Food for thought
‘Imagine you’re doing a weekly shop of supermarket own brand products.
At checkout, you’re allowed to exchange just one product for a branded label. Which would you pick?’
Last week we hosted a wonderful work experience student who asked us this question on her last day. It created quite the discussion amongst us – including whether we think Generation Z* are less brand loyal than Millennials…and I’ve been mulling this over ever since she left.
Now I have to admit that I only know a small handful of Gen Z’s. And the majority of my research has focused on Millennials and their predecessors, so I feel a little out of touch with this cohort!
What I can glean (and I’ve more to learn), is that Gen Z are set to be a super-charged version of Millennials and will pose a greater challenge for brands to engage and retain.
I say super-charged Millennials because in a lot of ways Gen Z are looking for the same things – only, seemingly, amplified tenfold! For instance, they choose brands that are authentic, they want fast and friction-free customer service across channels, they favour experiences over possessions, they’re driven by content that engages and entertains, and they feel empowered to create change in the world.
However, there are two fundamental differences (no doubt there’ll be more!) that mean brands will have to work harder and find new ways to market to these consumers to stay relevant:
1. Gen Z are the first true digital natives. They’ve grown up (almost from the get-go) with easy and immediate access to the internet and it’s become an integral part of how they live their lives. They’re addicted to tech. I’d argue that this means they’re:
- Exposed to a wider variety of brands – which will likely engender a natural promiscuity in buying behaviour. Thus making it harder to generate loyalty.
- Likely to tune out of lot of advertising and focus on what feels relevant to them. The rise of influencer marketing is a clear reaction to the demand from consumers – and most likely much of this cohort – for relevant, credible content that feels more authentic (even if it’s not!). And this is only likely to continue.
- More focused on the present and judging brands on what they see and hear in the moment; placing less stock in brand heritage.
- Looking to connect with brands that help them develop their own online image and enable them to connect with others through content and experiences.
2. They’ve grown up in the aftermath of the recession. They’re facing the prospect of huge university loans and a seemingly impenetrable housing market, which will no doubt make them more budget conscious. Brands will have to work much harder for a share of wallet.
So generating loyalty among Gen Z is definitely a challenge and brands will have to stay ahead in the marketing game to stand out from the crowd. Indeed, Gen Z is less motivated by loyalty programmes than Millennials, which means some brands may have to take a fresh approach to building loyalty with this generation.
However, it is clearly not an impossible feat. You only have to look at user numbers for Snapchat and Instagram or the success of brands like Nike and Forever 21 with this generation to see that loyalty is achievable. The question is what are those brands doing exactly and how are they doing it? It’s time more brands tried to find out.
*There are never clear cut dates for generations so, for arguments sake, let’s assume that we’re talking about anyone born between 1995 – 2012.