Last week I tuned into YouthSight’s webinar on “Gen Z: The change maker generation” hosted by Youth Marketing Strategy London. It was a fascinating presentation from which I came away feeling positive about the future which in these uncertain times, was frankly refreshing.

Blog by Isobel Finlayson

There’s no denying that Gen Z have had the rough end of the pineapple. Recession, Brexit, Global Pandemic, another recession? A far cry from Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat. It is no wonder that just 10% say they are satisfied with the world around them (dropping from 25% in 2017).

But arguably it is this suffering that has jumpstarted this generation into action. They are brave and bold; willing to stick their neck out to challenge the status quo. Here are three reasons why this generation is already making waves:

 

Activists for positive change

There has been a new wave of activists from Marcus Rashford asking the government to extend free school meals to Amika George campaigning against period poverty. Activism is the new influencing.  This generation is serious about change and we can see that reflected in their intention to vote in the next election which has risen to 68% vs 59% in 2018.

Not #virtuesignalling

Unlike their millennial peers (full disclaimer: I am a millennial), Gen Z would not dream of posting a photo with a virtuous hashtag and getting on with their day. Instead, what they would do is use their TikTok community to register hundreds of tickets to boycott a presidential rally, for example. Gen Z – 1 , Millennial – 0.

 

Diverse & accepting

There has been a 25% increase of 16-24 Tik Tok users from April 2019 to April 2020. These digital communities are the gateway to diversity for a lot of young people in the UK. If you are living in deepest darkest Cornwall, social media gives you that opportunity to experience and see people that are different to you. They see the merit in diversity and inclusivity; 3 in 4 Gen Z like to be surrounded by different people, culture and ideas. Their non-binary approach to life means a diverse and tolerant community united for change.

How can you help as a brand? By being an ally and giving Gen Z a voice. This generation is a highly empathetic bunch who know the world is not perfect, and therefore do not expect brands to be perfect. I, along with many others, have written about this before but authenticity is still the driving factor to best engage this audience. It is not enough to rely on our memories of what it was like to be that age, brands need to engage direct and listen.

I think this generation is encouraging brands to be bolder. To truly stand up for what they believe in. Ben & Jerry’s have been long time advocates of speaking out on social issues and their recent support of the Black Lives Matter movement resonated hugely. They released a powerful statement: “We must dismantle white supremacy. Silence is not an option” with clear cut demands to the Government. The founders were even arrested protesting for BLM in New York. According to YouGov data, the week following, buzz, reputation and fame scores were all nearly doubled with even ice cream sales seeing an increase as a result. Brands like Ben & Jerry’s who authentically challenge social issues, will continue to garner positive sentiment with Gen Z.

To deliver authenticity, brands often choose to back one social issue usually though a charity partnership. Brand to brand partnerships are a great way to unlock more purpose-based opportunities, leveraging the other’s social purpose. It is a relatively unexplored area to date and there are complexities to navigate around being careful not to annoy your existing charity partner.  However, this avenue provides brands with an opportunity to broaden out their social stance and make for a more inclusive position which is likely to appeal and engage our change makers.

 

Time to be bold!