Forget Millennials -- Gen Z Will Make Brand Purpose A Priority

Some interesting research that recently came out suggests, to me at least, that all the talk about brand purpose -- which I often take with a pinch of salt -- could be coming true. That's because we're now talking Gen Z rather than millennials.

Brands have been told by speakers at conventions that they need to be a good guy and they need to have a purpose or else millennials will shy away from them. As I have often pointed out, however, there is an inconvenient truth. The mega brands that dominate the digital media and ecommerce landscape are not exactly a force for good.

If anyone would like to disagree about any of the social media companies or ecommerce giants, I would point them toward businesses that do all they can to -- completely legally -- avoid paying their full and fair share of UK tax, as they do rather well out of the UK market.

However, the latest research from brand consultancy BBMG and GlobeScan has found there is a major shift in attitude among Gen Z. These people who are either still studying or just entering the workplace have grown up as the mobile-first generation, and they are about to begin making decisions about which brands they want to support.

I know it's a problem to presume your experience is typical, but I have three Gen Z youngsters in school right now and I can assure you, they are far more aware of the global issues and how brands fit into their vision of a better world than I would say my millennial cousins, nieces and nephews are. Put it this way -- we are only allowed to shop in Waitrose because of its position on palm oil in its own-brand products.

The research found that five times more Gen Z youngsters think business do not act in the interests of society than those who do, and around a quarter can't name a single brand they think acts responsibly. This is likely because, the research suggests, Gen Z is twice as likely as the rest of society to care about issues of diversity, inclusion and tolerance.

This means there is a significant uplift with Gen Z, compared to other demographics, wanting to believe in brands that show they are acting in the interests of society. Interestingly, there is a lift in Gen Z not trusting words or slogans but wanting to be shown this is happening.

The research caught my eye because it tallies perfectly with what I notice about my own children, one of whom is already working part-time and picking the brands she wants to be associated with through her meager weekend wages.

This generation that is just starting to, or will soon start, work is part of a world where equal rights and environmental protection are fundamental beliefs.

This was said about millennials -- but in my experience, they were a starting point that meant brands could still rest on their laurels and funnel money home via Bermuda.

I seriously doubt this will be tolerated by Gen Z, who will be keen to make their own choices about brands and not just stick with those their parents or older relatives chose to be loyal to.

The warning about brand purpose was right. It just came too early by being tagged heavily to millennials. As this research shows, it's Gen Z that is going to make doing the right thing more than just a tagline and repurpose it as a code brands will have to live by or lose out.  

2 comments about "Forget Millennials -- Gen Z Will Make Brand Purpose A Priority".
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  1. Kevin McCollum from None, June 7, 2019 at 3:10 p.m.

    Your youngsters (and mine) will continue to support this idealism with their meager wages as long as they don't have bills to pay and mouths to feed.  The unfortunate reality is that many of these support positions will fall to the wayside when they can't afford to support them.
    That's the problem with these surveys, they aren't conducted in the real world environment, and they aren't followed through to see if they put their money where their mouth is.  That's EXACTLY why the millenials petered out.  Why else would they not have lived up to all of the hype of being the generation that supported brand causes?
    Don't get me wrong, I'm very much in support of companies acting environmentally responsible.  However, brands of publically-traded companies have no business picking up and waving the flag of many of today's social issues (with the exception of a precious few that are near-universally held to be true), unless the position is endemic to your brand.  Pushing one side (regardless of which side) of a hot-button social issue will alienate a huge number of your consumers, which is an irresponsible move to both your shareholders and employees (both of which will have some proportion that don't agree with your position).  Private companies have all the leeway they want/need to pursue whatever brand purpose they want, but public companies should leave politics to the politicians.
    I dread the thought of a coming day when I have to change all my brand preferences based on the positions they choose to take.  Why make choosing between Coke and Pepsi any more polarizing than it is already?

  2. Sean Hargrave from Sean Hargrave replied, June 12, 2019 at 5:03 a.m.

    Good point Kevin,
    When the bank of mum and dad is no longer funding a greener more 'woke' lifestyle, will GenZ carry on worrying? I'm a little more confident they will because of the Extinction Rebellion movement making climate change a front page news story and concern plus greener products, I suspect, are going to become more mainstream, making them less of a financial stretch. 
    But you're right, at the moment the 'woke' lifestyle is being funded by parents and guardians, we'll have to see what happens when the bills start landing on their own doorstep!

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