You’ve never known a world without the internet in your pocket. Information has never been more than a Google search away. Products are in-hand with just an Amazon order. Friends wait across the screen via Whatsapp while your life is laid out, carefully curated, on Instagram.

Say hello to Gen Z, as well as the new dynamic between consumer and brand that they bring with them.

In case you don’t have a member of this generation living with you to remind you daily that “Facebook isn’t cool anymore”, you may be wondering who Gen Z are.

The latest and greatest on the scene for marketers to passionately obsess over, the oldest of GenZ are 22 and the youngest still in school. Much of this generation is still in the process of growing up, but certain patterns are already emerging (IPSOS offer an exhaustive view on this).

We know that they’re diverse, open and progressive as a whole. We know that they’re much more value conscious and pragmatic than Millennials (ouch). But the big, fat elephant in the room is the fact that these kids were born with high-speed internet connections clutched in their little fists.

Getting a smartphone is now a mandatory milestone for this cohort. It’s no wonder that 96% of them are equipped with smartphones, allowing them to spend an average of 3.5 hours a day connected.

It may be stating the obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway. When you spend half your life online, and half IRL, it changes the way you interact with the world. And naturally, the way in which you interact with brands.

Unconventional and increasingly popular American politician, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has rapidly built a brand of radical transparency for herself by sharing Instagram updates from inside the American government. It’s plain to see that social media is already tearing down the traditional barriers around institutions.

The instantaneous and democratized flow of information means that brands too have to adopt a glass door policy. Advertise to us? Just a moment while we check you out on Amazon, YouTube and social media first. In China, social network Weibo has sparked growth in social shopping, allowing users to buy from both brands and individuals, with user opinions to guide their purchases.

By triangulating multiple data sources, these digital natives who are familiar with the perils of misinformation actively seek truth and authenticity. Brands to whom they entrust their money are accountable, after all! Sonos embraced this new dynamic in their 2015 campaign which urged viewers to Google and discover their five star reviews for themselves.

Access to information has led to a huge power shift from brands to consumers, but information isn’t the only way in which technology has helped GenZ flip the brand dynamic.

With the right filters and platforms, each and every person is now a brand of their own. JWT Intelligence reports that 63% of Gen Zers think of themselves as influencers, 48% as entrepreneurs and 31% as brands. Kantar found that they identify with their social media personas more than other generations, with 61% feeling that the things they post say a lot/ something about them.

GenZers are in the pursuit of life, liberty and uniqueness. Google report ‘It’s Lit’ identifies having a unique identity as the ultimate cool factor for this generation.

That’s where brands need to recognise that they’re being used to fluidly reflect aspects of GenZers values and non-binary identities. Brands that helps them shape and express their ‘unique and authentic’ selves are cool. From access platforms like Netflix, to brands like Aerie lingerie and Ben & Jerry’s that embody inclusive beliefs.

The mythical monster of ‘decreasing attention spans’ is a symptom of numerous brands missing the boat on this connect.

GenZ does not lack the ability to focus. They simply do it on their own terms, the GenZ way. Their superpower to beat information overload is the ability to swiftly determine at the speed of thought what has value and relevance for them. So how do brands ‘talk GenZ’ without coming across as patronizing or, worse, fake?

Brands can look to partnerships. Clean & Clear partnered with GenZers to launch C&C, a stylish (and gender-neutral) line of personal care products. Adidas, on the other hand, keep the hype alive by partnering with artists like Stormzy in the UK.

Honestly, there’s no easy way forward from here. Brands must embrace this newly levelled playing field. Following the principle of show-don’t-tell, let Gen Z see and assess your brand’s authenticity of purpose while working with them to co-create and discover the value that your brand can offer them.

Take a deep breath, and open up to Gen Z.