In the era of hyper-mediation, content creation, and instant gratification, building brand relevance with the Gen Z audience is more complex than ever before. Relevance is not a single virtue; it’s the result of successfully combining factors critical to this consumer segment: purpose & authenticity, quality and innovation. To be relevant means that this segment of consumers can relate to what you do and what you stand for, in a way that brings them (emotionally) closer to your brand. 

So what do Gen Z consumers expect of Brands when it comes to Relevance?


The Brand Says Something About Me (that I like)

Gen Z consumers are presenting themselves to the universe, everyday, several times a day, on at least 2-3 different social platforms. A decade ago, the only people who saw the brands we wore or bought into sat in our classroom or office. For Gen Z, the world is their stage and everyone is watching and waiting to form an opinion about who you are (in part, based on the brands you’re interacting with and the stories they tell about you). Everyone is a storyteller today, each building their very own brand. It’s personal.

Gen Z consumers choose brands that are, in a way, relevant to their own personal brand. They affiliate with brands that say something about them (mostly: I’m cool, I’m #trending, I’m in the know, but also I’m a yogi, I’m an adventurer, I’m healthy, I’m liberal, outspoken, a global citizen, a foodie, a purveyor of good taste and the list goes on). The brands they choose are part of their story, props on their stage, and therefore they need to be extremely relevant to the image they want to portray of themselves. Brands need to define a very clear purpose, values, image, tone and positioning that Gen Zers can connect with, and this all needs to consistently run through everything the brand presents from products through to taglines & tweets.


Product Still Reigns for Relevance

Gen Z is made up of the savviest consumers our world has ever seen; a universe of information & choice is at their fingertips – and they are master navigators. For brands, this means competition is fierce and conversion is a landmine.

Product, still the queen of all the Ps, continues to be the secret sauce for building relevance – even with Gen Z. Products that are relevant to their needs, but of course, well designed around their lifestyle and their world view continue to matter most. In an age of fast fashion and disposable tech, the quality, functionality (or often multi-functionality) and design of a product that delivers on their core & complex needs, with style, remains a core driver of relevance. If a brand makes products that don’t really matter to them, it’s very likely that relevance is the first brand strength factor to fall right through the cracks.


There’s No Relevance without Innovation


Gen Z grew up in the era where innovation is the baseline: it’s the driver of how they get around, where they choose to travel, how they buy their products and how they keep in touch. Innovation is the new normal.

Companies like Blackberry & Kodak ceased to exist during the same time that Netflix went from a DVD mailing service to the leading content creator/streaming platform/pop culture catalyst of the world. Innovation for brands today is a matter of life & death.

Gen Zers seek brands that innovate because they speak to their very own infinite potential. These are the brands that just won’t settle for what’s working now, but are constantly innovating and pushing the envelope to raise the bar on their category, and to surprise their customers with products and solutions that they don’t even know they need (think Uber, Airbnb, even Nike). Brands innovate in product and design, but also in the stories they tell, the channels they tell them through, the experiences they create and the impact they have on the world.

Gen Z consumers, at the core, are looking for the same things consumers have always looked for: meaning, quality and innovation. But how brands go about delivering on those is totally different in the Gen Z universe and building Relevance for a brand with this segment is an intricate and complex balance of getting the basics right, while telling a unique (authentic) story that actually matters.