Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that gender equality, diversity, evolving traditional gender expectations and gender as a whole, is an exceptionally hot issue.
People all across the globe are battling outdated stereotypes and archaic views and pushing for better treatment for marginalised groups of people.
Fresh attitudes towards social progression are being widely spread, primarily by the younger members of our community; Gen Z. Yes, Gen Z is at it again.
Not only are they breaking through the bullsh*t by cutting back on the drink, drugs and discos (yes I used that word, I regret nothing), they’re trying to make the world better for everyone.
They’re battling bullying, finding ways to raise the voices of marginalised people and making social media a nicer and more positive place to be. And this is all through being more critical of traditional gender and beauty norms.
Changing the beauty landscape
The amount that Gen Z are spending on beauty products has increased by 20% over the past year. This is primarily due to a changing approach to make-up and beauty products, spurred on by forward-thinking brands and a diverse range of influencers.
You see, it isn’t just that young women are purchasing more make-up. There is now a much bigger market of people, who want to participate in the beauty industry, including male-identifying, trans and non-binary people.
A number of brands, including the likes of MAC, Illamasqua and Fenty, now recruit a broader variety of people to model and represent their skincare and makeup ranges. They include a wider range of skin tones and types, people of different ages and genders, meaning they’re now evolving what was once a ‘traditionally’ female product range, to become a creative outlet that is aimed at and represented by everyone and anyone.
Role models have gravitated beyond the typical celebrities, actors and musicians from ten years ago. Influencers are now paving the way, inspiring the next generation to feel more comfortable in their own skin and grow their confidence.
All industries, all the time
It’s not just fashion and makeup who have and can change. All industries can learn more about gender evolution and incorporate it into their products and marketing. Not only will this help solidify their position in their market over those who are not, but more importantly, this is the development of modern culture.
By failing to create a gender-neutral approach you’re limiting your potential audience. By not representing all types of relationships, beyond the ‘traditional’ nuclear family, you’re limiting your potential customer base. By labelling things as ‘for men’ or ‘for women’ you’re going to annoy a whole bunch of people who don’t need a colour to define what they should purchase – we’re looking at you razor blades and Bic pens.
It’s almost unnecessary to gender products these days anyway. Now, most people will buy a product that they like or need regardless of the marked gender.
If you find a shower gel you like the smell off that’s labelled ‘for men’ but alas you are not a male identifying person, fear not, you can still buy it… So why do brands feel the need to still label as such? It would make a whole lot more sense to label it with the product use and/or smell i.e. sandalwood shower gel or rose shower gel.
Express yourself, but don’t be a d*ck about it
Being part of social progress, as a brand, means moving with the times. Just because a few bad eggs on Twitter claim that brands are ‘pandering’ because they feature a same-sex couple on their cereal advert or a female engineer in a recruitment video, doesn’t mean you should pay them any attention.
Gen Z is all about the freedom of self-expression, but they do take issue when this self-expression comes at the determinant to someone else’s self-confidence, safety or wellbeing.
The trolls on twitter are expressing themselves but at the expense of others who are simply trying to live as themselves. Similarly, a young boy on YouTube posting video of his make-up tutorials is simply expressing himself, hurting no-one. It’s important to learn the difference and who to support.
Understanding the way in which Gen Z communicate with one another and the messaging that they find appropriate is essential to meeting their needs.
Without a deep exploration into tone, messaging and terminology of the generation, brands end up looking foolish and out of touch. Think Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock. This also leaves them open to ridicule by using words and outdated phrases inappropriately or appearing to pander to make a sale.
Not only this, but your brand needs to figure out where to find them. With an estimation of over 60% of Gen Z using adblockers, if you want to get in their good graces, you need to find a new way into their lives. This should consider the use of social media and meaningful content to boot.
This change also needs to be fully realised internally. Without the support of everyone in the business, the gesture is hollow. Education is key here. It’s important that everyone internally understands why this progress is vital. From here, you can generate better ideas in terms of R&D and future marketing strategies.
Brands need to be real on the inside, to have a complementary exterior. They need to hire a diverse range of people and give them the tools and freedom to succeed. They need to listen to their ideas, their criticisms of the current industry state and their plans to evolve this. They have the inside knowledge of what it means to exist amongst these communities, and finally, they will often have key insights into how your brand can make the world better for them and their peers – that’s where your true brand value will lie.
Also published on Medium.