Gen Z is Driving Change

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Marketers need to watch, look, and listen to Gen Z, folks born between 1997 and 2012 because they’ve overtaken millennials by almost 4 million to become the largest generation in the U.S. According to a United Nations World Population Prospects report currently numbering around 86 million, their numbers are expected to grow to 88 million over the next 20 years, largely due to migration. A study by Morning Consult punctuated the importance of this generation.

Gen Z’s sheer numbers and changes in values highlighted in previous articles caught the attention of marketers eager to capture their business and attention and the reasons for the changes. An August Morning Consult study of more than 6,000 Gen Zers and 2,200 millennials, Gen X and boomers called “Most Loved Brands” dug even deeper to understand the generations’ differences. It is the fourth such one the firm has conducted.

The firm also analyzed more than 150,000 interviews covering four metrics – favorability, trust, community impact, and net promoter score. The results revealed how the gap between the best brands and others has widened and sought to discover what brands might do to capture Gen Z’s attention and keep them in the new normal.

Based on good first-time experiences they had with a new brand, 68% of Gen Zers said they would continue their purchases after the pandemic. Another 56% said they are spending less on brands they realized they don’t miss and can live without. 36% admitted that their brand preferences had changed, while 31% said they would never return to a brand after a bad first-time experience.

Gen Z’s values stood out on questions about whether they would buy from local, Black-owned, and minority-owned businesses. Gen Z led all other generations in those areas, and the differences became larger with each older generation. The same generational differences were evident on questions about buying brand names and purchasing new brands they had never tried before.

The good news for companies already marketing to Gen Z is that 76% intend to return to their pre-pandemic brands. Their only chance is in maintaining support for local, minority, and African-American owned businesses. Another 72% said they expect to resume the same shopping and purchasing methods before the pandemic.

The expectations of Gen Z are higher than their elders, and most expect brands to not only contribute to conversations around social change but also to drive it. 72% said they agree or strongly agree about this. 66% believe that brands have a major role in the country and should use their influence to positively affect political and cultural issues.

Brands also need to lead with their actions and be aware that simply issuing statements and press releases about some of these issues can backfire. 67% of Gen Zers agreed or strongly agreed that companies releasing statements about Black Lives Matter and racial inequality are more concerned about publicity than affecting real change.84% said, “actions speak louder than words.”

Three revealing discoveries that companies should be aware of and control include having a diverse management team. 59% of Gen Zers said it was now more important to them that brands demonstrate diversity. 60% felt that brands, regardless of their industry or location, should explicitly state their position on social issues like BLM. At the same time, that same number indicated that how brands react and respond to such topics will permanently affect their buying decision.

Brands wishing to successfully reach Gen Z should be clear and transparent with their values and actions. They should communicate this openly or risk losing a good share of that market.

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