We live in polarised times. You’re either in, or you’re out – and I hate to break it to you, but for those of us with side partings and skinny jeans, we’re very much out.
As TikTok grows in prominence, the culture clash between Gen Z and millennials has become increasingly apparent. Towards the end of last year, the two generations were united in using the platform to mock Boomers and Karens alike; now millennials have found themselves on the receiving end. In true snowflake form, they’re not enjoying it. Not at all.
While the younger generations fight it out on social media, it will be interesting to see how brands navigate this transition period. The Bank of America recently revealed that Gen Z’s economic influence is the fastest-growing of any generation, with the spending power of the world’s youngest set to outstrip that of millennials by 2031. Gen Z’s rising economic capabilities will make them an increasingly important cohort for brands in the coming years.
Communicators must now find a balance between attracting this emerging customer base without alienating the millennials who have supported them so far. In theory, the answer is simple: find common ground.
Call them ‘woke’, but it is often assumed that Gen Z and millennials are more concerned with global challenges than the generations before them. Having grown up with the internet, they’re able to see news from around the world as soon as it breaks – making them both socially aware and environmentally responsible.
A recent study revealed that a quarter (25%) of Gen Z and millennials felt ashamed for not living an environmentally friendly lifestyle – in comparison to just 10% of Boomers. So, with sustainability being an important common ground for the younger generations, how can brands tap into this without being cancelled? Authenticity.
It’s a buzzword, but it’s an important one. With a global report from Salesforce revealing that only 53% of Gen Z feel that brands ‘generally come off’ as being authentic, there is clearly work to be done:
Have an opinion
Gen Z and millennials are generations that have exercised their right to protest repeatedly with Fridays for Future protests led by Greta Thunberg being a recent global example. As the Radically Better Future: The Next Gen Reckoning Report notes that 73% of young people support public protests to raise awareness of societal issues, sitting on the fence about topics that directly relate to the company isn’t going to cut it. They will be looking to support brands that have vocal opinions over issues they align with.
…But remember that talk is cheap
Consumers are used to brands making ‘green commitments’; now is the time to follow through with real authenticity and action. When thinking about sustainability commitments, brands should look both within their business and externally to see where they can genuinely make a difference. Relevance and the ability to deliver change is key to achieving the tangible results that the younger generations expect.
Be honest if you FCK up
Being human is authentic and part of being human is making mistakes. Research reveals that half (50%) of Gen Z do not expect companies to tell the truth, making it all the more important for brands to be transparent about the challenges they are facing when it comes to being more environmental. Being honest about mistakes can go a long way to improve customer goodwill – just remember how well people responded to KFC’s infamous ‘FCK’ advert. Remember though, it’s not just about apologising but clearly communicating the ways in which you’re learning and will do better.
It is inevitable that the youngest will mock the generation that directly precedes them. And as millennials get riled up because teenagers on TikTok trash-talk them for liking Harry Potter and using the cry-laughing emoji, brands should take this time to understand the key differences between these audiences – while capitalising on their similarities.
A genuine consideration for the environment and world around them will keep these two groups aligned. Whether it’s a high-waisted skinny or a low-rise flare, they’ll be looking for sustainably sourced cotton, low water-use, thrifted denim.