Generation Z: freedom, equality, integrity

Completely uninhibited, Generation Z are displaying their values as non-negotiable components of their consumption. Less impulsive than you might think, this “digital native generation” is neither fooled nor naïve. And brands need only adapt to win them over.

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Some are under 18, barely teenagers. Others have just started working. Gen Z” (people born between 1997 and 2012) have completely liberated themselves from brands, their representations and the discourse they convey. Sharpened up on justice, brought up on climate change and fed on social networks and influencers, this generation is freeing itself, adding meaning and intention to its consumption.

Beware of brands that want to force their way in, and try to seduce them with empty rhetoric that suggests positivist values. Identitarian, demanding, ultra-connected but also isolated, Gen Z is inventing a new way forward, breaking with the Millennials (1980-1995) and Gen Xers (1965-1980).

“Climate change, social issues, equal pay and ethical production are non-negotiable values”

Gen Z wants brands that live up to their values, embody them and respect them. And they don’t hesitate to punish those that don’t honour their commitments or that deviate from them. They turn to reliable brands that do what they say and say what they do. Idealistic or ingenuous, some would say, pragmatic and loyal for others. Climate change, social issues, equal pay and ethical production are just some of these non-negotiable values.

Gen Z consume primarily via Twitch, TikTok or Instagram, on the lookout for the latest releases that are in line with their own reference points, but also claimed by their community. The downside of this digital consumption is isolation, reinforced by the Covid crisis. To break out of this isolation, the community takes over, first through virtual exchanges and then in real life; brands that have understood this are now preserving physical spaces to welcome these new consumers.

The dialogue established with these young consumers is also evolving; for luxury, the very essence of its nature, reserving a product for very few people, is being shattered, with Gen Z shifting the focus from rarity to authenticity. Live shopping, NFTs and collaborations with artists are powerful marketing levers; the traffic generated on the brand’s site or platform is enough to capture this new generation, whereas traditional advertising or word-of-mouth with private days kept Gen Xers happy. The new digital channels and the metaverse also enable people from all over the world to meet in an instant and in a single place; the virtual now serves the real and embodies it.

“Transparency must become a model, ethics a necessity, inclusion no longer an issue”

Another point of differentiation from their elders is that they are more frugal, more measured consumers. The success of Vinted reflects this craze for “second hand” and exchange rather than frenetic consumption. And brands will have to take this on board, because Gen Z is now the largest demographic group in the world – it will even account for 45% of luxury purchases by 2035 – and it still has a (very) bright future ahead of it to dictate and impose its prerogatives.

Transparency must become a model, ethics a necessity, and inclusion must no longer be an issue, as shown by the initiatives of certain brands. Because Gen Z is also loyal and knows how to create the right buzz. However, this does not equate to devotion: half of Gen Z are prepared to switch brands if another is cheaper or of superior quality.

This generation is redefining the codes of traditional relationship marketing. Unlike Millennials, they reject the superfluous, the Instagrammable or the merely aesthetic. Their opinion matters and they want to make it known. And here again, loyalty is paramount: Gen Z is also prepared to pay a high price for sincere commitment, and even more for a worthy cause.

“Humanist and committed, Gen Z is taking the best of both worlds and inventing a new syncretism, happily mixing the digital and physical worlds”

Despite its break with the older generations, Gen Z finally seems to be bringing together the digital and the physical, even reviving the good old habits of Gen X (and even Gen Y).

Humanist and committed, Gen Z is perhaps taking the best of both worlds by creating a new syncretism: the speed and information of digital, the virtues of human contact of the old world where talking and exchanging are the last refuges of a rediscovered humanity.

A bridge between two shores launched by these young people, ready to change the world and always aware that together, we are stronger. What if we listened to them more?

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