This year Gen Zs became around 40% of all consumers. Meaning that the decisions this generation takes and will take will affect every industry; they have a buying power of approximately $45 billion and they have a thing or two to say about how they will spend it. Born between 1995 and 2010, they are the first truly digital generation: they are hyper-connected and their access to information is almost limitless. Nonetheless, Gen Zs are more than just Snapchat and Tik Tok. So, what is this generation actually all about?
Gen Zs are so hard to define because they don’t want to be defined.
They not only believe in the importance of diversity in companies, politics, art, movies, etc. but they, themselves are diverse.
Gen Z is the most diverse generation in the US in terms of race and ethnicity, being 48% nonwhite. For them, diversity is a core value to live by, one they constantly look for in what they buy and how they vote.
They want and demand from brands diversity of race and gender, but also of identity and orientation, and they want it all at the same time.
They are the generation of intersectionality — Gen Zs will have more individuals identifying themselves as non-binary or third gender — so, they look for and expect institutions, entertainment, and brands to embrace all kinds of diversity.
More importantly, they are not afraid to take a stand when it comes to these issues. When looking for jobs, they want an environment that welcomes diversity, both outside in their marketing and inside in the make-up of their workforce and hiring practices.
If they don’t know, they will find out. If they can’t find it, they won’t trust it.
As the first natively digital generation, they learned how to find everything online, and they are constantly on the lookout. Gen Zs will take the time to discover what a company is all about before committing to buying from them.
Close to 30% of them have said that they actively seek out brands with which they share values Not only this, but they will hold brands accountable.
According to a McKinsey study, Gen Z’s do not differentiate between the ethics of a brand, the company that owns it, and its network. They want transparency in all aspects of a brand, from how the product is made, to the working conditions of their employees, to the politics held by their owners and board members.
Meaning that if a brand promotes itself as diverse but lacks diversity in their teams, or if a brand advertises their product as green, but is far from being eco-friendly, they will notice the contradiction and move on to a more transparent brand.
They expect brands to use their own platforms to fight for what they believe in; at the same time, they look for brands to get involved in what Gen Zs are doing.
After all, they are the #MarchForOurLives generation, an event that saw nearly 1.5 million people take to the streets to protest against gun violence, and they see in brands potential partners in their fights. Lyft, a ridesharing business partnered with #MFOL by giving free rides to anyone that RSVP’d to attend the march.
Having brands and people sharing the same values is how they form communities. And with community comes loyalty. Just as connected as they are, they want to be connected to their brands.
Forming a community is a must for any brand, but Gen Zs want to be involved.
They are looking for brands to promote social change initiatives that consumers can be a part of. They don’t expect brands to do it alone; they want to be part of the change they want to see.
Simultaneously, they want to be involved in cultural creation. They are searching for brands with an open cultural infrastructure in which they are welcome to participate. Just imagine what Gen Zs and brands could create together.
Wendy’s is a great and fun example of a brand that is truly connecting with its consumers, and therefore building a community. They are politically outspoken, have a very unique voice on social media, and create content tailored for Gen Zs. Wendy’s Twitter has over 3.5M followers, they released an album on Spotify, and have their own podcast.
Wendy’s Chief Concept and Marketing Officer explained that their success in building a community and attracting Gen Z is because they have invested in a two-way social media dialogue; they want to listen and learn from their customers, while at the same time focusing on being a magnet for young people, and not a mirror. Just visit Wendy’s Twitter and you can get a taste of the community they have formed.
Amnesty international’s Future of humanitysurvey shows that 41% of people aged 18–25 find climate change to be the most important issue the world is currently facing. Gen Zs are worried for the world they will have to live in when they reach adulthood.
This generation cares deeply about ethical shopping; and, as such, they are embracing second-hand shopping more than previous generations. They are turning their back on fast fashion companies and traditional retailers.
In fact, 26% of Gen Zs believe that the environment should be the top priority for companies.
Gen Z have a “buy less — buy better” mentality; they are more willing to buy fewer clothes, recycle, reuse, and even learn how to repurpose them.
The younger generation prefers sustainability and is increasingly against mass-produced goods. According to Kati Chitrakorn, marketing editor for Vogue Business, “For today’s kids fashion is less about fitting in and more about making choices that reflect their own identity” an identity that strives to reflect their generation’s concern over the environment and, at the same time, their commitment to doing something about it.
This is actually great news for brands. Purpose over profit can also lead to business success. Patagonia’s CEO Rose Marcario said it loud and clear: “Any time that we do something good for the environment, we make more money”.
Patagonia has a clear purpose, they want to save “our home planet”, after giving millions away to organizations fighting climate change, the sales went up, especially in the younger demographics. Why? Because Gen Zs want to be part of the change, and they trust their wallets can be part of it.
Faith in the future
Of course not all Gen Zs are the same, but they do have a strong generational culture. In their short lives they have seen the economy fail, governments and politicians fail to deliver their promises to their people, and companies fail to stand up for the values they advertise. Nevertheless, Gen Zs believe there can be a better future for them, with only 6% being fearful about the future.
They are also a generation that grew up in the midst of social change, saw the advent of social media organizations; and sees innovation as an everyday thing.
Having access to social media from a young age allowed them to develop strong and loud voices. They are vocal with their suggestions and solutions, and they love hacking problems. They are pragmatic, looking for real and efficient solutions that can bring about the world they wish to live in, and they know they can’t do it alone.
Communities, brands, and governments need to work together and do so quickly.
This generation’s differentiating factor is not just the internet, social media, or technology, but the culture they have developed from inhabiting these virtual spaces.
They want to be involved with policy, brands, education, etc. and they want to turn that involvement into concrete action; if we don’t harvest their unique energy, we will be missing out.
They are less concerned about what’s next in technology, and more concerned about what’s driving change, what’s diverse and open-minded, and what’s going to save their planet.
Gen Z is all about what’s valuable for the world.