Brands: lean into values to connect with Gen Z

Sid Lee’s 2021 Belong Index shows values-based communities lead to brand loyalty.

Brands need to create communities to be successful in reaching Gen Z, according to creative agency Sid Lee’s 2021 Belong Index report. 

The report, which surveyed nearly 8,000 Gen Zers and millennials in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and France, found that belonging to a community is important to young people. In fact, 76% of respondents said they feel like they have a voice and social capital within their community.

As members of those communities, 83% of survey respondents said they feel a sense of unity or oneness and 78% said their community works together to mobilize. Creating and interacting with a community is also easier for younger people, with 82% relying on social media to connect. And more than two-thirds (77%) of survey respondents said that brands linked to their communities reflect their identity.

Value-based communities outperformed the five categories of community explored in the study (family-based, interest-based, work-based, value-based and life-style based) as the most influential to a person’s identity. Examples of values-based communities include Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ+ rights movements or sustainability groups. 

Brands seem to be missing the opportunity. 

According to the report, only 36% of values-based communities are connected to brands, compared to 56% of interest-based communities, including 65% of sports groups. 

However, Gen Z and millennials are least likely to feel that interest communities shape their identity, give them a  voice or lend a sense of unity. 

Brands can benefit from listening to values-based communities and attaching themselves to those narratives — as long as they are authentic, said Andy Bateman, U.S. CEO at Sid Lee. 

“Brands find it very difficult to engage with values-based communities, but they are far more descriptive and influential in shaping an individual's identity,” he said. “They have far more social capital than interest based communities. Gen Z and millennials believe work is work, and they belong to a work based community only for the purposes of working there.” 

Bateman named Peloton, Roblox, Patagonia, Ethereum NFT, Teflar, Nike, Disney, Marvel, Depop and Decathlon 10 brands Sid Lee as recognized as doing a good job of engaging communities. 

“Millennials and Gen Z have so many outlets and it's tempting to be quite dismissive of them as young, facile and flighty,” Bateman said. “But underneath all of that, what they're really searching for is to be seen and to be heard.” 

“People who participate in a community feel that they have a voice and social capital,” he continued.


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