How Gen Z is Sick of ‘It’, Yet Making Things Happen

By Courtney Saul, Group Account Director

 

Gen Z is clearly the new “it” generation with a new study, stat or prediction about them coming out nearly every day.

 

Every brand wants to connect with them and every agency wants to understand them. Ours included, especially when a brand like Netflix asks you to help promote their newest high-school drama focused on the complexities of this generation.

 

Truth be told, after doing our research, there’s not one defining, universal insight about this generation. That’s the insight itself. They are all over the place in the best way possible.

 

They are sick of it (it = all the things) but are making things happen. They are trying to figure out how to help themselves and the world all at the same time. They are frustrated but fierce, tired but tireless, fearful but powerful. They are, as the kids say, both low-key and high-key stressed (and yes, as a woman in my mid-30s, I am not ashamed to admit that “high-key” was a term I had to Google when first hearing it from my 23-year-old colleague). They have so much to say and are constantly saying it, but really aren’t sure the right people are hearing them. They get into random hobbies, shows, trends, and handles. They take tech and platforms and break them and reinvent them in new ways. They are constantly changing themselves, their perspectives and everything around them.

 

So, while general takeaways about Gen Z seem wrong, there are some things that feel very right for marketers looking to have even a chance at connecting with them.

 

Run Far Away From Assumptions

Upend preconceived notions and actively run away from them. Take what has worked for other audiences and challenge everything you know. The brands that are connecting today realize that they have to embrace not only a non-traditional approach but a completely experimental, constantly-evolving-scrap-everything-about-traditional-marketing approach. Focus efforts on listening and adapting to what they find important, funny, interesting. If your brand fits in, jump on it. Don’t think too much. Maybe it’ll stick, maybe it won’t, but there will be something new they’re into tomorrow so it’s all good.

 

Get Comfortable Feeling Confused (And Old)

Most brands and agencies are run by people who can’t (and shouldn’t) pretend to understand all the things going on in a 19-year-old’s life, mind or feed. We can’t try to grasp everything about them, how they communicate, and what they’re into, so let’s let them lead the way to ensure the work resonates with and inspires them. Embrace that not knowing something is likely how you’ll know that thing is cool. Lean into what confuses you. And get a Gen Z gut check (i.e. a person or group of GenZers, internal or external) to make sure the work, headline or idea isn’t the next one that gets called out for the wrong reasons.

 

Please Don’t Pretend To Have Purpose

While purpose-driven marketing is not new, this generation demands more of it and more accountability around it. If your brand wants to enter a conversation or support a cause, you’d better be ready to back it up – these kids see right through empty promises and neutral attitudes. So, make your purpose a priority. Take a clear stance. Be as strongly-opinionated as they are. Find a way to show your brand cares about more than making a donation. If teens can drive massive impact through social media, their expectations (rightfully so) are that brands put in the effort, too. If your brand doesn’t do the work, it doesn’t deserve their attention or dollars.

 

Don’t Tell Them How To Use Their Voice, Help Them Make It Louder

Don’t tell them what to think, say or feel, encourage them to own it, fully. Whatever ‘it’ is. Look for ways to get their opinions in front of people they can’t get in front of themselves. Bring their stories, struggles and successes to life in impactful but respectful ways that make them feel heard. Brands have a meaningful opportunity to elevate the everyday change-makers of this generation so their thoughts aren’t just out there on display, but taken more seriously.

 

For more insights into Gen Z, take a look at Chemistry’s full report found here.