Carolyn White
Carolyn White

Gen Z zeitgeist is shaping brand futures & society

By Carolyn White, Shopper Foundry Founding Business Partner. Gen Z influence extends beyond socio-economic development to social networks and relationships, including with brands, through their perspective of the world.

By Carolyn White, Shopper Foundry Founding Business Partner. In today’s ever-changing world, the youth not only represent the future of our country, but also serve as catalysts for change, innovation, and the evolution of brand and product marketing. Their influence extends beyond socio-economic development as they shape their social networks and relationships through their perspective of the world.

Carolyn White

One of the defining factors in the way Gen Z approaches success and their role in the world is a culture of ‘we’ rather than just ‘me’. They recognise that their individual success is closely tied to the overall success and impact of their team. This emphasis on making a difference in the world sets Gen Z apart from previous generations. They are deeply invested in the work they do and the positive change it brings.

Brands that have successfully tapped into the inclusivity and collective culture of Gen Z includes Coca-Cola. Through authentic collaborations and innovative ways for their audience to engage with the brand, Coca-Cola’s Tastes like Dreams campaign allowed Gen Z to explore a variety of flavours and link them to the idea that dreams are made of natural flavours.

Culture and connections

For Gen Z, the cultural connection and relevance of brands are crucial. They value authenticity and favour imperfections over perfections, as described by Kantar as ‘Messy Realness’. Throughout 2021, Gucci was on a mission to show up differently in its category, harnessing the power of TikTok and strategic partnerships to shake ‘old’ associations and reach the growing Gen Z market. From a brand partnership that merged The North Face with TikTok train enthusiast Francis Bourgeois; a limited edition watch collection with esports brand Fnatic that sold out in 48 hours; to a 2020 campaign that put model-generated ‘messy realness’ at the centre, these explorations have led to renewed momentum for Gucci.

Social currency and hustle

Gen Z embraces fluidity in how they view and pursue their lives – whether it’s work, leisure, or passion projects. Globally, the most distinctive value for this young group is being successful (62% say this). They are determined to seek a better future for themselves, viewing many of the hardships they find themselves in, whether it’s rising unemployment or navigating social climate changes, by changing the world. “By creating work out of what we value the most, we can accomplish something that really matters. We can change the world, even achieve personhood.”

An authentic campaign driven by the Yoco payments platform, Celebrate the Under Dog,  acknowledges the entrepreneurial hustle of Gen Z and celebrates their contribution to job creation. This campaign recognises the hardships faced by Gen Z entrepreneurs and their potential to succeed on their unique journey.

New world values

To shape authentic, immersive, and progressive narratives and experiences for youth, both brands and Gen Z have pivotal roles to play. Brands must truly understand the aspirations and values of Gen Z and involve them in crafting brand stories, innovations, and campaign roll-outs. By establishing a genuine partnership beyond a mere consumer opportunity, brands can connect with Gen Z on a deeper level.

Simultaneously, Gen Z has the opportunity to assist brands and marketers in making a greater impact on societal issues that matter to them. Their nonconformist nature, curiosity, and technological savvy enable them to gain and share knowledge rapidly, empowering brands to address community-level projects and scale their initiatives effectively.

As we commemorate Youth Month, let’s embrace inspiration, curiosity, and openness in engaging with Gen Z. By appreciating their unique attitudes, mindsets, and the challenges they face in a demanding world, brands can build stronger connections and foster mutual growth.


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