more and more specific.

Modiface, an augmented reality (AR) company serving beauty brands like Loreal and Sephora with custom try-on apps, has integrated its simulation technology into a conversational beauty advisor on Facebook Messenger. The AR bot, which has knowledge of 20,000 beauty products, enables users to discover items by chatting about what colours or brands they are looking for. It allows users to try different options by uploading a selfie, which is then used to show them how they would look in a specific product.

5. Embrace your power to drive positive change

Now more than ever businesses alongside politicians are expected to have a responsibility to bring about positive social change. A recent study from the Global Strategy Group in America states that 81% of Americans believe that corporations should take actions to address important issues facing the world. As Generation Z are more involved than ever in fighting for the social issues they believe in, companies can no longer afford to not bring CSR into the complete business purpose.

The fashion industry is one both championing and in need of reform, where there are many brands with a strong cause at their core. The Reformation, which has been championed by Vogue and has more than 640,000 Instagram followers, is a ethical clothing company at the forefront of shifting thinking in what a sustainable clothing company could be. And now with giants like H&M, Mago and Zara launching sustainable collections we can hope to see this trickling down to the mass fashion brands.

Thanks to Happen Innovation for your insightful thoughts on this topic.