How will Generation Z fare

Guest contribution by Jan Knauss:
Generation Z demands commitment and honesty

The socio-political commitment of Gen Z pervades all areas of life. Politics, so writes Spotify in his study "Culture Next", becomes a lifestyle: "We have long since left the apathetic hipster culture at the turn of the millennium behind us."

Crippling apathy? This has replaced the Gen Z with its unconditional creative drive. Creativity is its expression, the smartphone its instrument. 56 percent use social media apps to be creative, shows a joint study by Snapchat and JWT. And the particularly successful monetize their channels early on with merchandising and their own fashion collections.

Orientation and security

Now comes the big but: in their world, their sharing cosmos, the boys have the greatest possible response - but far too little in the rest of the world. On the contrary, there they have to experience a reality that can cause fear: Politics around the world is characterized by uncertainties, and always-on often leads to burnout phenomena at an early stage. In their gap year, Gen Z despaired of their options, they even flirted with their collective experiences of depression. The 17 year old musician Billie Eilishwho processes this in striking songs is almost something like the mouthpiece of her fans of the same age.

Generation Z is looking for orientation and security on almost every level. Everything that is highly polished and non-binding that has shaped millennials is rejected by their successors. Brands that have concentrated more on appearance than on a true brand promise are being replaced. Hollister or Abercrombie & Fitch are too fake for the boys, they prefer practical athleisure from Nike or Adidas or a brand like American Eagle.  

The latter has managed to meet the desire of the super-digital for more participation. American Eagle recently had ten influencers from Generation Z design their own spring campaign. With success, because the fans immediately thank such concessions. competitor HM Smartly uses Instagram polls to get fresh input from the majority for the collections. In general, Instagram polls seem to be the collective instrument of Generation Z - swarm intelligence offers quick orientation and classification at the push of a button.

Orientation and security, these are the buzzwords with which advertisers have to react if they want to make Gen Z into convinced fans not only in the short term, but in the long term. Amazingly, that's exactly what kids expect today - long-term relationships. In the IP-Study "Brand Generations" showed the 16 to 20 year olds by far the highest desire to bond. Marriage, children and owning a home are all part of their life plans.

From this one can certainly deduce that a brand must behave in the same way as a good love partner: He should remain loyal, demonstrate an authentic attitude, be reliable and show genuine interest. And above all, he has to represent the whole thing with humor. So that the next generation not only tampers down their brand relationships, but also forges longer-term relationships. How exactly does that work?

The "to-dos" for those responsible for the brand

Emotions. Gen Z is emotionally, socially connected and cosmopolitan. A partner who wants to react on an equal footing must above all be able to offer them emotional credibility. 46 percent of the study participants in the Spotify study "Culture Next" long to be there for one another. And the boys are also optimistic in a special way. The shortage of young talent is forcing the world of work to adapt to it, not the other way around. The advertising industry must do the same and support their optimism with many positive brand experiences.

Humor. It should be fun, entertaining - and above all it has to be funny when we come into contact with the boys. The world often overwhelms Gen Z, so the generation prefers to keep themselves happy with memes and challenges. Brand bosses who use humor in their campaigns are particularly popular with 15 to 24-year-olds. With a 50 percent success rate, humor is the greatest guarantee for successful advertising, says the "Youth Study" of Elbdudler.

Creativity. The generation of super creative people doesn't just let themselves be sprinkled, they prefer to shape it themselves. Brands that empower their buyers with their inventiveness, put creativity in their hands, let them have a say in the style and help design product lines, are the youngsters' favorites.

Uniqueness. The members of Gen Z are always on the lookout for how they can most effectively express their uniqueness. This is why retailers depend on the competition with bespoke products, limited editions and cleverly personalized advertising Criteo stated in his "Generation Z" report. Rihannas acclaimed beauty line Fenty does exactly that: the range includes 50 different makeup foundations so that every woman can find the right product for her individual skin color. The established brand manufacturers are now embarrassed to follow suit and expand their previously limited portfolio.

Attitude. In addition, brands must stand for a recognizable, indomitable attitude. Only someone who, like them, is committed to diversity, LGBTQ rights and climate protection and who takes on social responsibility can impress this attentive target group and also give them the desired orientation impulses.

Maintaining relationships is only about honesty

The brand manufacturers have it in their own hands in their relationship with Generation Z. If you don't want Tinder relationships, but more matches that will last (lifelong), then you have to keep thinking deeply about what makes this partner tick and honestly adapt to it. They can only do this if the brands show commitment and keep finding new creative ways to prove their authentic stance. Because only those who remain strong will be accepted as Best Brand Forever by a self-confident generation.

About the guest author:

Jan Knauss grew up with advertising and communication. In 1999 he completed his graphic and communication design studies at the U5 Academy in Munich. In 2001 he started as Junior Art Director at Grabarz & Partner, became Creative Director at Jung von Matt and has been self-employed with his agency + Knauss since 2010. Here he works with clients such as Volkswagen, Bild, Beiersdorf, BMW, Bitburger, Jochen Schweizer and Ricola.