Gen Z is the most influential generation yet – in this report, we explore how brands are looking to engage with this digitally native, purpose-driven, and demanding audience.
Talkin ‘bout My Generation
Move over Millennials, the next ‘Gen’ is set to change the fandom game forever. Are brands ready to embrace this unique audience? Thankfully, they’re not all as complicated as the stars of Euphoria.
Typical, isn’t it? Just as you’ve mastered something a new version comes out – new skills required, new technology to master, new complexities to learn. For marketers and brand managers the same rules apply when it comes to generational targeting.
First, we had the Baby Boomers and then Generation X. Easy enough. Things really got interesting with Millennials – they changed the industry forever. They weren’t just the first generation to grow up in a world of technology, they mastered it and then improved it. They had FOMO, the iPhone was their bae and they started sharing their life through the Gram.
Just as marketers were getting to grips with this unique audience, things changed again. Enter Generation Z.
Born between 1995 and 2012, Gen Z entered into a world of fast internet connection, social media, Amazon, YouTube, tablets and mobile devices. In fact, Gen Z is so tech-savvy it puts technology in the same category as commodities like air and water.
Still confused? Check out our recent article: Getting To Know Your Audience 101.
Why they’re leaving brands on read
Gen Z is a massive population that has increasing influence and purchasing power of over $143 billion. However, connecting with the Gen Z audience doesn’t come naturally to many brands – only 8% of Gen Z feels that brands understand their generation. If today’s brands don’t figure it out pronto, they’re going to lose $3 trillion in spending power this generation is predicted to have by 2030 (shots, 2022).
“Gen Z is instant gratification personified,” said Mullen. Their world has limitless options but not enough time with their “eight-second filter”. They know when they are being sold to, but they lack the energy to assess whether something is worth their time. The key to getting past these filters is having a conversation and letting them take control of your brand.
Mental Health, equality, and sustainability > Everything
Gen Zers are extremely progressive; 99% identify mental health as extremely important and 85% want to monetize their passions. They are social-led and inclusive – they value brands that nurture equality over the exclusivity tactics that work for Millenials. If you’re running a no-BS, sustainable brand – pull the right strings and Gen Z are your UGC (user-generated content) heroes.
Here to Create
Gen Z is a generation of ‘creators’ who create honest content aligning with their unique values. They’ve grown up with technology in their pocket that’s powerful enough to allow them to create content worth sharing.
This combination of a desire to create and the ease of access to technology has given rise to ‘influencers’ – a unique set of individuals that live in the digital world of TikTok, YouTube and Instagram and help shape the day-to-day lives of Gen Z. For brands to truly engage Gen Z they must meet them where they are, rather than force them to where brands want them to be. Without this empathy and understanding, the eight-second filter will push brands into obscurity.
To maximise Gen Z’s engagement and create fandom and build brand loyalty, brands need to create a seamless and integrated world for them, with a personalised experience at its core.
Gen Z is the first generation to truly adopt and understand technology and social media. With the right tools and compelling reasons, they won’t just create but also curate. This generation of creators will build a world personalised to them through their likes and dislikes on YouTube, Netflix and through increasing AI technology.
We look at two brands, adidas and Lego who have put Gen Z at the front and centre of their brand strategies as they look to engage and collaborate with this new generation of creators.
adidas sees Gen Z as the ‘creators’ and the brand is so obsessed with them its entire positioning is based around being the creator brand.
Collaboration is key – and not just with global stars like Kanye West. adidas is so in tune with Gen Z that it makes them the stars of its digital campaigns and even makes their designs a reality.
- adidas opens up its brand by actively looking to engage and encourage consumers to participate in its creation process – turning their designs into reality
- adidas considers Generation Z – or digital natives as the brand refers to them – to be its embodiment
- For adidas, digital is the best way to build direct relationships with this audience
- To be successful, it creates a consumer experience that is premium, connected, and personalised
Expert Insight: Roland Auschel Global Sales Executive @ adidas
“We have to be where these people are networking with each other, finding friends, consuming, conversing, and sharing. Here is where we communicate with them and bring our campaigns to life. “
Lego is built on the concept of creating. What the brand has done brilliantly in recent years is innovate for the specific digital demands of Gen Z.
Lego’s Ideas Lab and the Lego Life App allow fans to submit ideas for new sets, create digital models, watch videos, play games and connect with other Lego enthusiasts.
Lego has also adopted another crucial tactic for engaging Gen Z. Forget the bricks, Lego is a front-runner in taking their brand from the physical to the digital – the preferred domain of Gen Z. Movies and online games ensure Gen Z can engage with the brand at a time and place that suits them.
- Ideas Lab allows fans to submit design ideas and then share the profits if the design becomes a reality
- Lego has also created an entirely new universe around its core product – the brick – in order to allow Gen Z to engage with the brand on their terms
- Lego aims to deliver a digital experience to its consumers on a daily basis – with the view of selling a product to them once a month
Expert Insight: Niels Christiansen CEO @ Lego
“I don’t think digital is very different from other stuff, in that we still think the brick and the play system is at the core of what we do. But digital is an opportunity for us to enhance that.”
Case study: Chelsea
We’ve worked with Chelsea Football Club to help them understand and engage with their next generation of fans through their new Junior Blues youth proposition.
Kids Clubs’ across football and other sports feel outdated and disengaging for the new generation of digital natives, resulting in a lack of participation and engagement among young people.
Following in-depth research and workshops with Chelsea’s youth supporters, we created a dynamic digital brand that engages young fans and offers them exclusive access to Chelsea Football Club. Taking inspiration from other popular gaming and entertainment platforms that our audience is engaging with, the new Junior Blues identity brings Chelsea’s youth proposition into the 21st century with video content, games, behind the scenes content, exclusive competitions and access to their favourite players.
The new Junior Blues brand has been created for a generation of digital natives who expect more from the brands they love.
Expert Insight: Why is it important to focus on generational targeting?
Simon Bristow, Creative consultant and Former adidas Global PR Director
“Lots of brands make the mistake that future generations will just engage with their brand in the same way as everyone else. But, as each generation grows the world evolves, which changes the landscape completely.
The Gen Z consumers of today are savvier, more intelligent, more diverse and they live in a world of more choice, more technology and more speed. The brands that have seen real success with Gen Z, like adidas and Lego, have tapped into what the audience is all about – opening up and working with them so they feel like part of the brand.
With Gen Z having so much influence – and purchasing power – brands need to adopt a more strategic approach to evolving with their audiences.”
Tom Love, Creative Director of LoveGunn
“Successful brands are the ones that are in tune with their audience and serve them with content, products and services that empower lives and create memorable experiences. We’re already seeing the increased purchase and persuasion power of Gen-Z and as Simon says, each generation is different from the next, which is a direct result of the global influences around you growing up.
A large part of our brand work with Chelsea for the Junior Blues offering was to engage with a global group of Gen Z’s. Alongside Chelsea’s own research and attending large focus groups and workshops, we set up a special task force of opinionated 6-11-year-olds in the UK and US who could provide us with feedback along the way, ensuring we were producing an experience that was right for the target market.
By interacting with the right people (in this case, kids) from the very start of the project, we were able to understand how ‘Generation Z’ have a different approach and expectation around how they interact with brands. They want to have a much stronger relationship with the brands they choose to engage with and those experiences and interactions need to become increasingly more personalised, digital and executed in a way that is relevant.
Making sure your brand is relevant and accessible to Gen Z is going to become an important and ever-increasing indicator of overall brand success for Marketers and Brand Managers over the next couple of years.”