What is the Generation Z change agent?

Purple 26 Feb 2019
3 mins

In the first instalment of our Real Relationship series – exploring stakeholder engagement across a wide variety of topics – Jordin Payne takes a look at the new kids on the block: Generation Z.

Born between 1995 and 2012, Generation Z is the first fully global generation of our society. A study conducted by McCrindle has labelled Generation Z as change agents capable of having influence over brand success.

With 10.1 million Australians being avid users of social media, it is increasingly clear connection and perception matter. So, what’s important to Gen Z? Concerned with social impact, inclusion, authenticity and value, by 2020 these youngsters will make up 40 per cent of all consumers.

This is a generation who care about what they buy and need to feel connected to a brand which contributes to society. It is important to them that the companies they interact with, or work for, have global standards of ethics and diversity and align with human rights principles.

“They are highly open-minded, and they value equality and inclusivity on issues of race, gender identity, and sexuality. They want change on controversial topics…and they are not shy about making their voices heard.” Gen Z Guru.com

With the world at their fingertips, the overall experience and its ability to be shared matters to Gen Z. They are influenced not only by scientific methods but also virtual reality and the public projection of their identity. They see brands as representative of who they are.

This digital age has brought us social platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, and Gen Z are truly proficient users. The platforms serve a unique purpose with a common thread – speed and extensive reach of information sharing.

In the business of branding, things tend to either go really well or very badly when you start to trend online. More than ever before, being ahead of the curve is vital and preparing for potential #blacklash is a must. To be labelled inauthentic is brand death in the eyes of the current generation of influencers and growing up in a global technological community has enabled them to access information that can spread at break-neck speeds.

So, what does it take to win over this generation? With an ear for the phony and a heart for high standards, Gen Zers keep an eye out for social impact, so having a clear voice with purpose matters.

Nike is a recent example of a social impact re-brand. Online backlash concerning Nike’s partnership with Lyric Industries, a Bangladeshi supplier exposed as having poor and unsafe labour conditions, ignited the internet. Nike’s global image was hit, and the situation brought into question issues of governance and ethics in the clothing industry.

Nike reassessed, put its social justice cap on, grabbed a megaphone and just did it. Now known as the Nike Effect, it has set a new bar for social media use and consumer interaction. Public endorsement of controversial National Football League player Colin Kaepernick in global TV ads was followed by the addition of the Nike Pro Hijab to its sport clothing line.

However, big brands can still miss the mark. Failed attempts at “wokeness” and achieving the right balance of human rights principles and authenticity can end up seriously jeopardising a business. It is important that strategies are inclusive and connected to the voices of the future and the way they wish to express themselves.

So, with this new epic generation of global citizens joining our ranks, businesses had better know who they are and how they contribute. Have a true message and be true to that message – or GenZ will eat you alive.

A sociologist and our Senior Consultant in Corporate Affairs, Jordin Payne specialises in strategic communications and relationships with the community. She’s GenY but knows a GenZ when she sees one. For further questions about creating awareness, genuine relationships and support within the community, feel free to contact Jordin directly at jpayne@canningspurple.com.au

More Purple news: