You can learn a lot about Gen Z by spending a day in their shoes. That’s what we set out to do when we asked 16 Gen Zs to share journal entries with us for a full week. The result is our latest research report, A Day in the Life of Gen Z, informing marketers how to best insert themselves into their days in the most useful and impactful ways.
We wanted to chat with some marketers to get their take on the research and how they think brands can reach Gen Z in today’s environment. We recently sat down with Kate Rominger, Associate, Invention+ at Mindshare, who also happens to be a Gen Zer herself. Let’s dive in!
Wattpad Brand Partnerships: What do you think is something brands often get wrong when marketing to Gen Z?
Kate Rominger: When you peek behind the curtain of a brand campaign—and Gen Z will yank the curtain back—there is often a lack of authenticity. We saw this especially play out with the Black Lives Matter movement. If a brand simply put out a blanket statement, Gen Z would look at the brand’s executive team, and if they discovered all white leadership, they would blast screenshots of the board on social media and ask the brand what they’re actually doing to put actions behind their words.
Mindshare recently conducted research and we discovered that 67% of respondents agreed that brands have a role to play in speaking out against racial injustice, and 60% said they’re now more intentional with which brands they support with their dollars. It’s clear that when Gen Z finds disparity between what a brand says and does, they will call them out in a form of pressure culture—as they actually want to see brands change.
Wattpad Brand Partnerships: Gen Z’s friendships span both online and offline, but the pandemic has proven that offline doesn’t replace, but is simply a complement, to in-person connections. How do you predict offline/online interactions will change post pandemic?
KR: People see Gen Z as digitally native and would have predicted that we could live with online communications alone during a pandemic, but it was quickly discovered that’s not the case. We realized what friendships matter most, and from myself personally and my peers, I’ve seen that less exhaustive forms of digital communications are more popular. For example, it’s easier to comment on a social post than schedule a Zoom call which requires more energy. Post pandemic, we will rely more on these micro-interactions.
Wattpad Brand Partnerships: Gen Z are a very socially conscious generation and expect brands to support social causes. But they see through a simple slogan and demand real action. What brand do you think has done a good job of leading with their actions and not just words?
KR: Many brands were quick to support the BLM movement without real action behind their words. The Tweet below, highlighting that any brand could insert themselves into a blanket statement, sums it up perfectly:
A statement from [Brand]® pic.twitter.com/XT9tXF9hvz— Chris Franklin (@Campster) May 31, 2020
There are brands making real impact though, like Ben & Jerry’s. They said outright what most other brands weren’t willing to say—that we need to dismantle white supremacy. They created action items for themselves and the government, and Gen Z lost it with excitement. They created TikToks (such as this one) expressing how thrilled they were that a brand was finally standing behind what they said.
Wattpad Brand Partnerships: Gen Z has not had it easy, and are being particularly hard hit with the pandemic with reduced/online education and delayed entry into the job market. How do you think brands can best support them during this time?
KR: Brands should look to provide opportunities to students in a few ways. First, look to offer internships and jobs with fair pay. If that’s not possible, while Gen Z continues to look to build their resumes, provide them with experiences with an emphasis on learning. Unfortunately, a lot of companies will disguise unpaid work as learning.
Additionally, brands should look to hire Gen Z influencers or creators in their campaigns and uplift marginalized voices, including black and queer voices in particular. Mindshare is doing this through the creation of a series of inclusion private marketplaces, where brands are able to financially support Black and queer voices in media.
Finally, don’t stretch your brand to support too many issues, but commit to a few that you can back up with real action and change.
Wattpad Brand Partnerships: Gen Z strives for a healthier lifestyle yet they struggle with several mental health challenges. How can brands support Gen Z’s desire to live healthier lives right now?
KR: Living with mental health challenges is taxing, and everyone’s experience is different. It’s not realistic to be happy all the time, and brands should look to reflect that in their creative. Brands have to acknowledge that their role isn’t to fix mental health problems, but if they are going to address serious issues like depression, they should consult trained psychologists. Even small wins in helping Gen Z face this challenge, like offering a meditation series, should be celebrated.
Wattpad Brand Partnerships: Many of the participants in the study preferred to socialize in small groups versus large parties (even pre-pandemic). Do you think that is an accurate representation of your generation?
KR: To an extent, yes. We’re able to easily communicate with so many people, that it can be more stressful to do it the “old fashioned way” at a large social gathering. Our social circles are shrinking to a group we’re comfortable with, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Older generations believed that they needed to be doing things all the time and that hanging out at home was to waste away their youth. Our generation rejects that ideology—many people realize they can make great memories with a few people from their living room, and the pandemic proved this even more so by making it more acceptable.
Download our Day in the Life report for even more insights.