Just when you figured out the Millennial mind, here comes Generation Z—a whole new group of consumers.
Born after 1994, Generation Z (also called iGeneration or Homeland Generation) is bypassing the traditional political system and focusing on consumerism as a channel for change, finds a new study from DoSomething Strategic. The study, "Dollars and Change: Young People Tap Brands as Agents of Social Change," reveals that more than 76 percent of Gen Z has purchased or is open to purchasing a brand or product to support the issues that brand stands for. In addition, and more costly, more than 67 percent have stopped purchasing or would consider doing so if the company stood for something or behaved in a way that didn't align with their values. This is in contrast to how they use their voice through more traditional means of civic action: Only 32 percent of survey respondents have attended a political event or protest or contacted a representative.
Generation Z is expected to make up 40 percent of consumers by 2020. That sounds like some date in the distant future, but it's actually only 18 months from now.
One thing brands can do in that short window of time is use social media to be relatable and to forge a personal, authentic connection. As one member of Gen Z puts it, “We grew up watching and interacting with YouTube stars who were just like us, not elusive, Hollywood celebrities. As such, we appreciate the chance to engage with authentic, imperfect art." Another respondent, a 16-year-old, adds, "We'd rather see companies supporting homegrown heroes than industry giants."
Instagram is a quick and easy way to see how members of Generation Z represent themselves and how different they are from Millennials. Yes, Gen Xers and Boomers will likely find them both too vain, but according to the report, Generation Z is much more "real" than Millennials, posting less-than-flattering selfies with sarcastic captions rather than posed pictures and emojis.
Of course, social media can’t save a brand lacking in ethical principles. Not for this generation.
Another study, this one done by Crowdtwist, says Generation Z rates ethical principles higher than quality of service as a reason to be brand loyal. In other words, this is a generation forcing brands to stand for something and take it a step further by letting consumers use their purchasing power as an opportunity to be part of something bigger.
Here’s my question: Do you think the idea of using consumerism as a channel for change is more a sign of the times or a generational issue? Email me and let me know your opinion.
Also, submissions for the Design Gallery open June 1. brandpackaging.com/design-gallery
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