On Gen Z, Sustainability and How 2020 Changed Marketing Forever

It’s no secret that COVID has impacted us all.  Younger generations have been hit hard by job loss, prom cancellations, college interruptions and more.  These same younger consumers are the ones who continue to create trends from technology to food to entertainment.  They also prefer brands whose values lean towards their own.  In category after category where there is a proliferation of choice, when price differences are small Gen Z will frequently buy the brands that add good to society and align to their value.

Four things to consider when thinking about Gen Z

1. Training algorithms…. Not dogs.

While I am working on training my new puppy, these young consumers are training algorithms so their feeds have more of the content they want and less of the ____ they don’t.

2. Think honesty, not transparency

There has been a lot of corporate conversations about transparency.  I think that’s only part of the opportunity.  A better path may be to think about how your brand can be more honest and human.  How can your brand own some of the past problems and turn them into future solutions?

3. Social is news

According to a Morning Consult report titled “Understanding Gen Z,” which interviewed 1,000 18-21 year olds, 49% of Gen Z uses social media as a primary news source. Only 17% of older consumers use social media as a primary news source.  This creates all kinds of challenges and opportunities. What can you learn from YouTube and TikTok?

4. Make empathy an action verb

Middle school was interrupted.  Prom was cancelled.  College was delayed.  Jobs were lost disproportionately for this generation that was used to waiting tables, working a summer internship and tackling new projects.  How can your brand be its most empathetic self?

Finally in a world with so many brand choices, when price often converges, Gen Z will often pick a brand whose values align with theirs.  Need a new business model to come up with new solutions?  Consider the model below as adding purpose and making profit are not mutually exclusive.

Jeff Fromm, President, FutureCast, a subsidiary at Barkley