Marketing to Gen Z

Rebecca Caruso Written by
Rebecca Caruso

Who is the generation calling all the shots? And why do they matter?

What are the values we value in society nowadays?

Does this differ from 10 years ago? Does this differ even from 5 years ago?

And how does the new generation play its part?

I guess to answer these questions, we need to define what the new generation even is.

There is much confusion as to what a Millennial is: some consider 15-year olds Millennial, and most of the ‘older’ generation call anyone with an aptitude for technology as belonging to the Millennial generation (even if they’re over 40). But is this accurate?

If anyone researches this on the very contraption that qualifies them as the “young, hip generation”, they will find that Millennials are actually born in the year 1981-1995. All of them are past their early-twenties now. What comes after them, are the mistaken Millennials. The ones that grew up with lightning-fast internet, on-demand video, Netflix, gaming devices, and social media: all pillars of the Generation (Gen)-Z generation.

Or, as I like to classify this gap: the generation that used MySpace (Millennials), and those that did not (Gen-Z). Born from 1996-2012, we are part of the generation that is social-media “savvy”, or, at the very least, have knowledge on social norms surrounding the platforms that quickly emerged in the early 2000s.

The spike and the speed in technology and its usage is palpable, and ripples in its effects. The fact that there are shows such as Black Mirror, which focus on the theme technology (examples being finding your soulmate based on algorithms or, becoming so obsessed with your self-image you’re no longer authentic), dystopian movies that outline the threat of technology, and even retreats to detox from technology, prove its omnipresence. Whether you’re hooked, or you’re not, it’s there.

I’m not part of the pessimists that believe technology will doom us and will build the robots that will kill us in the next few years. Instead, and like most people in my generation, I like to think that the tools I grew up with are the very functions that can connect us, help us, even save us.

Knowing about Sudan’s civil war, seeing Alexandria-Ocasio Cortex rise to Congress, exposing police brutality, are all phenomena that are accessible. They prompt us to help, and to act. They are livestreamed on Facebook, posted on Instagram by reputable sources, and publicly commented on by actors who play great roles in these momentous events. Seeing them, and hearing about them, prove there are issues in the world demanding change and allowing us to be part of that change.

And, if it must boil down to something, what everyone nowadays wants to see is change. Diversity, representation, inclusion, empathy, awareness and kindness. More than this, that companies understand they have a duty to uphold these values in whatever they market.

For example, Aerie is a lingerie company that went way against the current of most in the fashion industry. Its mission committed to making girls of all sizes feel good about themselves. Their real selves. It does not retouch any pictures: whatever the model looks like is not only good enough, but beautiful. It has diversity and a representation of people of all colours and sizes: all shapes and lines and wrinkles.

It is equally as important nowadays to highlight the importance and value of each person.

While this may contradict the sense of community and connectivity social media preaches, it emphasises this: representation matters. Understanding globalism as being a positive force, it must also be a mission for brands to value their individual employees and what they bring to the company. Around 15 years ago, a black person being discriminated against to be employed simply for their name on a CV would have received no media attention or traction. Today, California is the first state that moves to ban racial discrimination based on hairstyles: a milestone that should be celebrated and applauded.

The stories that are heard and shared online reflect very strongly on companies and their values – Gen-Z want to know what they stand for. If it’s not in line with the values they have, it will be passed on to thousands of other like-minded people who will refuse to endorse that company. The same is true for companies that do represent inclusion and positivity. It will be celebrated. They will be more successful.

It is not only important to “talk the talk” that your company is doing X, Y and Z, but tangibly showing your consumers the measures you’re taking and how they can be a part of it.

Gen-Z want to know what they’re buying into, and what it is representative of: whatever it is, it will be shared, liked, and commented on.

Rebecca Caruso is a second-year undergraduate at the LSE. After finishing her degree, Rebecca is looking to explore the world of Brand Consultancy and working with socially conscious companies.