The generation born between c. 1995 to 2010, also known as ‘Generation Z’ or GenZ, is the first official generation of the so called ‘digital natives’. This is a generation born in the age of ubiquitous connectivity and data abundance. Despite having unprecedented access at the palm of their hands, this cohort is values driven, inclusive, open and unconventional vis-à-vis its predecessors. 

While GenZers’ attitudes and preferences are constantly evolving, there are four key attributes that characterise their relationship with consumption and brands. 

#1 Open-Mindedness, Acceptance & Dialogue

To quote Frank Zappa, the American nonconformist musician and composer, “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open” – the quote aptly captures the “woke” mindset of GenZers!

They are more open to dialogue, engender inclusivity, embrace diversity and are more likely to diverge from stereotypes when it comes to their identity. Gender fluidity, human rights, climate change, feminism, race and ethnicity are a few examples of the causes that are important to GenZ. Exploring but also defending these issues, allows them to come closer to shaping their unique interpretation of the world and carving their individual ethos.

With diversity and inclusion being a norm for GenZers, unisex fashion and unconventional beauty standards are some factors for brands to consider when shaping their product portfolio and designing advertising communications targeted to the cohort. 

#2 Authenticity And Expression Of Individual Identity

Another core characteristic of GenZ is their passion for authenticity and staying true to their values. As a result, they see consumption as a way to express their unique identity and project what they stand for in this world. 

Compared to the Millennials, GenZers are less likely to follow mass trends in order to “fit in” and their choices as consumers are more tied to a brand’s ethos, social and environmental footprint than to its popularity by the masses. 

This behaviour brings both challenges and opportunities for brands. Businesses whose success relies on economies of scale via mass production, must come up with innovative ways to deliver personalisation in order to win the hearts of GenZs, in an authentic and meaningful manner.  

#3 Access Over Possession Of Goods And Services

For GenX (born 1960-79) ownership of possessions was synonymous with status and personal success. Think what constituted an accomplishment for our parents’ generation when they bought their first car after years of hard work. Later on for Millennials or GenY (born 1980-94) consumption was all about experiences, travelling the world, facing their fear of heights or doing yoga on a beach in Bali. In contrast for GenZ, consumption is more about having ready access to products or services and not so much about owning them. 

With this shift in the definition of consumption, products are transformed to services and new business models, and opportunities for companies are born. From peer-to-peer car and home rentals, to video and music streaming services and virtual fitness coaching sessions. There is a rising need for companies to rethink conventional strategies and redesign their value-creation models and the way they engage and capture this new generation of consumers. 

#4 Commitment To Social, Ethical And Environmental Causes

GenZers are passionate about social and environmental causes and have the desire to have a positive influence on the world. These ethically motivated consumers are passionate about noble causes like environmental activism, sustainability, culture preservation, alternative energy, and human and animal rights and consider electric car manufacturer brands like Tesla and outdoor sports apparel brands like Patagonia as some of the ‘’coolest’’ companies. 

As ethical and responsible consumption continues to gather pace with GenZers, brands would need to rethink their entire operating models and value chains, in a way that protects the environment, gives back to the society, preserves culture and respects all living things. There is also likely to be a mass movement towards absolute transparency as bridging the societal trust deficit emerges as the next key priority for this generation. 

GenZ, the next consumer segment to go mainstream, will be fundamental to the future success or failure of brands in the next horizon. With COVID-19, one of the most profound disruptions of our life-times that has hit the society at large, the era of consumerism turns a new leaf. Now more than ever the responsibility lies with brands to re-imagine their business model, proposition and purpose to cater to the new generation of “woke” GenZ consumers.