The world is rapidly changing. In between heightened awareness of financial disparity and increased efforts to tackle prejudices, there’s also the matter of climate change causing severe environmental damage. It’s no wonder that Gen Z is stepping up to the plate.
Now, more than ever, we’re seeing the younger members of our global community speak up for dramatic change to the way the world works. With the rise and accessibility of social media, there’s more opportunity than ever for the youth of the world to actually have a real say on their future.
They’re facing off with the biggest and most powerful companies in the world and pushing for better. They want to ensure their own future (which doesn’t exist in a desolate wasteland) as humanity’s prospects look bleaker every single day.
With their significant platform and capital to do right by their ‘future’ customers and support in sustaining the wider world, brands need to sit down and listen to these influencers, intently.
Their voices and opinions will shape the way in which brands will behave, produce and dispose of their products and waste materials in the near future. Without a close alignment and endorsement from these voices, brands could see themselves dying out much sooner than anticipated.
Push for respect
One of the worst things that a brand can do now is to facilitate the presumption that younger people don’t know as much as their older or more affluent counterparts. In fact, the youth of today do not know a world without the internet. Many see this as a catalyst for a generation who are ‘lazy’, ‘entitled’ or ‘narcissistic’. On the contrary, they may love Snapchat and selfies but they also have an endless stream of information and knowledge at their disposal.
Not only this, they actually want to learn. They rapidly share information and build platforms across social media to voice their new-found knowledge. They’re also fearless in their takedown of anything or anyone who might inadvertently or intentionally try to disrupt the progress that is being made. This should make brands with questionable ambassadors, practises and attitudes, very uncomfortable.
Moreover, brands need to take a stand against those that facilitate negativity against their generation. Publications like the Daily Mail are a breeding ground for expressing hatred towards the likes of minority groups, immigrants, women, people of colour, anyone isn’t straight, the list goes on an on. And Gen Z isn’t buying it.
This means that brands need to stop funding hate. Pressure groups have been urging more brands to stop paying for advertising space in these publications and urge them to ‘make hate unprofitable’. Their core goal is to persuade advertisers to pull their support from publications that spread hate and division.
Refresh your thinking
Marketing must evolve to meet the community it wants to reach. The ways in which we were able to communicate with Baby-Boomers simply won’t work with Gen Z.
Gen Z live different lives to their predecessors. As a generalisation, something which we shouldn’t really do as marketers but will continue to do anyway, they don’t smoke or drink to the same extent as the likes of Millennials, Gen X and Boomers, alongside living overall more healthy and conscious lifestyles.
They’re literally too busy to waste time getting hammered – instead, they’re trying to save the world and carve out their future. Not to mention they have better plans for how to spend their money and their time. We explored the Gen Z wellness culture more, in a previous blog.
You can’t buy loyalty
Instead of thinking about how you can push the hard sell onto this generation, you need to better explore how your company can support their belief structure. You shouldn’t jump on-board causes which you cannot back up with clear evidence on how your wider company supports them.
For example, you cannot claim to support saving the environment from plastic pollution, if you all you sell are products which are comprised of single-use plastics.
Equally, you cannot claim to support the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and join in with Pride, if you’re creating your products in sweatshops located in countries where there is strict anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in place or host a brand ambassador with homophobic views.
Instead, your brand needs to review its current processes and look at what’s worth more. Is it earning the loyalty of the next generation, supporting a better quality of life quality for marginalised communities and the survival of the natural environment, or is it literally just profit?
After all, if there’s no people or planet, there’s also no profit.
Ultimately, without a brand focus that considers the wider world, you might soon come up against some very powerful voices which could make trading very difficult for you.
Not only this, companies with any kind of platform need to begin educating their followers and customers. We expect influencers and public figures to educate the masses, so why do we exclude brands from this?
If anything we should be pestering them more to teach the general public about the things that ‘the establishment’ doesn’t; whether this is through choice, time or outdated processes.
A tall order?
A report conducted by We Are Social, earlier this year, revealed that Gen Z takes their education into their own hands and use the internet to substitute their learning. They want to explore the world in new directions and facts, not necessarily taught in school.
One example of this was the lack of education in schools regarding Black British history, with young people taking to the internet to find out about their peers and their own history in their own time.
Brands need to conduct and study similar research, particularly those who may have exploited these marginalised groups in the past. Gen Z isn’t looking for perfection, but what they are looking for is genuine intentions with real-world outcomes.
When given a platform and the capacity to spread messages far and wide in a short space of time, there should be no excuse for brands to not establish a point of view.
It might seem like Gen Z ‘expect a lot’ from brands, but ultimately, they just want them to use their power for good, take a stance and give back to the world and people that they may have trodden on to climb up into their ivory towers.
Also published on Medium.