A new generation of young people has entered the chat. Gen Z is a group of young, diverse, and “woke” people between the ages of 10 and 25 (1997 – 2012). ANELE GABORONE explores ways your brand can build meaningful relationships with this cool generation.
Generation Z (Gen Z) makes up more than one-third of the world’s population and will soon become the largest cohort of consumers worldwide. Brands that would like to take advantage of this opportunity will need to understand who Gen Z is and what they are all about. Brands cement relationships when people are young– capturing hearts in developmental years must be critical for creating long-standing relationships.
So, who is Gen Z?
Gen Z is a group of young, diverse, and “woke” people between the ages of 10 and 25 (1997 – 2012). They have grown up in a diverse, fast-paced, and ever-changing world, meaning that they are less fazed than previous generations by differences in race, sexual orientation, religion, and other beliefs. They are also the first digital population; they were born right into a world of peak technological innovation. They have always lived in a world where information is at their fingertips, so they have a wealth of knowledge and access to products from all over the world, making them shrewd consumers (I can attest to this, hahaha).
When it comes to selecting brands, authenticity, sustainability, and engagement have been identified as factors that the youth hold close to their hearts. This market supports brands that share their story, live their brand values, take a stand, get involved, and are consistent in their messaging and actions – not just jumping on a cause when it’s convenient for them.
For the youth, knowing and living your brand value is of great importance. A brand needs to have integrity, symbolism, consistency, and be credible. A lot of brands around the world showed that they are not authentic during the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement on #BlackoutTuesday by posting black squares on Instagram to express solidarity with those who were protesting on the streets.
This gesture may have seemed well-intentioned, but for most brands, that’s where it ended, they went back to not supporting Black Lives which showed consumers that they were not being authentic when posting the black squares, they were just showing face.
According to Estay (2022), 23% of young people have boycotted a brand due to a lack of authenticity, which goes to show that they are serious about what they believe in. People cancel brands due to unethical practices, cruelty, and poor-quality products. Young people are not afraid to drop a brand when they are not aligned, they put authenticity first. Yes, cancel culture does exist, it’s not just a Twitter thing!
Young people are highly engaged on social media platforms, so it only makes sense that brands are too. Brands need to be where their audience is to engage with them and see what people have to say and foster community online. Gen Z prefers a brand that keeps up with trends and creates content and products accordingly.
Gen Z has a desire to contribute to the products that they consume. I mean, imagine wearing or buying something knowing that one of your favourite brands considered your suggestions and implemented them. ‘Co-creation’ is the term, and if brands want to attract Gen Z and build loyalty, this is what they need to do.
Today’s young people care about the world around them, and they are passionate about doing their part to preserve the environment, fight homelessness and unemployment, and support worthy causes. They are most likely to switch from one brand to another if the second supports a cause that they care about. Brands need to develop a company mission that goes deeper than just making more sales, they need to have a purpose.
In conclusion, I think that brands have a gem in Gen Z. They may not have a lot of equity today, but they are already influencing the people around them. Think about the choices we leave to them; where do you want to go for dinner? What should we get you for your birthday? Which brand of AirPods should we get for your cousin? Gen Z have quite the influence! Investing in engaging them with your brands in the channels they prefer is key to brand enthusiasm, and eventually brand love, but authenticity is the key.
Consider this mouthful next time you have the campaign to run or messaging to disseminate. There’s a good chance you’ll get my audience.
An article written by Anele Gaborone, Public Relations Practitioner at Incepta Communications. Anele joined the organisation 6 months ago as an intern after winning the Mathata Gasennelwe Award as Top Marketing Student 2021. She has now been employed on a full-time basis at the strategic communications company.