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Future forward brands are planning for what lies beyond Gen Z

by Audrey Madden

October 21, 2020

Brands that listen to new generations now will be best positioned to keep hold of market share as Generations Z and Alpha assume buying power. Not to mention, save the world from ever imposing doom.

Many brands are now well aware of Gen Z’s growing influence. If you haven’t heard it before, Gen Z are now the largest generation of consumers and account for astronomical amounts of spending (predicted to reach up to $143 billion per annum as more continue to enter the workforce).

The numbers surrounding these young adults are persuasive on their own, but their mindset is influential too. They are tech clever, entrepreneurial and inspired by change. Having inherited a global climate crisis, financial inequality, and political unrest, the collective outlook of this generation is challenging brands to be more sustainable, promote diversity and take political action.

This is of course a good thing, and many CMO’s are already well versed in the power and the personalities of Gen Z. But if this generation is demanding more action than words, how can brands live up to their appointed role within society? This isn’t just an opportunity to invest in the future of your brand, it’s an opportunity to plant the seed for brand loyalty in generations to come. “93% of today's parents also say their children influence spending” according to a recent report by CASSANDRA. Additionally, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, children develop brand loyalty and biases that carry over into their adult lives and are often difficult to change.

Children are becoming “brand-conscious” at 24 months. By 36-42 months they form the understanding that a brand says something about their personalities. “They have learned brand names from Mom and from TV, and use them to identify products that they like,” says McNeal & Kids. “In China, the kids’ brand habits look very much like those in America. They can write the ‘M’ for McDonald’s before they can write their name.”

If these brand conscious Alpha’s are forming relationships with brands now, then brands need to listen closely to Gen Z. They need to take sustainability, diversity, and politics seriously because, if you think these guys are demanding evidence of action, just wait for Gen A.

How to stay ahead of the trends and on top of stereotypes

Brands that are unsure of what action to take, should ask. Julia Onken, Houseparty’s Product Marketing Manager, is adamant that authentic brand listening is vital to success and that it can only happen when marketers take the time to meet their users where they are.

Houseparty is very focused on the way that we make our Gen Z audience feel comfortable and feel like they can speak their mind and be themselves. I’ve actually spent a few years flying around the US and going to different town suburbs, and meeting with throngs of teenagers by renting out pizza restaurants in those neighbourhoods.

I do a lot of research in our dashboards to understand the different neighbourhood markets. Where different behaviours are occurring, which schools that are blowing up with Houseparty, and so on. We'll go to that town, rent a pizza restaurant for a couple of days and have back to back groups of teenagers come and hang out with us. We go in with an agenda and objectives, but we do not have a script. We go in with whatever we're working on, whether it be a game or a campaign, and try to understand how that's going to fit in with people's lives.

When we do surveys, we make them very, very quick to the point because they don't have a huge attention span. As researchers, we would love to add a lot of different questions. Why not throw in an NPS or lifestyle question? But we see a clear drop off in their attention, so keeping it straight to the point is a must.

In terms of distribution, email is not the most effective way for us to reach these audiences. They typically don't check email as much as you do. They view it differently, and it's very school related. So, for a survey we might tweet the link out, or it on our Instagram story. We’ve even done them via Tik Tok.

Lastly, it can be easy to forget that the rhythm of your life isn't necessarily representative of your users. So while we might be used to zoom, and Slack, email, all of these different communication tools for our jobs, it’s not natural to them. The most important app that you're trying to onboard them to is yours. So why put any other barriers in the way? If you work a nine to five, that's great. We love a nine to five. But if you're trying to get all of your conversations done in that time, well, they're at school, and then they're at hockey practice, and then they're eating dinner with their family and doing homework. So you have to be flexible.

~Julia Onken, Product Marketing Manager at Houseparty

What we know about Gen Z and those to come, told by a Gen Z

We are true digital natives. The internet was born before we were and having grown up with it, we’re well versed in how to use tech to our advantage. However, as many of us may not understand the real implications social media can have on mental health, politics and human connection, it’s important that brands take on ethical responsibility when it comes to advertising. We’ll thank you for it.

We still crave the human element. We’re not robots, we’re just highly empathetic cyborgs. Don’t rely so heavily on digital that you neglect physical experiences. This is easier said than done during Covid but it is possible. Learn more here.

We prefer purposeful brands. Don’t just build a brand, build a tribe. 61% of Gen Z believe brands are better positioned than governments to solve social problems.

We want a happier, healthier lifestyle. Generally, many of us are conscious of what we eat and link exercise to happiness. Mental health plays a huge role in this so brands that encourage healthy, happy habits over driving consumer impulses will be rewarded.

Traditional marketing won’t work on us. You need edgy campaigns and new ways of storytelling. Take on a challenger mindset and be creative.

Want to dive deeper into your audience and how to reach them? Arrange a 1:1 Brand Brainstorm with White Bear Studio's creative team, currently being offered pro bono. Book here.


Gen Alpha
gen z
diversity in marketing
Future of Marketing