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Why Brands Need to Focus on Generation Z Now More Than Ever Post COVID-19

Who is Generation Z and why has there been a huge shift in marketing focus towards this emerging group? Move over millennials; Generation Z, people born between 1996-2010, is set to become the largest living generation and an emerging segment driving purchasing power. We examine why brands need to pay attention to what makes Gen Z “tick”, especially when it comes to campaigns rooted in corporate social responsibility after COVID-19.

Gen Z is Diverse and Tech Savvy Many important qualities and circumstances set members of Generation Z apart from previous generations. They are digital natives who have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones and are on track to become the most educated generation yet1. They are more racially and ethnically diverse: one-in-four Gen Z-ers are Hispanic, 14% are Black, 6% are Asian, and 5% are some other race or two or more races. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, this generation is projected to become majority nonwhite by 2026. The most significant data to look at is Gen Z-ers close relationship with technology, with 97% using at least one of seven major online platforms1.

Gen Z Wants to Put Money Towards Social Causes In order to capture this generation’s attention, brands need to pivot their strategy to be more socially responsible. In fact, 75% of Gen Z stands ready to support companies that care in a variety of ways by putting money where their values are. “Gen Z consumers experience an increase in positive feelings about a brand because of an association with a social cause, and 58% said such an association could spur a purchase”2. Gen Z values the potential for a product to solve societal needs and this will ultimately determine their purchasing decision over another product. Gen Z — right behind millennials — are most likely to speak up for change and want to support companies that do the same. Buying power is a key vehicle to do so.

Brands Can Find An Opportunity to Be More Socially Focused Post-COVID-19 While Gen Z is more likely to support a company attached to a social cause, brands should do this thoughtfully. This generation is more likely to trust that large companies are operating in society’s best interests through the company’s actions. During the pandemic Gen Z has looked for brands that are benefitting their community, while 89% said that COVID-19 has impacted their purchasing decision. In fact Gen Z is three times more likely than previous generations to say that the purpose of a business is to “serve communities and society”, with 68% expecting brands to contribute to society3.

Companies need to implement thoughtful strategies such that they appear authentic to the Gen Z audience. These tactics can include:
● Standing up for Gen Z values and beliefs
● Viewing Gen Z as active co-creators to help shape conversations
● Standing up for those left out
● Acting as a platform for the personal journeys of Gen Z-ers
● Speaking honestly about brand’s strategies and challenges
Gen Z consumers want brands to do more than just make and sell products, and brands currently have a huge opportunity to engage in a meaningful way during this uneasy time.

In fact, a study from DoSomething Strategic found that 75% of Gen Z consumers could name a brand they loved more because of how they’re responding to the crisis, including Starbucks and Nordstrom; conversely, 42% named a brand they liked less for their lack of response to COVID-19, including Walmart, Amazon and Sephora. With Generation Z being the largest and most-educated generation who strongly cares about social causes, marketers and brands have a long list to address in order to secure Gen Z’s attention and dollars.

Gen Z is watching to see how your brand reacts to the crisis, what initiatives you implement, and how transparent you are with society before investing their money in you. We’re entering a new era where social responsibility reigns supreme.

By: Erick Edwing, Amy Peterson, Emily Carothers

  1. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/essay/on-the-cusp-of-adulthood-and-facing-an-uncertain-future-what-we-know-about-gen-z-so-far/
  2. https://www.marketingdive.com/news/study-gen-z-cares-about-issues-and-is-skeptical-of-brands/555782
  3. https://blog.hootsuite.com/generation-z-statistics-social-marketers/

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