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Authenticity and Generation Z

As the oldest of the new generation – Generation Z – are coming of age and everyone wants to know how to talk to them. The key difference for Generation Z is that it’s not about talking to them; it’s what you do that matters.


Forget everything you know about Millennials – there’s a new generation in town and Generation Z are different to everything that’s gone before them. As a cohort they’re open-minded and inclusive. They’re more likely to site Malala as a cultural hero than Beyoncé (the cultural icon of the older brothers and sister Millennials). They believe in creating a better world and are looking for similar socially minded brands and icons. This will raise the expectations on brands to behave in a certain way, not just tokenism but genuinely living their company purpose and values.

Most interestingly they are the generation that have grown up immersed in technology and social media. This has had both a positive and negative impact. As a generation they suffer more anxiety than any generation that’s gone before them. Technology affects how they think; their attention spans have shortened (to approximately 8 seconds), which is one of the reasons for (and is encouraged by) ephemeral media like Snapchat. They’re highly visual and communicate through images. Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat are the channels that resonate with and enable them to communicate and understand information visually. And finally they lack situational awareness, they ignore what’s going on around them and mediate their world through their devices. Which makes social media and constant contact through those platforms, an imperative for brands.

So what does this mean for companies that want to connect with them? When you combine these three imperatives: behaving in a way that’s socially minded; communicating visually; and be consistently connected through social, it leaves companies with no choice but to be authentic. It’s no longer an option to carefully construct a brand image that is managed. You have to live it.

This extends to every realm of life. In the light of the recent U.S. elections, Google partnered with political consultant Julie Hootkin to learn more about how registered voters inform themselves before the primaries. When looking at online content the thing that resonates is authenticity:

"On the internet, viewers give you license to ignore the traditional guidelines that are often associated with campaign content. It's not just the 15-second, the 30-second, or the 60-second ad. It could be a two-minute, a six-minute, or even an eight-minute video. When it comes to content, authenticity is paramount for all types of campaigns, for both brands and candidates. Voters in particular really want to see the behind-the-scenes stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor."

[Source: think with Google]

This generation grew up with reality TV stars, candid photos of celebrities, no make-up selfies, and vloggers. They are used to behind-the-scenes access. Everything generation Z have been exposed to creates an expectation that they can see behind the curtain and get the real story. And this extends into every realm of life. Why would they expect anything less of your brand?

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