Marketing to Gen Z: Authenticity

  • November 7, 2022

Want to make meaningful connections with Gen Z? Then you need to get comfortable with contradiction. 

Born between 1996 and 2012, and making up roughly 15% of the UK population, Gen Z are beginning to age into the work force and earn their own income – so it’s no wonder every brand is trying to understand them right now. 

But how do you pin-down a generation still figuring themselves out?  

Delving into the data shows us the overarching characteristics of Gen Z are authenticity, creativity, stress, and cynicism. Beyond that, a deeper, more human look at their lives suggests they are a generation defined by paradox and contradiction, something brands will need to get on board with if they want to connect with them in a meaningful way.   

What the data shows us 

Having sifted through the mountains of data on Gen Z, there are 4 clear themes that emerge, and best define their behaviours: authenticity, creativity, stress and cynicism.  

Today we take a dive into the first of these: Authenticity 

Authenticity is paramount to Gen Z, they value it above all else – in themselves, in those around them and in the brands they purchase from. But authenticity for Gen Z isn’t about being one thing, it’s the freedom to be many different things at once.  

This generation are at an age where they are finding their place in the world, defining their individual identities. Whereas with previous generations; where you grew up and decided what you wanted to ‘be’ – Gen Z “separate out different elements from a whole collection of offerings; [they] then remix some or all of them to suit [them]selves, to make them entirely personalised”. They are all creating something completely unique and thrive on the idea of building an identity that is totally niche and inimitable. This journey of self-discovery can be messy and imperfect, but above all, it is authentic.  

More so than other generations, they are also happy to document this process online with unfiltered honesty. They use social media as an in-the-moment diary that details their lives with a raw frankness. One tweet that perfectly captures this, reads “Gen Z culture is taking pictures of yourself while you’re having a mental breakdown”, another “Gen Z culture is live tweeting your doctor’s appointment”. Documenting their lives online is second nature, their phone will always join them for the ride.  

Perhaps the ultimate embodiment of Gen Zs obsession with authenticity is ‘BeReal’. Which, “with one timed notification per day, asks users to stop in that second and capture whatever they’re doing, demanding authenticity. It’s allowing [Gen Z] to concern [them]selves less with the razzle-dazzle of ‘perfection’ and invest more in sharing real stories and moments with the people that matter”.  

Their relationship with individuality and authenticity also distinguishes them from Millennials, who seek a more curated and idealistic social feed, wanting something to aspire to, rather than a reflection of their real life.  

A great example of this, is from a recent study from Relative Insight, which asked Gen Zs and Millennials to name brands they relate to. Whilst Millennials could easily identify brands that that they either bought from or aspired to (Zara, Gucci, ASOS, Saint Laurent etc.), Gen Z were 29x more likely to discuss their own ‘personal brand’ first. They cared significantly more about defining a certain look or style they identified with, than where a particular item is from. Gen Z lead with their authenticity, only wanting brands and products that fit into their unique identity.  

Who’s doing this well? 

Spotify – With campaigns like ‘Spotify Wrapped’ and ‘Only You’, Spotify celebrates individuality by presenting Gen Zs listening data back to them. Gen Zs use Spotify to build playlists that are totally unique to them, picking and choosing a variety of artists and genres to create something that is completely one-of-a-kind and authentic.  

The take-away for brands 

  • Prioritise real people and real voices – they want representation that is realistic, not idealistic 
  • They’re still figuring out who they are, so be a part of that process – aid expression and experimentation without judgement 
  • Perfection is a thing of the past – prioritise real people and real voices (not just celebrities or influencers), these will land most authentically with Gen Z 
  • Flex your sustainable and ethical credentials where you can, but make sure you can back it up 

Article written by Rose Alexander, Media Director 

Sources: Prospect, Impact, Relative Insight, National Youth Trends, JWT Intelligence x Snap Inc, Princes Trust,GWI, Deloitte, Lifeworks, StressMatters, Clear Pay, McKinsey

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