April 19, 2023
The digital dystopia occupied by the younger generations under marketing scrutiny will also suspend strategy and banish brands. Get to know Gen Z and Gen Alpha. Brand strategic survival in the near future depends on it.
Right now, an understanding of generational marketing and the impact Gen Z and their Gen Alpha siblings will have on marketing may ensure the longevity of your organization. These young consumers are already playing, trading, shopping, and living in the multiverse – wandering between worlds, aiding AI, as metaverse makers - and many marketers have no idea how fundamentally they will disrupt branding before this decade is done.
Gen Z are the most diverse, non-conformist, socially-aware – and could also be the most disruptive - generation of this century. A two-year study published recently by management consultants OliverWyman, What Business Needs To Know About The Generation Changing Everything, likens Gen Z to the so-called “Greatest Generation” that fought against fascism in World War Two in the 1940s, resulting in a long period of global stability and prosperity.
“As consumers, Gen Zers won’t hesitate to punish brands for performative activism, ‘goodwashing’, or false advertising. They prefer brands with an open, and even vulnerable, style. They want relatable brands that invite them into genuine conversations where they are heard. Their individuality, morality, and preference for experience over possessions are seared into their DNA,” the OliverWyman research report states.
This is about more than Cancel Culture or superficial selfies and influencers herding the haters. Gen Z genuinely cares about social activism and saving the planet. They want brands to do better and marketers that tap into their common community have the best chance of captivating this capricious clique.
McKinsey is blunt: Gen Z are loyal to no brand and in a stagnant market, this can build or break brands. The power of purpose matters and strong brands that get ESG strategy right and reward this consumer cohort with authentic branding and loyalty programs, can win with Gen Z generational marketing strategy.
“They [Gen Z] are driven by values of authenticity, democracy, personalization, collaboration, convenience, and sustainability. A national survey by BBMG and GlobeScan revealed that, by a 5-to-1 margin, Gen Z does not trust businesses to act in the best interests of society, and nearly one in four can’t recall a single brand they consider to be purposeful,” media planning consultancy MediaTool posted on LinkedIn.
Brands that balk at bartering with this generation may not survive into the next decade. Gen Z consumers are not only looking for a good deal, an exceptional experience or perfect product – they are actively sharing their brand experiences online, notably TikTok, where instead of influencers inciting others to buy products, the new trend of de-influencing demands brand accountability for poor product purchases and even recommends rival merchandise.
It’s all about the “flex” as McKinsey continues, as Gen Z put pressure on marketers to deliver exceptional extras, experiences, environmentally-friendly, socially-conscious services and brands. Brands beware, marketers must understand Gen Z’s focus at any given moment, using data to track changing habits and understand culture shifts, all accelerated by digital innovation, to capture this consumer.
There’s a strong economic reason rooted in data for marketers to care: As The Economist reported earlier this year, one third of America's population (110 million) are Gen Zs and Millennials, with a collective household spend of $2.7 trillion in 2021. In the European Union, there are 125 million young people between 10 years and 34 years. Africa is the continent with the biggest youth population – 60% under the age of 25 years. By 2030, young Africans are expected to constitute 42% of global youth, holding the key to the continent’s development potential, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
This global youth dividend is driven by digital access and advocacy by the youth. They have a relationship with technology that supersedes all other forms of communication, shopping, socializing and financial management.
As Cheyenne Hunt, an attorney specializing in advocacy and tech policy with Public Citizen, asserts, GenZnomics will impact artificial intelligence and shape the future of AI as they take up jobs in artificial intelligence; boost Web3 in creating a more decentralised and transparent industry; advocate for the Natural Resource Energy Economy by prioritising renewables; and transform the Social Media Economy where they understand the power of influence better than any other generation right now.
Current Gen Z zeitgeist is still being crafted, but we expect their impact on every sector around the globe – possibly in profound ways we haven’t seen for a Century. Backed up by Gen Alpha who have already survived their first global crisis with the Covid pandemic and reach maturity around 2030, there is no doubt the future is owned by the younger generation.
Louise has 25 years’ experience in B2B publishing as an award-winning editor, columnist and journalist on media brands in Africa; also working with brands/NGOs as a content strategist. She is currently Editorial Director of the CMO Council; lectures in Marketing & Advertising Communications at Red & Yellow School of Creative Business in Cape Town, SA; and writes and edits retail brand blog RetailingAfrica.com. She holds a Masters in Commerce: Strategy and Organisational Dynamics, from University of KwaZulu Natal, in conjunction with Copenhagen Business School in Denmark and UK Open University.
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