The #1 Mistake Brands Make with Gen Z & How To Make It Right
By Alisa Miller
When it comes to resonating with Gen Z, brands can get it incredibly right… or incredibly wrong. Born between 1997 and 2012, this generation sniffs disingenuous communication from a mile away. Throwing popular Gen Z words like “bet” into your latest blog post or promoting your company’s diversity without having the firm numbers to validate that claim will fall extremely short.
The data shows there’s a major disconnect: Only 8% of Gen Zers strongly feel that brands understand their generation. In an attempt to connect the dots, marketers assume what this generation wants to hear, or they commit this all-too-common but detrimental snafu: they try to speak like Gen Z, not authentically with them.
With 51% of Gen Zers saying brands don’t understand how to talk to their generation, this clearly isn’t working.
So, what does?
Deeply understanding Gen Z’s values and communicating with them in an authentic way. When brands do that, they’ll build unshakeable relationships that go well beneath the surface.
Brands spend a considerable amount of money marketing to this younger generation, and they’re not getting very far. Of Gen Zers, 72% say brands could do a better job marketing to them, even though brands will spend up to $130 billion in these efforts. That’s a lot of time and money wasted on campaigns that don’t land.
When brands do get it right, they position themselves for an especially bright future. After all, Gen Z is the largest generation in America right now and by 2030, their global income will soar to $33 trillion. They are the most diverse generation to date.
Connecting with Gen Z comes down to what they care about. Values matter. Purpose-led companies drive stronger consumer connections: 63% of consumers said they buy goods and services from companies that reflect their personal values and beliefs. Consumers express their values with their wallets. They’ll invest in brands whose values align with their own — and steer clear of brands which don’t.
Appealing to Gen Z isn’t about a gut feeling or best guess. The brands that excel in resonating with this generation use data to get a pulse on what matters and for Gen Z, that’s social and environment issues. This generation cares so deeply about the planet’s well-being that it actually tops their list of priorities:
Additionally, social issues matter to Gen Z and they expect brands to prioritize them too.
By illustrating their shared values, brands have a prime opportunity to capture Gen Z’s loyalty. That said, be careful about creating a splashy ad about your brand going green, or hastily releasing your company’s statement on a recent social issue. Brands enter dangerous waters when their actions don’t reflect their words, or worse yet, if their words aren’t genuine.
Compared to 16% of Millennials, 40% of Gen Z consumers are more likely to boycott a brand for not delivering on their promises. Not only will brands lose valuable customers for failing to walk the walk, their entire future may be at risk.
Sharing values and acting on them is an important first step, but it is not nearly enough. To create even deeper connections with Gen Z, brands must consistently communicate their values, or face alienation from their consumers. For example, a brand that lives and breathes diversity and inclusion may not consistently articulate this value across their content. This discrepancy may damage their reputation and struggle to regain Gen Z’s trust. With the right language intelligence, brands ensure that every communication conveys their values in the same way — from their videos to their website and beyond.
Gen Z’s purchasing power is growing. Don’t let your words don’t get in the way. Instead, harness their power to resonate with the ones who matter most.
Pluralytics CEO & Co-founder
Named by Fast Company as a Most Influential Woman in Technology, Alisa Miller is co-founder and CEO of Pluralytics, the ground-breaking machine learning-powered language analytics platform. Before starting Pluralytics, Alisa was CEO of Public Radio International (PRI) from 2006-2018 and was the first woman and youngest CEO to head a major public radio network. In 2018, she led PRI’s merger with PRX, creating a company that reaches 28.5MM users and has 100MM podcast downloads monthly. She speaks on the power of purpose-driven businesses and on tech/media’s power to shape knowledge and action. Her TEDTalk has 2MM+ views/translated into 48 languages.
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