Soon to make up approx. 32 percent of the global population in 2019, Generation Z is straying from the norm and they’re not apologizing for it. We’ve spent the past few weeks getting to know a few of these young, spritely CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs through our new Gen ZEOs series and live Tweet Chat on 12/14, and wanted to share a few key insights with our community. We’ve learned that in order for companies to “win” in the eyes of Gen Z, they have to truly understand how they think and what they value. But it’s not just about winning them over as customers, it’s also about winning them over as potential employees, partners, and advocates for your brand.
Check out the insights below from our inspiring group of Gen ZEOs:
Aanikh Kler, COO & Co-founder, Trufan
Andy McCune, COO & Co-founder Unfold
Drake Rehfeld, CEO & Co-founder, Demeanor
Dylan Gambardella, Co-founder & Co-CEO, Next Gen
Swish Goswami, CEO & Founder, Trufan
Tiffany Zhong, Founder & CEO, Zebra IQ
1. Build and foster communities with your audience
I’m really inspired by brands like Glossier that have built cult followings and turned their customers into brand super fans. The next generation of brands are social-first and build cult followings by creating products that customers want to be seen associating with #GenZEOs
— Andy McCune (@9th) December 14, 2018
As brands fight for the attention (and dollars) of the next wave of consumers, it’s becoming increasingly important to truly understand the values of Gen Z in order to win them over: trust, authenticity, and belonging. And while the desire to feel a sense of community is not necessarily unique to this generation, the emphasis they put on it is greater, not only in personal relationships but also in relationships with brands. Building a community with your audience has two-fold benefits: deepens brand affinity and provides valuable insights to inform your product and marketing decisions.
“Just build a way for your super customers to be friends with each other, and they'll be so obsessed, they'll post for you for free.” -Drake
2. Give Gen Z a seat at the table
.@Wendys in 2017 was GOLD. Their content didn’t make any sense, and didn’t feel like a brand, and that was perfect. Gen Z is sick of brands being stuffy black boxes with comms that sound like a PR firm engineered them. #GenZEOs
— Drake (@drakerehfeld) December 14, 2018
Don’t market based on assumptions. It has always been critical for brands to proactively seek input from consumers to inform product and brand direction, but with Gen Z, collaboration is what will set brands apart in 2019. Collaborating with these young new creators to stay on top of culture, trends, what’s working (and what’s not).
Tiffany Zhong, Founder & CEO of Gen Z insights platform Zebra IQ says it’s important to “deeply understanding culture & trends by constantly talking to your current customers, target customers who haven't converted yet, and churned out users (should be everyone in the company, not just the insights team).”
3. Take a stand...authentically
Taking a social stance. We saw @Nike do it and although there was some negative criticism (completely undeserved) the wave of positivity completely took over. Young people want to see brands stand up for issues that impact them and do so in a genuine way.
— Aanikh Kler (@aanikhkler) December 14, 2018
Gen X cared about value for their dollar, Millennials valued brands with purpose and Gen Z values companies who take it one step further and take a stand. While speaking up on socio-political issues is becoming more routine for brands, doing it authentically is what resonates with Gen Z. Having an authentic brand purpose is also critical from a recruiting perspective as Gen Z wants to feel aligned with a brand’s purpose in order to feel fully committed.
“At the end of the day, to speak our language you need to be authentic and not come off like you’re acting.” - Swish
4. Focus on quality over quantity
Multi-platform content shifts will be interesting: I’m tracking the CGI influencers’ moves into more channels, especially apps and other mobile digital products off the traditional platforms. Paid premium short-form video will grow, IMO, and ~not~ on things like patreon.#GenZEOs
— Drake (@drakerehfeld) December 14, 2018
According to Gen Z, you don’t need get your product in the hands of every influencer, or be a part of every social conversation (think twice about the memes and witty responses). This highly observant group of individuals will see right through it, thus negating the positive impact you’re after. And on the note of Influencers, our GenZEOs are calling for big shifts in the way Influencers reach audiences - expanding from traditional channels that we see today.
“Brands doing a good job - @Wendys @BurgerKing. Love the stance @eBay and @Unilever have taken against influencer marketing. I appreciate their focus to engage their influential sellers.” - Swish
5. Test, learn, and pivot
— Dylan Gambardella (@DylGambardella) December 14, 2018
Gen Z is always looking at new innovative ways to solve problems and they’re not waiting for brands to do it for them, as generations who came before then often did. Use Gen Z to be more agile as an organization and really build a test-and-learn environment into your brand - one where you can easily pivot to better serve your audience if needed. Their attention span may be less than eight seconds and they have five different screens with them at all time, but they only need 8 seconds to detect whether or not they like what they see. “Gen Z is really smart and attuned to what's an ad, what's low quality content, etc.” - Tiffany
6. Trade the ping-pong tables for a genuine culture
Understand that gen z doesn't want just a "job" - they want something that's fulfilling and aligned with their values.
Understand that the new american dream is to be able to work wherever you want & whenever you want.
Show that you trust them w more responsibility + autonomy.
— ᴛᴢ, ɢᴇɴ ᴢ ᴅᴇᴄᴏᴅᴇʀ 🧙🏻♀️ (@TZhongg) December 14, 2018
Want Gen Z on your team? Make sure you’re promoting an authentic, forward-thinking culture to genuinely attract young, creative innovators to join your team. According to our Gen ZEOs, when it comes to work, there’s nothing more important than trust, feeling fulfilled, authentic culture and flexibility.
“Flexible workspaces (remote/abroad) with REAL decision making power and the ability to take ownership of a project. Tie end results into daily operations!.” -Dylan
“Culture to me is the way your employees get up and look at their day of work. Making people feel valued, inspired and creative in and out of the workplace is the key.” -Aanikh
And while there are no strict rules for what they consider a “good culture” – it really revolves around a positive environment where they can bring their full selves to work - while having ultimate flexibility to get the job done their way. “Gen Z values freedom and flexibility above all else.” - Andy
Special thanks to Chobani for powering this incredible #GenZEOs series and for their continued support of visionary innovation. Peter McGuinness, Chobani’s Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer, is calling for applicants who have an entrepreneurial spirit, big ideas and the desire to work alongside a passionate team of people.
Visit chobaniincubator.com to learn more and apply.