Speaking the language of your target audience can be a critical element in the success and lifespan of a brand. However, captivating and holding interest in a crowded market is not easy when trends are constantly changing with each generation.
For example, Generation Z now make up a significant percentage of target audiences for many brands. Their influence is becoming clear, as evidenced by the strategic changes that brands are making to their advertising. Understandable, considering that Gen Z have $143 billion in annual purchasing power. They are also, generally speaking, far more selective with their purchases than their predecessors, with an increasing interest in influencing the world for the better. Brands are increasingly using actions rather than words: presenting progressive views by supporting causes and forging charitable affiliations to attract a more environmentally-conscious generation.
As the market becomes increasingly saturated, brands are responding with strategies that are bigger and bolder than anything that we have seen in the recent past. Often, a rebrand is not just a change in logo, but shows a brand's attitude and affiliations – something that Gen Z are far more receptive to. A study by Shelter Group found that: "Consumers believe companies should take a stand – and they’ll support that stand with their purchases. 64% of those who said it’s 'extremely important' for a company to take a stand on a social issue said they were 'very likely' to purchase a product based on that commitment."
This has been duly noted by many brands, big and small. One initiative in particular that is gaining momentum is environmental movement, Parley for the Oceans, which has been especially prominent in its collaborations with brands such as Adidas and Mastercard. Adidas' recent collaboration was twinned with the launch of the new 'Ultraboost' trainer. The new range is produced from upcycled plastic that has been transformed into a sports clothing line, incorporating everything from shoes to swimwear, but most prominently features the FW18 UltraBoost Parley shoe.
Running alongside this new range is the campaign 'Run for the Oceans', pitched to encourage people to raise money simply by running, an initiative that has been championed and well-received by celebrities and the general public alike. The campaign has been rolled out globally, complemented by an app that tracks the distances run by contributors, and shows each runner their total contribution to the oceans (each kilometre earns a $1 contribution for the Parley Ocean Plastic Program). Most recently, Adidas have revealed that the Manchester United kit is made from recycled ocean plastic. Through these campaigns, Adidas are offering an opportunity for consumers to choose their products in order to be part of an environmentally responsible and proactive movement: a win-win however you cut it.
Globalisation means that we live in a world that is hyper-connected. Gen Z are less 'mobile-first' users than 'mobile-only' users, weaving in and out of content at lightning speeds. They grew up with technology at their fingertips, working across different platforms simultaneously and being constantly connected with the world.
According to New York Times bestselling author, Simon Mainwaring, 91% of consumers would switch brands if a different one was purpose-driven and similarly priced. Increasingly, organisations are shifting to unite business models that are both purpose and profit-driven.
- TOMS have had huge success in their marketing campaign 'One for One', using the sale of TOMS products to fund charitable projects, 'Everytime a TOMS product is purchased, a person in need is helped'. There is a notable shift towards brand-led product innovation, with consumers able to do good through purchasing choices.
- Hellmann’s Mayonnaise pledged to use cage free eggs by 2020, but made the transition 3 years ahead of schedule.
- Stella Artois has been working with water.org to supply clean drinking water since 2015, asking consumers to 'Buy a Lady a Drink' through their chalice purchase promotion.
The digital age brought along with it the chance to globally connect the world online. Generation Z are emerging as adults with energy and enthusiasm for positive change. Brands intent on continuing to grow need to tell a compelling story, establishing a position that is proactive and forward-thinking. As the market becomes more and more crowded, making or maintaining a connection with a target audience comes down to establishing trust between brand and consumer, and this trust extends to include a brand's business model. Part of branding's job is to turn a stranger into a trusted friend, and that now demands more than an attractive logo. Now more than ever, actions speak louder than words.
Alice Learey, digital marketing executive, Hydra Creative