During my time in advertising, one of the top questions I was asked by clients was: How do we reach the next-generation consumer without alienating our current (aging) customer base? It’s a business problem that’s on the mind of every marketing leader looking to future-proof their brand. In addressing this question, the first step involves recognizing Gen Z’s consumer behaviors. From there, you will find the answer — quite literally — in the truth.
Members of Gen Z (born after 1997) are especially demanding of the truth. They are a generation that’s coming of age during a time when the truth is under siege. Navigating this opaque backdrop makes them skeptical to trust relationships until they are assured of a shared value system between them and the brands they consider. Why? Gen Zers don’t hesitate to cancel brands when they sense a shallow veneer. Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that nearly a third of Gen Z say that they unfollow, hide, or block brands on social media — at least weekly. This represents a much higher percentage than any other generation.
This past year has made me put a lot more attention toward who cares about telling the truth.
— Rob Felton (19 years old)
As part of my research, “A Post-Truth Climate Is Shaping Gen Z’s Consumer Behaviors,” I interviewed a number of Gen Z consumers and asked about how the confluence of events from 2020 affected their relationship with brands. Nineteen-year-old Georgia native Rob Felton shared, “This past year has made me put a lot more attention toward who cares about telling the truth.” He added, “I’ve started to care less about the products [brands] sell and more about their message to consumers.”
My trust in brands has decreased because so many of them during the pandemic didn’t do anything.
— Joan Garcia (22 years old)
Forrester found a 6-point year-over-year drop (from 52% to 46%) in adult Gen Zers who think it’s cool to be associated with a brand on social media. While a number of factors can be attributed to this decline, a dominant theme that emerged across our research is that Gen Z expects brands to use their influence to stand up for what’s right — to stand up for the truth. As 22-year-old Joan Garcia from the Dominican Republic put it, “My trust in brands has decreased because so many of them during the pandemic didn’t do anything. They didn’t even try to make an impact.”
To reach Gen Z requires that marketers embrace the interconnectedness of profit and purpose. While many brands are now jumping on the “purpose-led” bandwagon, most aren’t seen as conscious companies that pass Gen Z’s sniff test. In our full report, I explore how to elevate your marketing mix in a way that will earn and keep Gen Z’s trust. Tweet me your thoughts at @McProulx, and let’s chat more about it via a Forrester inquiry.
Discover how to build more connected and relevant customer experiences at the CX North America live virtual experience on June 7-9, 2021.