Down the digital rabbit hole.
In a few short years we went from vinyl, to tapes, to CDs. From VHS, to DVDs, to Blu-ray. The changes came fast, and these days streaming is the norm, but it wasn’t that long ago nobody even knew what ‘streaming’ was. Now let’s not forget that, way back in the 90s, Netflix started out as a mail-order video rental company. Theirs was a brand that understood the need for change, and yet, their core values remain the same. Entertainment. Innovation. Convenience.
It’s important to understand that change isn’t a dirty word, and that you don’t need to compromise your brand in order to keep up. In fact, your values might just be more important now than ever.
Within our lifetimes, we’ve seen some huge shifts in the digital world. These days we’re on first name terms with Alexa and Siri, but for some of us it will feel like only yesterday we were peeling the film from the screen of our first smartphone. “Where do I put the sim?” We asked ourselves.
A few years back, to kindle tinder meant something a lot more incendiary, and had absolutely nothing to do with reading or dating. Teams. Zoom. Tik Tok. This time last year these were brands we didn’t even know existed. The digital landscape changes faster than we realise, and with every tap of the finger, every click of the mouse, we go further down the digital rabbit hole.
Change is coming.
From the Boomers to the Zoomers, change spans every generation. Facebook was founded by a Gen-Xer, and it was Millenials who brought it to the fore, but Gen Z wouldn’t be seen dead on Facebook. They’re all about Instagram. Or is it Tik Tok? It’s so hard to keep up. One thing’s for certain. Gen Z are about to change the world.
Loosely defined as those born between 1997 and 2012, Generation Z make up a whopping 32% of the world’s population.1 They’re just starting to graduate, and are ready to enter the workplace. What does that tell us? That your business needs to be ready for them. Digitally savvy and socially conscious; Zoomers combine the progressive spirit of the 60s with the entrepreneurial ambition of the 80s.
What might be cutting edge to us is second nature to them, and they’re set to redefine the digital landscape in much the same way the Millenials did before them, and the Gen-Xers before that. And, you know what? They see right through the ads. They’re wise to the sponsored posts and the paywalls, immune to the influencers and the fake news. Generation Z don’t want to feel like a brand is selling to them. Instead, they want to align themselves with a brand’s purpose and values. To feel part of the tribe, to contribute and collaborate.
85% of Gen Z believes companies have an obligation to help solve social problems.2 They think the world needs to change, and that brands are the ones to make it happen. As companies change, and adapt, so too does the planet. Are we ready to adapt?
Think back to your brands purpose.
Chances are you’re noticing more and more sustainable products on the shelves. An emphasis on environmentalism. Oat milk? Bamboo socks? Mushroom sausages? Generation Z are the driving force behind this market. Let’s not forget the world’s most famous Zoomer, Ms Greta Thunberg herself. Now, you don’t necessarily need to be ditching the dairy to appeal to these guys, but they want to know what your values are. Why you do what you do, and why it’s important to you.
Maybe you’ve noticed the waves Marcus Rashford is making, both in politics and food retail. In many ways he’s the archetypical Zoomer, looking to align brands with his moral compass, and doing a pretty good job of it. He’s brought together many of the UK’s biggest supermarkets, businesses and charities, including Aldi, Tesco, Sainsburys, ASDA, Co-op and Deliveroo to form a collaborative taskforce to tackle child food poverty. Convincing all those companies, all those competitors, to set aside their differences for a greater good? It seems almost inconceivable, but that’s the power of Generation Z.
What does this mean for your brand? It’s time to get back to basics. What was your purpose when you set up your business or joined your current organisation? What were your ambitions? What did you want to achieve? Are they still true and relevant today? Then look at the values that underpin your work. This is how you do things. And the combination of both is what drives you – it’s what gets us out of bed on a wet Tuesday in November. Now you need to communicate this in a real way. In your own authentic voice. Remember customer’s choices reflect who they are and what they stand for, and the same is true of your company. Why do people choose your brand? What does it say about them? In turn, what does that then say about you?
Gen Z will recognise a brand’s values, and this is what will matter in the future, more than ever. You’ve probably heard ‘The Children Are Our Future’ before, and it’s truer now than ever. They want change, and they’re not afraid to be the ones driving that change. You just have to make sure you’re ready to help them do it.
Let your brand purpose build your tribe. Let your tribe define your brand.
It’s a common misconception that a brand defines its audience. In actuality, the relationship is much more collaborative. With its products, or its services, the company creates the customer, and that customer base builds the brand. If they like you, if they trust you, their customer loyalty sustains your business. It’s cyclical. Remember when you boil it down, a brand is just a customer’s gut feeling about a product or service. And when enough people have the same gut feeling a brand is born. As Gen Z continues to align themselves with companies they identify with, this relationship will become clearer than ever.
This won’t just work on Gen Z alone, though, and this is the really clever bit. In appealing to the Zoomers, and building your tribe, you’ll start to notice a multi-generational effect. A sort of trickling up. Remember how we mentioned before about Millennials being the ones to popularise Facebook? Well, it’s definitely not just them using it now, is it? Chances are you might even have given oat milk a go yourself. Maybe you liked it.
In many ways, the world is characterised by its children. Change comes from them. That can be scary sometimes, yes, but changes are defined by our response to them. 2020 has proven that. In the face of disaster, we evolved. Instead of despair, we opted for resilience. We worked together. We thought on our feet.