Say hello to generation Z! Brands’ focus are currently shifting from millennials to GenZers, stirring a controversial dilemma on whether this consumer group is really influential or just an exaggerated version of millennials. 

We’ve exclusively interviewed Richard Taylor, Managing Partner at Brandon Consultants, for his take on what seduces GenZers in a brand! 

BB: Change is the new constant. That being said, staying relevant and becoming adaptable have become crucial brand differentiators. In your opinion, how can brands stay true to their DNA and sustain growth while embracing change and maintaining relevance?

RT: Brands’ owners need to understand what sticky memory structure the brand plays in people’s lives today and what opportunistic space there is for the brand tomorrow. Brands have to stand out as offering something different to the competition, either rationally or emotionally. Then beyond that they have to win the fight to constantly staying relevant by bringing products and services to market that resonate, that fulfil a meaningful role in their audiences’ lives. 

BB: Millennials aside, the next breed of consumers are here and accounting for a significant chunk of the buying power, Gen Z. In a nutshell, how would you describe the fundamental characteristics of their behavior towards brands? What are their drivers? and what influences their buying decisions?

RT: The concept of brand is changing in our lives and whilst brand owners spend hours, weeks and months discussing the size of the logo, consumers don’t care as much for brands as they used to. They are no longer the signposts for quality that they once were and prolific competition in most categories has made it hard for brands to differentiate emotionally or rationally.

This audience are promiscuous and will shop around for the best deal. Gen Z differ in that they are digitally native from the outset, it’s their modus operandi and brands need to play in their digital world or die at speed. This audience are much savvier than those that have gone before and often look beyond the product or service, to the people and company behind the goods. CSR (Corporate & Social Responsibility) has been thrust onto the board room table and whilst many multinational businesses still pay it lip service many are taking it seriously and questioning their supply chain and ethics. 

BB: GenZers are known to be ‘digital natives’. How can brands of today design an effective engagement strategy with such a digital-savvy consumer group?

RT: I’m constantly amazed by the lack of insight brand owners have on their audience. So, first and foremost I’d recommend that any brand owners get up close and personal with their audience, or potential audience of shoppers. Conduct a U&A (Usage & Attitude) study and see how your brand fits into their lives, what occasions are they looking to use it and what do they want for it.

Without that insight you can’t build a brand, you are simply guessing with hunches. The U&A study should also unearth the best opportunities in which to engage with your audience, so use that insight to drive channel selection. But most importantly of all focus on having a rock-solid brand idea that your audience can buy into within a millisecond. Then find an exciting and engaging way in which to promote it clearly and quickly. Too many brand owners get bamboozled with digital channels and focus all their efforts on a media plan and forget that the media is a waste of money without a brand campaign idea that people connect with. 

BB: How brands can seduce Generation Z ? What they’re looking for in a brand ?

RT: The basic principles of branding remain as true today as they did yesterday. I think the slight difference is that Gen Z’s are digital natives and with that may pull the curtain back from brand owners to understand more about the companies behind the brands. So the role of the corporation to be clear about who it is, what it believes and then how it behaves is going to now be much higher up on the decision making tree than its ever been before. Many multi-nationals are still playing catch up on that, but they will be called to task by the Gen Z audience and if they don’t clean their acts up will be called out and lose share to a competitor that does play ball. 

BB: Gen Z are attracted to brands that are purposeful and conscious. Can you mention some ins and outs for brands to stay relevant to this newly-bred consumer group ?

RT: We’ve recently lived in a world of Simon Sinek’s “WHY”, where every Tom, Dick and Harry has been searching for their “why” or purpose in life. Whilst an admiral goal for many to focus on their brand and what it stands for its led to a lot of brandwashing, where brand owners come up with a story to fit the brand and then go and sell it to an audience that are more digitally connected than ever before.

You can’t pull the wool over their eyes, so don’t try. As always brands need to be true to themselves and not try and latch onto the latest shiny and gold social issue. Unless the brand has been there for years and is supporting that community. Some brands hold social consciousness to their core and its what makes them, they wouldn’t want to change that and why should they. Think Patagoina for clothing, Ella’s Kitchen for babies, TOMS for shoes, etc. 

BB: Can you mention three brands that you consider as hallmarks in building brand relevance with Gen Z?

RT: I don’t think any 3 come to mind. I think it’s a question of thinking about which brands do a good job at having a core brand strategy that taps into a consumer need and then promotes that time and time again across the relevant channels for the audience they are looking to attract. 

BB: One of the challenges that face marketeers when trying to be relevant with Gen Z is that their brands’ loyalty are also shared by older generations. How can brands appeal to Gen Z and at the same time don’t lost other loyal consumer groups?

RT: Whilst it’s easy to categorize people in generations I think we all by and large hold similar values and beliefs. Brands need to create products and services that are both relevant for their core consumers and then stretch to a new audience that might be looking for something slightly different. Think of FMCG brands like Nestlé’s KitKat, it still has its core 4-finger chocolate biscuit that we all know and love. But its then broken out and created the manly KitKat Chunky and KitKat bites for sharing. The brand has simply stretched into new occasions and new audiences whilst still holding its core brand for those that have always, and will always, buy the 4-finger chocolate biscuit.