What Greta Thunberg can teach brands about decoding Gen Z

Thought Leadership

It’s been a busy start to 2020 for climate activist Greta Thunberg. Fresh from turning 17, she staged a school strike where it all began at home in Sweden then slammed Australian politicians for inaction as bushfires raged across the country – all within the new decade’s first three working days.

‘The Power of Youth’ was the front page coverline used by Time magazine when it confirmed Thunberg as its Person of the Year for 2019 just last month – a phrase that belies the yawning gap that exists between establishment thinking and the post Millennial generation born since 1997: Generation Z.

Thunberg’s ability to mobilise so many young people, and upset the establishment, highlights the extent to which Gen Z poses a major new challenge for the marketing world. The reason is that post-Millennials are a generation that no longer reacts to a traditional communication approach. Brands seeking to decode this generation, however, can do so understanding Thunberg’s own values – of authenticity and purpose.

Tap into key Gen Z behaviours
The key insight for brands is that Gen Z-ers are all about authenticity. They want to present themselves as they truly are – without filters or labels, with no limiting binary visions or hiding of their true emotions. This is reflected in the finding that 67% of them say a person (and a brand) is cool when they are  true to their values and beliefs.

To benefit from this, advertisers should remember three key aspects of Gen Z behaviour:

Discover your purpose
It’s never been more important for brands to have, and project through communications, a clear sense of purpose. That’s because 92% of young people believe that helping others in need is important, and 89% prefer to buy the products of a brand that supports social and environmental causes compared to those of a company that does not. What does this mean? That Gen Z-ers expect a brand to take a position. To be respected for its values ​​and demands, a brand must demonstrate them in a concrete manner, and shift from words to actions.

To achieve this, advertisers should consider four clear actions: 

Put simply, Generation Z’s distinct behaviours require changes from brands. And like the newspaper columnists and politicians that don’t, those that fail to interpret these changes, listen to them and involve them will become irrelevant.

This article was written by our Co-Founder and CEO for Italy and Spain, Ottavio Nava.