Generation Z – If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em

Generation Z – If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em

18th May, 2018 by Fiona McLaughlin

Young people often get placed into generational boxes, they are just an exaggerated version of the previous generation, right?  Addicted to their phones, pushing ahead in the workplace and wishing on that overpriced first home… Wrong. Generation Z are rocking the boat and producing trends that we have never seen before, making it impossible for experts to forecast. Brands spend years predicting trends, forecasting results and trying to find the latest craze and what makes people tick. The obsession with millennials, the most studied generation to date, left no room for Generation Z who are completely confusing and utterly confused themselves. Aged between 13-24, a generation who grew up in an era where information was readily available at all times, their outlook on life is like an avocado-flavoured gelato – they live by their own rules.

Savvy, smart and social – Generation Z are one step ahead of the curve. A flashy advert with a hot guy drinking from a shiny can of fizz won’t wash with these cool kids – they know what your brand does, what they did 10 years ago, and they are the first to shout about it if you step a foot out of line. Adverts used to be the face of a brand, now they are simply a mask that is waiting to be ripped off by this ‘no crap’ generation. Generation Z don’t want to be fooled or manipulated by bright, shiny adverts – they want the cold, hard facts and they want to be the decision makers. In 2018, an advert is more likely to obfuscate than enlighten.

Growing up in a time of hardship, global conflict and economic troubles this generation are wary, ambitious and incredibly conscious. They are social media savvy and they spend 99% of their life on their phone, but from this they gain a concerning insight into the big, bad world – and at an incredibly young age. They are protected from nothing and no one – the internet opened its doors, like a nightclub with no age limit, and they gladly entered with wide, open eyes and watched the night unfold – tequila shots and all.

Millennials were easy, they didn’t want to change the system, they wanted to work within the system. They CRAVED the corporate jobs, career ladder and the normality, their innocence was lost in translation and they longed for a world their parents created. Generation Z are rebelling, they are the guy in the suit who picks up his papers at 4pm on a Friday and yells ‘screw this!’, they are fighting against the system for the freedom they never knew, yet strongly believe in.

They are wary of debt, after seeing their parents flail in the recession, they are cautious of public behaviour, after being so aware of how easily it could go viral. They open the door to gender and fight for social acceptance, they are sustainability conscious after growing up in a world made of plastic.

So what do we do? Do we wait for them to leave this ‘phase’ and ‘grow up’ – or do we recognise that this is a revolution and we need to tune into their frequency. They are the future CEOs, prime ministers, Kings and Queens! Do we need to take a step back and realise that they are too powerful to work against? Do we need to influence the influential?

Brands need to be producing relatable and genuine content, to connect directly with this audience and speak to them on a personal level, they need to be able to elucidate their thinking. Generation Z are ready to see honest opinions and respectable morals. Brands need to honour this and be fully transparent with them to gain their trust. Work with them and engage directly across social media, give them the experiences they never had and crave – be their genuine, best friend not their bullying, older sibling.

A strong example of a brand connecting with Generation Z, is the sports and apparel brand Nike. Nike connects with this audience through communicating that they are much more than just a retailer. The brand released the fantastic ‘Unlimited campaign’ which featured the first transgender athlete and focused on their individual strengths, while communicating to their audience that they support and champion all individuals. To complement their campaign, Nike are also fully transparent with their internal structure, releasing data that the majority of employees are members of minorities and that women make up 48% of the entire global workforce. This communicates to the audience that they are working with the community and honour modern morals and values.

This incredibly paramount demographic are on the increase, every brand’s reputation is sitting in their hands. Gone are the days of throwing out a shiny advert and watching the sales soar, these guys want to know the 360 on your product and it had better be credible. Discover what they want and give it to them – if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!