Appealing to Gen Z – what makes a strong brand in 2020?

Written by Beth Davies

Tags: challenger graduate Media News

For a long time, the attention of brands and communications professionals has been directed towards understanding millennials. This exciting generation was seen to be shaping the future of digital and ushering in a new age of Airbnb-ing and Uber-ing. But just as people started getting their heads around what it meant to be a millennial, and how to reach them, millennials grew up.

Now in their late-20s and 30s, millennials’ tastes, habits and values are changing, and for many brands, a key market is now a younger and perhaps trickier audience – my generation – Gen Z.

Like millennials before us, we value sincerity and authenticity, but as a digitally savvy, hyperconnected, and multicultural generation, this is amplified. At Stand, we’ve talked about authenticity plenty before, but this has never been more pertinent than with Gen Z, particularly in the current climate.

Growing up with an almost paradoxical contrast of reality TV, no-makeup selfies, and YouTube vloggers, we are used to getting behind the scenes, with no holds barred, access. Gen Z are deeply suspicious of being ‘sold to’ and we’re all about pulling back the curtain to get to the real story. We tend to look for a personal connection in the brands we choose to back, and those that speak to us openly and honestly, generally speaking, will develop more trust and long-term loyalty.

Gen Z’s prioritisation of authenticity also means that we tend to scrutinise the motives and actions of companies. We’re also purpose driven; our activism over the last few months has demonstrated that we care deeply about creating a better world, and this attracts us to brands that display social activism and responsibility. But, as the most ‘woke’ generation ever, we can also tell when a brand’s portrayal of itself as socially conscious is ingenuine.

Research shows that 89% of Gen Zers would rather buy from a company supporting social issues, over one that does not. However, if a company shows support for a cause that seems unrelated to their own mission, it can have the opposite effect and can damage the brand’s reputation.

For us to see your brand as authentic, you have to carefully define what your brand is, and only then can you align a cause with your brand’s mission and be consistent in your support. Essentially, if you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.

At Stand, we work with our clients to develop their brand positioning, and then communicate their key messages to their audiences. With all the upheaval of 2020, and brands and structures under increased scrutiny, it’s more important than ever to have a clear sense of your ethos, core proposition, values, and messages.

In the past, Gen Zers have been described as ‘millennials on steroids’, but this is oversimplified and reductive. It’s important that brands take time to really understand how to best reach and resonate with this audience, not only because we are now more numerous than millennials, but because what has been learnt so far about Gen Z actually represents a larger and interesting cultural shift in what people want in brands.

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