How Gen Z expects brands to influence change

A study by McCann Worldgroup’s Truth Central shows Gen Z is in the driver seat and wants brands to follow.

Gen Z is confident it can influence major change and expect brands to keep up.  

A new study by McCann Worldgroup’s thought leadership platform Truth Central shows 53% of Gen Zers around the world agree that “society staying the same as it currently is” is scarier than “society changing drastically in the future.”  

But Gen Z is not going to wait around for someone else to impact change, as 66% of respondents feel their generation can solve global issues. 

For brands, it is an opportunity for renewal, says Alex Grignon, senior strategist at McCann Worldgroup Truth Central.  

“If [brands] commit to initiatives and investments in the areas that Gen Z cares most about — like diversity, sustainability and representation — those aren’t just moves to get Gen Z to embrace your brand, they’re the right moves, period,” Grignon says, adding Gen Z has a high consciousness about which brands they associate with.  

The study, which surveyed 2,500 Gen Zers in the U.S., U.K., Brazil, Germany and China, shows 74% of global respondents believe their generation has the power to influence a global brand’s actions and behaviors for the better.  

While some brands may fear the pressure from the “cancel culture” generation, Gen Z is more forgiving than brands might expect, with 51% of Gen Z globally responding that “cancel culture has gone too far” versus 49% who feel that “more people need to be held accountable.”  

“Not every young person is [thrilled] to cancel people and brands,” Laura Simpson, global director of McCann Worldgroup Truth Central says. “There are a lot of young people who do believe that’s how they can hold brands accountable, but there are others who [are seeking] a more nuanced solution.”  

She adds that Gen Z considers brands as allies.  

While Gen Z already acts as “their own mini marketing agency” with regard to leveraging technology to exercise cultural influence, Grignon says the digital-first generation wants to see brands at least try to make a difference. 

“When it comes to brand safety there’s a lot of discussion that [certain] brands don’t play in [a] space or experiment,” Grignon says. “But what we see with Gen Z is they embrace the idea of trying to do something [new], even if it could end up being a failure.” 

Grignon notes that a brand’s open mindedness toward experimentation is key.   

“Failure and experimentation and reinvention is seen as a positive thing and Gen Z tells us to our face that they expect brands to move quickly to adapt and resonate with new young people's values,” he added.

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