Over the past couple of years, the Generation Z has systematically been typecast as lazy, inconsistent, narcissistic and entitled. They are also pulled up for their dependence on technology, mostly by their predecessors who are both intrigued and baffled by technology and its role in the young generation’s life. This couldn’t be far from the truth though.
According to a recent survey by social impact consulting firm, DoSomething Strategic, (American) young people today do not want to be confined to any sort of traditional ideological thinking. A previous survey also reveals that today’s young people don’t just use technology for networking and connecting with their peers but to improve their communities as well. Contrary to the popular narrative around them, adolescents are way more clued on to the prevalent world issues and are purposefully taking responsibility to resolve issues passed on to them by the previous generations.
Activism is way more prevalent in this generation than its predecessors; as is far more impactful. Exposure to social media and access to current world issues, both social and political, has brought forth a tribe of empowered adolescents determined to bring a change in the world and making sure they work towards it. Today’s adolescents are fed up of adults’ inaction and are taking charge of the situation, one crisis at a time.
Understanding that they hold the key to the solutions and being let down by politicians and government, Generation Z is taking the road of consumer activism by turning to big companies, the other big influencer in their lives, to drive the change. After all, money is a big force for driving social change. With readily available tools like social media, there’s no doubt that the power to call out brands on their missteps lies with the young people and they are not afraid to use it. They are no more beseeching but demanding that brands use their platforms for doing good.
Early last year when popular apparel brand, H&M found itself in the middle of a racial controversy, it faced a fair amount of public backlash that hit its public image and reputation hard. Not only was the brand widely criticized by the online public for its racist campaign, but it also ended up losing a valuable brand ambassador in a Canadian Pop star who refused to associate with the brand in the future.
On the other hand, there are purpose-driven brands like Rihanna’s Fenty, that the youngsters are all for, probably because of its sensitivity towards inclusivity. Fenty is considered as something of a game changer in the world of beauty, with its offering of beauty products covering nearly every complexion. Rihanna’s personal mantra reflects in the ethos of the brand – “makeup is there for you to play. It’s there for you to have fun with. It should never feel like pressure, and it should never feel like a uniform”.
Then there are brands like Lush and AirBnb, each doing something in their own capacity to bring a real positive in the world. In America, AirBnb is housing stranded refugees for free and has vowed to provide for 1,00,000 refugees by 2022. Lush’s efforts towards saving the world need no introduction – not only is it living its purpose through ethically sourced, environment friendly products but it also supports major human rights and environment focussed charities around the world.
Long story short, whether you’re a big brand or a small one, you cannot un-notice this revolution. Especially considering that by 2020, i.e. next year, it is this very people i.e. Gen Z that will account for about 40% of your customers. It is safe to say that the days of mass appeal are a thing of the past now. Young people are choosing to associate with brands with meaning. Opportunistic brands are not likely to find takers amongst this lot. And those that do Nothing? Well, like they say, silence too is a form of failure to do what is correct. Those brands will have to pay a heavy price by losing an opportunity to establish connect with customers.
Continue reading here to learn more about successful purpose driven brands across the world.