Expert Commentary:
The Consumer Viewpoint

Brand Building in the Gen Z landscape

Performance marketing has its place but it’s not on a throne.”

Dana Anderson

Chief Transformation Officer, MediaLink

Joe McDonnell,
Head of Insight, WGSN

Turn your brand into an open mic opportunity for consumers and you could generate your most successful marketing campaign ever. Gen Z don’t want you to speak to them, they expect you to speak with them. Giving them control of the conversation and making your dialogue transparent will help you break through the digital noise and drive affinity with Gen Z.

WGSN is the world’s trend forecasting authority, decoding the future to define what’s next so that people can make smarter decisions, today.

Brands can communicate with a consumer anytime, anywhere with the swipe of a smartphone. No longer vying for eye power on subways, billboards or in TV ad breaks, agencies and creatives are seeing simultaneous advantages and disadvantages in the shift from large screen (movies) to small screen (TV) to nano screen (smartphones).

Gen Z is increasingly knowledgeable about how brands are built, because they’re building their own personal brand every day. In 2020, creating and maintaining a brand has been democratised, thanks to social media. A recent New York Times comic strip featured a teacher asking young adults about their career goals. They didn’t aspire to be doctors, lawyers or entrepreneurs. All the students wanted to be brands.

Lower barriers to entry have sparked an explosion in long-tail D2C brands fighting for market share, and challenging big box retailers and established brands. In 2020, brands are compelled to ensure consumers understand what they stand for, and how to interact with consumers as brands themselves.

Gen Z are especially effective in controlling the narrative around themselves on social media – editing, filtering and managing the image they present.

This fully digital generation are best equipped to leverage digital platforms for their personal success. Tech savvy and business focused, Gen Z understand the social capital they wield and the modern tech landscape better than many brand marketers of earlier generations.

Cultivating an Instagram following, showcasing an idealised lifestyle and linking it to a Depop account to sell the outfits they wear on social is now common. This forward-thinking generation are their own creative director, photographer, stylist and CFO.

Brands must appreciate shifting consumer values, engage with them, and support their busy lives.

Consumers expect brands to be wholeheartedly socially responsible, environmentally friendly and philanthropic. Sustainability-savvy consumers demand products they can re-use, resell and use to supplement their own personal brand.

Conversational commerce is the most effective way to convert Gen Z. If you’re not building it with Gen Z, they will build it themselves. For true brand control, you have to relinquish a bit of control over your brand communications.

Bruno Bertelli
Global Chief Creative Officer, Publicis

Brands are like Gods today. People believe in brands, people have an emotional connection with brands. Where politicians and governments fail, brands provide products that people love and rely on. But with this comes a responsibility to be transparent, and act responsibly – and act consistency. Your PR, your stories, your promotions, they all have to be about the brand.

Look at Corona, they consistently portrayed the brand as the perfect accompaniment to the kind of relaxation you’d associate with the beach through their ‘Find Your Beach’ campaign. As the drive for sustainability takes hold, Corona have stayed true to their brand positioning, they now support beach clean-up projects and ocean protection initiatives through their global partnership with Parley for the Oceans. They have been consistent with the brand message throughout.