The words “Gen Z” usually tend to draw negative connotations and eye rolls. Our brand perception is at an all time low. Like every brand in crisis - it’s worth asking ourselves: are we really that doomed… Or do we just need better PR? And of course, in true Gen Z fashion: do we really care?
Broadly described as anyone born between 1997-2012, “Generation Z” have often been stereotyped as a meme-addicted, socially anxious and self-serving bunch. It is a rare occurrence where generational commentary has been stronger in describing traits of a large group of people, than their socio-economic differences.
The irony of this is that Gen Z are found to value their individual expression more than young people of previous generations and avoid labels. It is likely that we are not as averse to the idea of being labelled, than we are to being labelled incorrectly. Generally, everyone on the receiving end of a negative stereotype isn’t thrilled about it. So I’m afraid to say: Gen Z, we are not unique in our frustrations from being mislabelled. Nor are we unique in being complained about by a few old timers, it has literally been happening for 2,500 years.
However, improving this misalignment between perception and reality of Gen Z characteristics is of key interest to global brands, companies, and any consumer centric organisation. Gen Z, is the youngest, most ethnically-diverse and largest generation of consumers in the world today. Whether or not your attitudes towards younger people are positive, we are set to have a significant impact on the global landscape. The effects will ripple through to consumerism, entrepreneurship, politics, popular culture, future of work and technology for years to come. With almost 2 billion of us globally, its worth taking the time to get a picture of our behavioural motivations and profiles.
When it comes to consumerism, the theme of individual expression continues. Consumption of brands or goods by Gen Z, are all driven as a means of self expression rather than to fit in with certain groups. Personalisation of products is a key attraction and therefore brands are having to adapt the economies of scale models they have capitalised off for decades.
A recent article by Bloomberg highlighted the potentially unravelling effects which await if workplace attitudes between younger hires and burnt out recruiters don’t align. “Bold requirements and backpedalling” from applicants are apparently to blame for hiring professionals feeling more stressed than ever. Some grievances mentioned from firms included young applicants asking for inclusion and pay transparency policies and higher compensation packages. These are not alarming requests. What it actually sounds like, is firms are alarmed at the fact that young talent does not feel the need to pay their dues.
As the first generation who can’t recall a time before the internet, we have grown up in a hypercognitive environment. Googling information is second nature and we think of most skills as easy to pick up after some online research. It is empowering to see our generation knows their worth, but we may be falling behind in effectively evidencing our justifications before asking for it.
My favourite thing by far about this gen is that we have struck a balance between individuality and being radically inclusive and supportive of one another. Sixty-six percent of Gen Zers believe that communities are created by causes and interests, not by economic backgrounds or educational levels. Almost half of Americas Gen Z population belongs to a minority group. Young people are savvy to when diversity and inclusion are used simply as buzzwords as opposed to when people actually want to see them succeed.
Movements like Black Lives Matter, driven by collective support of young people highlight the far reaching noise achievable behind a cause. Digitally savvy with a high rate of connectivity between us, makes creating global movements easier than getting a mortgage.
New generations have always pushed to beat the lessons hard won by their predecessors. Growing up against a backdrop of misleading corporations, racial discrimination, global warming and a financial collapse has made us more ethical and appreciative of authenticity. These traits have only been accelerated by the technology at our fingertips. Whichever trends evolve from future generations, it’s clear Gen Z have set high ambitions for the change we would like to see. It is up to organisations and brands to capture the opportunity available to them or stay criticising from the side lines.
The boring stuff I read so you don’t have to 👇🏽