What Does Gen Z Really Want From Brands?


Gen Z is a digitally-savvy generation unlike any other. What does this generation truly care about, and how can you align with their values in a genuine way?

Gen Z has only recently joined the workforce, making them a bit more of an unknown at times. But generally, we know they’re digital natives in the sense that they’ve had access to technology and the internet their entire lives.

Born between 1995 to 2010, when it comes to doing business with brands, Gen Z strongly prefers to support brands that have values and ethics they agree with. This article will look at the ways brands are connecting with this young generation, how they’re ensuring their values are in alignment and how they see Gen Z impacting their business strategies.

What Are Gen Z’s Characteristics and Core Values?

By 2026, Gen Z will be the largest generation at around 82 million people, according to Business Insider. While earlier generations grew to feel strongly about social causes, Gen Z became socially focused at a very young age and is passionate about social justice issues.

They believe in and care very much about equality. Most members of Gen Z were too young to remember what life was like before 9/11 or even before cell phones. Other characteristics of Gen Z include:

  • Digitally sophisticated
  • Environmentally concerned
  • Ethical shoppers
  • Ultra-focused
  • Values access over possession
  • Racially, sexually, religiously diver­se
  • Financially minded
  • Social media activists
  • Polit­i­cal­ly pro­gres­sive
  • Supportive of women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, BLM movement

For Gen Z, consumption means having access to products or services rather than owning them. Access to car ride services such as Lyft and Uber, streaming video services such as Prime and Netflix and subscriptions to software as a service (SaaS) such as Adobe Cloud is what holds value to Gen Z.

Technology is very important to Gen Z. In fact, Laserfiche polled over 1,000 British Gen Zers between the ages of 21 and 24 and found that 20% have quit their jobs because of “useless technology” they had to use at work. The poll also revealed that 66% of Gen Z believe their personal technology at home is better than what they use at work, a statistic that is surprising considering that so many businesses made it through the pandemic due to digital transformation.

A report from Deloitte indicated that although salary is still the most important factor in deciding on a job, Gen Z values it less than every other generation. In fact, if they are given the choice of accepting a better-paying job that is boring versus a job that is more interesting but pays less, Gen Z was evenly divided over the choice.

Generation Z Values Their Unique Identity

A report from OCAD University revealed that 73% of Gen Z believe they need more self-expression to live a happy, healthy life. Before social media, a person expressed themselves by how they dressed, how they wore their hair, where they worked, the car they drove and the music they listened to, among other things.

inclusion

Gen Z lives a large part of their lives on social media and in online games and metaverses, and this is where they meet friends, express themselves and create their unique identity. It’s also where they receive social validation (i.e., likes, comments, followers) for the things they do both in real life (IRL) and online.

Additionally, social media is the place where they inform their peers about their beliefs and values. Gen Z celebrates a wide variety of unique distinctions, including racial diversity, gender expression, sexual orientation, body sizes and shapes and neurodiversity.

Aneesh Dhawan, CEO of Knit, a Gen Z insights platform and video feedback solution provider, told CMSWire that Gen Z’s sense of self-expression carries forth in their decisions about the brands they choose to do business with.

“With a unique approach to self-expression and identity and as the most ethnically diverse generation, Gen Z is a group that thrives on celebrating differences while maintaining a strong sense of individuality,” said Dhawan. “Their purchasing decisions are simply an organic extension of this self-expression. This is why we see 89% of Gen Zers choosing to shop from brands that are socially and environmentally conscious.”

Core Brand Values That Attract Gen Z

To attract Gen Z, brands must highlight their commitment to societal challenges such as diversity, environmentalism, sustainability, climate change and world hunger. A brand’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) statement must be something that the brand lives, rather than just espouses.

CSR statements can include a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, reducing environmental impact, increasing community outreach, promoting sustainability and eliminating prejudice and corporate bias.

Gen Z wants to know that the brands they do business with are aligned with their values, both internally and externally. Nabila Salem, president at Revolent, a leader in cloud talent creation, told CMSWire that when people talk about brand values and ethics to Gen Z, it can sometimes look like lip service. “If your values and ethics exist to purely align with theirs, then your business might be missing the whole point of having ethics and values.”

Diversity and inclusion should be a core value for a brand if they want to attract Gen Z as customers or employees. “We’re genuinely committed to diversity and inclusion, both within our organization and the sector we operate in,” said Salem. “68% of our tech professionals identify as Arab, Asian, Black, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Mixed Race or North African, and over two-thirds of our senior leadership team identify as female.”

Brands that genuinely care about their values should do so out of a desire to make the world a better place rather than just attract a specific segment of the population.

“While we hope Gen Z will see us as an employer to work for — because we hope our values and ethics align with their own — we did not create these initiatives or make these changes specifically to attract them to our workplace,” Salem explained, “we did it to make the sector we work in a fairer place for all. That, to me, is what ethics and values are for.”



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