Want to win over Gen Z? Here's what brands need to know

Marketing to the next generation comes with its own host of challenges.

Gen Z is giving brands an identity crisis, according to research from Deutsch.

A study from the second year of Deutsch’s America in the Raw series shed some light on some core tenets and beliefs of Gen Z (defined by Deutsch as ages 16-25/born after 1995).

The report revealed three key insights about the generation directly behind Millenials.

Kelsey Hodgkin head of strategy at Deutsch told Campaign US: "Gen Z most care about fame, racism and the environment - all of which will have big impacts for brands seeking to advertise to them."

"Gen Z tends to question everything and believe in only what they have personally experienced," Hodgkin said. 

Only 43 percent of Gen Zers believe that the system is working for them, compared with 65 percent of boomers who say the same. 

As a result, Gen Z has emerged as much more disruptive and ready to call brands out who are not fully committed to their respective causes, whatever they may be. 

"They are the architects of cancel culture, and are more likely to follow through if they don’t believe you," she added. 

They are also more sympathetic to brands that take a stance and stick to it, particularly when it comes to race.  

"A good example is Disney and their decision to cast Ariel in the upcoming ‘The Little Mermaid’ movie as an African American," Hodgkin said, referencing the casting of Halle Bailey as the titular mermaid character. 

"People argued that Ariel is meant to be this white-red headed mermaid but Disney said ‘this is a fictional character, there is no definition of what she needs to be since it’s a fairy tale and open to interpretation.’"

"They got a lot of goodwill not just for casting Halle Bailey as Ariel, but defending the decision to do so. They are changing the narrative of what a brand’s voice is," she said. 

According to Hodgkin, Gen Z is looking for more than that though, they are seeking racial leadership, not just representation. 

"A good example is the Black Panther film, or Rihanna’s Fenti brand. But still very few brands are telling authentic narratives through Black or Latin lenses rather than just showcasing them," she said, highlighting an opportunity for brands of all scopes. 

Environmental concerns are also seen as much more of a pressing issue for Gen Z due to the perceived immediacy of the matter. 

"The environment and climate change is the biggest threat to their civilization, so they are way more likely to buy into environmentally focused products," she said. 

These young consumers - as well as other generations - are looking for more tangible action, which tends to pay off for brands. 

Hodgkin added: "It isn’t a passive far off thing for this generation. Particularly in the packaging and materials space."

The last key insight revealed by Deutsch’s dive into the American psyche is what the team calls "fame mode."

"What is interesting to us is there is a higher proportion of Gen Z that wants to be famous compared to other generations," Hodgkin said. 

According to the study, 65 percent of Gen Z would like to be famous compared with only 14 percent of boomers.

But, as Hodgkin noted, it isn’t just a focus on the vapid reality of being famous but more so wielding the influence that comes with it. 

"There is a changing definition of fame. There is a bigger underlying recognition that fame is more than popularity, but a bigger platform to enact change," she said.

And that goes for brands, too. 

"Brands that are succeeding are not just popular, but using their platform to have these discussions," Hodgkins said. 

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