In the battle of the generations, a new warrior has entered the ring: Gen Z and their voice is getting louder. They were born in the early millennium and are starting to make their own money, enough to buy what they want.
So, who are Generation Z? And how do we steer their tastes towards us now that they are getting paid jobs?
Who is Gen Z?
Generation Z, or Gen Z, or occasionally GenZen, are the generation of people born between 1995 and 2010. The newest and youngest generation is quickly growing a voice online. They are defined mainly by the fact that they will have never known a world without the internet, whereas the previous generation, Millennials, grew up with the internet and its slow integration into the world. Millennials run scared from Gen Z’s middle hair partings and low rider jeans.
They are passionate about world problems, showing up significantly to the latest COP26 events to protest a lack of action against climate change, or posting their support of the BLM movement on Instagram, or debating the latest issues on Twitter. This isn’t mutually exclusive to Gen Z, of course, but it has made an appearance earlier in life and fiercer than other generations.
As the generation starts to leave school, they have learned that the best way to attack or support brands is with their wallets. Observing Gen Z culture, you will see a lot of talk of boycotting brands that they don’t like, and approaching brands that stand for something, or supporting small, POC, LGBT, or local businesses.
So how do we appeal to this steadfast generation?
As per their definition, this is a group of people who have never known life without the internet. They will have watched YouTube videos to keep them calm as a child, and their first fight with their parents will have been about when they could get their first phone. They are on a lot of platforms and will know how to find what they are looking for from a band by entirely staying online.
If you are going to appeal to Gen Z you need to lean into this. If something can be done, it’s only worth doing on a smartphone. Therefore, you must have your social media as helpful as possible and your website as impressive as possible. Gen Z users are harsh critics who will not wait for a website to load or look for a workaround if there is a glitch on the site obstructing their sale. If they cannot find what they are looking for online, they won’t try again in-store, and you will have lost a sale. They know that they can find something just as good elsewhere on the internet.
You have to stand out from the crowd to impress Gen Z, and the best way to do that is to use the facilities of the internet to make their life easier. Booking forums, contact via social media, and any other innovative applications to your site will be a pleasant surprise to Gen Z users.
The activism of Gen Z mentioned above is all wrapped up in identity. Where Gen X had grunge and Millennials had emo culture, Gen Z have the internet to express themselves. However, they do not identify themselves by what they wear, but their heritage, race, sexuality, and their activism. Veganism is on the rise in 2021, feminism has been growing steadily in the past two decades, and there was even talk of a second Civil War in 2020. Although there was no “war”, there was an unignorable rise in talk for civil rights.
Gen Z appreciates brands that will stand for something. The most obvious example of this is in beauty products, where YouTube’s beauty community has condemned anyone releasing products that aren’t cruelty-free. They are willing to reward and punish with their wallets, so brands can appeal to them by appreciating their activism. If your brand supports the values of Gen Z in some way, then make that known to them.
Much like Gen X spoke of “posers”, and Millennials appreciated early YouTube for its “genuine” creators, Gen Z appreciates transparency. If they find you are lying about something, such as carmine in your “cruelty-free” eyeshadow palette, they won’t forgive you. They are attracted to brands that promote authenticity and offer a personality that they can trust.
This is where engagement comes in. You can cultivate a relationship with a younger audience by creating spaces for engagement. Social media platforms are valuable for this, so keep your profile, not only up to date but engaged with the wider world. Ask questions that will start a discussion in your community and ensure that all content is true to your brand’s values.
It would be foolish to ignore Gen Z, as they will simply push back. The eldest Gen Z’s are in their mid-20’s and will be making their own money. Plus, they have principles they will enforce with their money. To ignore their wishes as a consumer would be to miss out on a decent profit.