This blog was written by Aisata, a D+P intern who is a freshman at Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School.
People who are born between 1995 and 2015 are known as Generation Z, and I am one of those individuals. We have grown up alongside the Internet, know the ins-and-outs of every social media platform, and we are always on the lookout for a strong Wi-Fi connection. We are the next generation.
Businesses often wonder how to reach such a complex, digital-savvy generation, now adding this specific segment to their target audiences. According to The Huffington Post, Gen Z is less focused, better at multi-tasking, and expect more from businesses and brands than their Millennial predecessors. Being a member of Gen-Z myself, I can confirm these generational traits: I can’t watch TV without scrolling on my phone, I like being able to work on multiple projects at once, and I care about the future of our society and support businesses that feel the same.
So, how do you gain a connection with this unique and hyper-aware generation? Good question! While the answers may be different for each one of us, allow me to give my perspective on what Generation Z wants from brands.
Do Your Part and Take a Stance
We are at an age and time where the world’s condition is becoming concerning. Gen-Z is aware of this, and many of us are a part of the group of activists trying to bring goodwill to this planet. Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer an added bonus for a company; it is an expectation. My values play a strong role in the purchases I make. I only support organizations that contribute to bettering the world—whether that is preventing pollution and violence, or protecting the habitat of endangered animals, just to name a few examples. By finding an emotional connection, I feel like my money is going to a company that cares deeply about the same things I look to champion and support.
On a similar note, let’s talk politics… or not. As a 15-year-old, I can’t say that politics are my forte or even one of my interests. What I can say is that I realize how publicizing your organization’s political stances can impact your company’s image or sales both positively and negatively which is a definite risk. Instead of brands projecting a specific view onto their audience, I think it would be beneficial to use their platforms to promote the right to vote. This allows brands to take a stand – something our generation wants to see – but also allows them to remain neutral. This lets our generation know that they are a responsible organization that cares about the future for our citizens.
Express Yourself through Creativity
Confession: I tend to scroll past ads that promote the same thing everyone else is promoting. It’s less interesting and less expressive. What catches my attention is something original; something I’ve never seen before. Like most people in Gen-Z, I’m all about setting trends instead of following them. My generation craves expression. I prefer something that screams my vibe and something that matches my personality. I want products that make me comfortable and say clearly to everyone around me, “This Is Who I Am!” Brands: use your messaging, stunts and advertisements to step outside the box and create products that make me want to stop and stare.
If I were to take a guess, I would assume that Generation Z is rather different than many brand’s current target audience. We are definitely unlike the Baby Boomers and Generation X, and even different from our closest group, the Millennials. However, that does not mean you should change every marketing/PR/advertising concept about your company to fit our mold. That approach will be obviously inauthentic, and we will know it’s fake. And just like our society doesn’t like fake news, Gen-Z doesn’t appreciate phoniness. We appreciate passion and meaning, not pretending to be something just for the sake of a specific sale or campaign. Organizations need to learn how to adjust to a new audience while sharing the same message regardless of age. It’s not about changing the message for the 80-year-old Gram and the high school senior, it’s about changing how you deliver the message.
All in all, Gen-Z knows that learning how to adjust to our complicated thinking may be a rough transition for companies and brands, and we’re willing to speak up to share our perspectives on what works and what doesn’t. Being open-minded is how brands will earn a deep and personal connection with the generation that is changing the world. And once they acquire our respect and loyalty, there’s no telling what that can mean for their success. Just don’t get comfortable – trends only last for so long, and there will be another generation ready to make their mark before we know it.