Technology today is changing the shape of the human condition faster than at any other point in human history. Gen Z is coming of age in a world of infinite choice, and this affects everything from how they define themselves to how they love and how they buy.
The internet has fueled promiscuity to new levels, with dating apps promising love just a swipe away and online shopping enabling consumers to easily jump from one “brandwagon” to the next. The excitement of something new is constantly at our fingertips.
A recent VICE Voices study set out to understand if love and commitment are truly a thing of the past, and to explore what commitment means for all types of relationships today.
There is no denying that the upside of technology, in the form of social media and dating apps, is the endless options it provides. The number one reason young people enjoy using these platforms is to connect with people they would not otherwise meet. But the downside is equally as powerful: 89% say social media and dating apps make it easier and more tempting to cheat. Unending choice has made loyalty more difficult to maintain.
This is as true for brands as it is for people. In fact, brands may experience it worst of all. The young people in our survey ranked brands as the hardest thing for them to be, or stay, committed to.
This generation has redefined what it means to commit. Consequently, brands need to change the way they think about relationships.
Love still takes two
Relationships have never been more important. Gen Z values strong relationships most in life, alongside health and finding happiness. In love, their ideal relationship type is the soul mate couple – having a deep, multi-dimensional connection that enables them to live life to the fullest.
Despite the fact the commitment is harder than ever to come by today, its tenets remain unchanged. For Gen Z to be committed to someone or something requires honesty, trust and dedication above all else.
If brands want consumers to be committed to them, brands need to be committed to consumers. What brands say and do should demonstrate this dedication—showing that the satisfaction and happiness of their customers is of utmost importance. Trust is also paramount in relationships, and brand relationships are no exception. Authenticity, transparency and two-way dialogue with consumers are essential.
Every relationship has a time and purpose
While the value Gen Z places on relationships may not be a big shift from past generations, the way they approach them is. Like much else in life, Gen Z takes a pragmatic approach to relationships. The notion of happily ever after is rapidly disappearing. Gen Z are significantly more likely than Millennials to say that people are meant to fall in love many times in their lives and less likely to believe that a single partner can fulfill all of one’s needs. For this generation, there is no one and only.
Their relationships are often short-lived. Longevity and time spent together are less important requirements for commitment for Gen Z compared to Millennials.
Brands need to consider how they can fulfill a young person’s needs at a point in time. A single brand can’t be everything to any one person for life. Just because a relationship may be fleeting, that does not make it any less meaningful.
Experiences bring you closer together
Even in a world ruled by digital connections, there is no replacement for the depth of connection gained by engaging with someone or something in real life. Young people are constantly interacting with love interests online—following, liking, tagging, commenting and DMing—but only 6% of Gen Z believe it is possible to build loyalty and commitment with online interactions alone.
Digital technology makes it easier and more efficient for brands to reach consumers today, and consumers are quick to respond and openly engage with brands online. But brands cannot overlook the importance of physical interaction and connection with young consumers. Six in ten Gen Z say that physical interaction at a store or other experience is necessary to building loyalty and commitment to a brand.
Help them help themselves
Gen Z refuses to settle—only 1 in 10 say they are committed to being committed. The primary drawback of commitment for young people is becoming too reliant on someone or something. The most important relationship they have is with themselves. And right now it is complicated. They live in a world of infinite possibilities of self-definition and expression in a world that has never been messier.
One of the most important things a brand can do is provide inspiration and tools that help young people figure out who they are, who they want to be, and what their relationship is with the world around them.
While the rules have changed, love and commitment are here to stay. Relationships are more vital than ever and this next generation is open to all types of relationships, including brand relationships, playing a meaningful role in their lives.
Julie Arbit is vice-president of insights at Vice Media