By Fresh Produce Marketing founder Lisa Cork
I recently attended South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin – an annual gathering of thought leaders and influencers across a range of subjects, including film, media, music, food, wellness, tech and much, much more.
One of the workshops I attended featured Gen Zs (the generation born 1995-2010) talking about how they see the world. It was fascinating. While Millennials currently get all the attention, I think Gen Z is the generation to watch – especially when it comes to branding and brand storytelling.
For those not familiar with Gen Z, here are some interesting points to note (excerpts sourced from https://blog.markgrowth.com/meet-gen-z-no-facebook-no-tv-no-bs-c84021f66473):
- They’ve not known a world without high school mass shootings.
- They’ve grown up watching partisan politics be dysfunctional, self-serving and unable to make meaningful change on big issues important to their constituents.
- They’ve grown up with the fallout of the economic recession and seen greed consume financial systems at the expense of everyday people.
- They’ve grown up only knowing environmental crisis.
- They’ve grown up with cable news and social media available 24/7; ‘fake news’ is their norm.
- They’ve watched ‘me’ focused Millennials crave attention as they share everything about their lives on social media channels like Facebook…but not really create any meaningful change in the world.
The Gen Z cohort is radically different than any that has come before. Their world view is more pessimistic – but they are not willing to sit back and be idle observers. They are gunning for, even asking for a fight on issues important to them. One only has to look at the recent anti-gun social media movement #NeverAgain to see their activism in action. Remember…many Gen Zs are still high school kids.
At the SXSW workshop, the quote that stayed with me about Gen Z is, “Their voice is a megaphone…they will be heard.” This is powerful stuff indeed.
Gen Zs are the generation that has zero tolerance for BS. They will demand transparency and accountability far more than their Millennial counterparts. If an industry or brand has any ‘skeletons in the closet’, expect this generation to find them and call them out.
So how does this relate to marketing?
In my 30 plus years of produce marketing, never has marketing or branding been more challenging…or more exciting. There is huge demographic diversity – and the way we need to reach consumers and talk to different consumer segments is more complex than it has ever been.
As an example, for older consumers and Millennials, Facebook remains relevant. For younger Gen Z consumers, Facebook is dead. For older consumers, email is still a primary communication tool. For Millennials and Gen Z, email is ancient – analogous to sending a fax or a telex. And what about websites? Take a look at your stats – who is visiting? What’s their age? How long are they staying? For younger consumers they far more want to engage with your brand via social channels where they can have a voice and interact.
And what about branding?
While older generations seem dismissive of Gen Z, be warned…they will seek and find the truth. This will impact both branding and brand storytelling.
For established brands, working with an expert who can help you revisit your vision, mission, values and reasons for being will become important. Surround yourself not just with peers, but be sure you include in the mix a range of perspectives – including Gen Z. If you are open to be challenged by people less than half your age or younger, their BS filter will help ensure your brand story is authentic, honest and future proofed.
For new brands, the advice is similar. Before you decide on a brand name, seek sound counsel from a diverse audience. How do Gen Zs see your business? How do they define what’s in it for them? What would they name your business or product if they had the chance?
Over the past few weeks I have been talking to colleagues about Gen Z and I’ve been intrigued by their response. Some have never heard of Gen Z or know anything about them. Some have typified them – lumping them in with Millennials – and suggest they are lazy, self-absorbed and lack the ability to contribute value. I have yet to meet anyone who has truly embraced Gen Zs or felt a sense of genuine curiosity.
To my colleagues – if you are over 40, I encourage you to reach out to both Gen Z and Millennials. While their world view may not be your world view and their world view may challenge your world view, being able to hear and embrace how they think is important research which will help you future-proof your business.
And if you are a Gen Z reading this, please reach out to me. I would love to hear from you – and learn more about your world view of our industry.
Head on over to www.freshproducemarketing.com for my contact details.
Related story: Marketing to Generation Z: a how-to guide from APS2016