A Pakistani beautician applies a facial makeup on a male customer at a beauty salon in Karachi. (AFP Photo)

The Asean Post — Social media has evolved from a platform to connect people into one where people can engage with their favourite companies, access new career tools and stay current with global events. A 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) article, citing a report by Global Web Index on ‘Social media use by generation’, revealed that Gen Z spends more time on social media than Millennials, at 2 hours 55 minutes per day. Gen Z are also called digital natives because they grew up shaped by technology, and the internet is an integral aspect of their daily life. 

The study also found that Gen Z is moving away from social platforms like Facebook, for more visual media such as YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. These visual platforms are avenues for Gen Z to express themselves, visually, to a broader audience. 

Based on Meltwater’s 2019 report, ‘Beyond skin deep’, Instagram is the most popular channel for influencers, followed by Twitter and YouTube across Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. In Southeast Asia, 55 percent of the population are avid social media users. 

Social media also drives the e-commerce market where platforms are used for product research, brand engagement and online purchases. According to a 2018 study titled ‘Here comes the Centennial: Southeast Asia’s new generation of shoppers’ by Dentsu Aegis Network and Econsultancy, 49 percent of Gen Z turns to social media when they are researching for more information on future purchases. 

“All eyes are on Southeast Asia as the world’s next consumer powerhouse, with its young population and increasing purchasing power,” said Nick Waters, chief executive officer of Dentsu Aegis Network Asia Pacific. With over 50 percent spending more than US$30 a month on online shopping, the region’s young population is set to contribute 34 percent to consumption growth by 2030. 

The report also found that 56 percent of respondents prefer paying cash on delivery for their purchases, while 43 percent will abandon their purchases if their preferred payment options are not available, prompting companies to look into providing several payment options. 

Source: Meltwater, 2019

Authenticity is important

The e-commerce market has seen significant growth in the influencer industry, with 72 percent of noteworthy brands stated that they had outsourced a substantial portion of their marketing resources to online influencers. 

Gen Z believes authenticity is important, preferring to see real people as digital influencers rather than celebrities. Followers see influencers who are ordinary teens as friends, and this sense of closeness gives influencers significant marketing power. Gen Z is 1.3 times more likely to purchase a product recommended by their favourite influencers. 

A social creature, Gen Z uses YouTube as a learning platform. Gen Z is hungry for how-to clips that showcase new products and skills. However, Gen Z doesn’t spend much time on any single video, clocking in an eight-second attention span only. This generation has convinced marketers to make six-second advertisements the new industry standard.

Value diversity

The postmillennial cohort has a strong sense of purpose and feels connected to important causes. Based on Kantar Consulting’s new Purpose 2020 ‘Inspiring Purpose-Led Growth’ report, almost two-thirds of millennials and Gen Z, favour ‘brands that have a point of view and stand for something’.GET INSIGHTS ON ASEAN IN YOUR INBOX

Gen Z is socially-aware of global issues, and they value diversity. Social media platforms are providing Gen Z with extensive exposure to global narratives, drawing them to companies and institutions that seek to make a difference in the world. 

Southeast Asia’s youth are demanding companies to reflect values of equality and eco-consciousness. According to a 2018 research by Dell Technologies, ‘Gen Z: The Future has arrived,’ Gen Zs in Southeast Asia are passionate about environmental causes and want to make a positive impact on the world. The recent Global Climate Strike by youth around the world is proof that Gen Z has made climate change their issue.

Gen Z also rejects gender-conforming identities, rooting for diverse representation to extend the ideal of fluid boundaries of gender. They are also fighting gender discrimination and toxic masculinity that forces a stereotype on men, emphasising strength and emotional restraint. Gen Z is leading the social encouragement of expression of affection and emotions. 

Challenging stereotypes

Gen Z’s self-loving and self-expression mantras are shaping social progression and traditional beauty norms. They are breaking down stereotypes by proudly wearing and being what makes them feel good. With the rising numbers of beauty influencers who are male, it is not surprising then that there is a surge in interest for makeup among Gen Z’s men.

According to market researcher JUV Consulting, men’s cosmetic is currently a fledgling business, garnering a global value of only US$1.14 billion in 2019, which is just a fraction of the cosmetic industry’s US$71.1 billion. Based on Euromonitor International’s data, men’s skin-care products had a sales revenue total of US$9.2 billion in 2018. 

“Make no mistake, Generation Z will make men’s makeup a thing, and the older consumers will follow,” says Yasushi Ishibashi, chairman of Acro Inc, which created the first comprehensive men’s cosmetic brand, ‘FIVEISM x THREE’. 

More young men are now accepting self-care and makeup, shifting advertisements’ usual route of displaying men’s hardness and physicality to genderless values, such as individuality or empowerment. And as Gen Z moves towards an open and gender-fluid world, products like genderless mascara, foundation and other beauty products will continue to have an impact on culture and society. 

Social media for Gen Z is no longer a space for consuming and connecting; it has become a space for the formation of movement and protest. Young people are demanding a voice in decisions that affect their lives, and social media is helping them amplify it. Whether its commerce, marketing or social justice, Gen Z is proving to be the agent of change. 

Artista Records and Bumble Bizz took over Chelsea Music Hall on Saturday, August 3rd to connect Gen Z youth in NYC. With backing from JUV Consulting, at 8pm millennials we’re celebrating being young and working hard and playing hard all summer. 

The Knockturnal — The concert, the last hoorah of JUV’s #InternSZN summer series, featured two Artistica artists. First up was Audrey (@helloavdrey), a proud Asian American with a unique sound and fashion sense inspired by the mixing of her cultures. Audrey, a former NYU Clive Davis Institute student, see a future for herself in music, fashion, and maybe even acting. For now, the singer is focused on writing and album and making “bomb ass” videos for them all by the top of next year. “I just want to do everything, I just love making things,” Audrey said.

The next performer was JP Saxe (@jpsaxe) who was once a Bumble user. “I never met anyone who wasn’t very lovely,” the artist said before admitting Bumble was never responsible for any of his relationships. Despite being a newly taken man, Saxe performed his heartbreak anthems with raw emotions that usually come from a breakup. These same emotions drove him to watch a TED Talk titled “How to Fix a Broken Heart,” which led to his single “Same Room.” As for advice when it comes to romance, the songwriter says, “Don’t take advice from songwriters their self deprecating and masochistic,” he said half jokingly; admitting as an artist he leans into his pain for his art.

Going on tour to 21 cities with Noah Cohan in September, Saxe is looking forward to connecting to his fans. “Tour is my favorite shit because I get to actually meet people who have a relationship with the music,” he said. 

For more information on the tour visit https://www.jpsaxe.com, be sure to keep up with Audrey on Instagram, and keep finding love in unexpected places using Bumble.

Row of five young adult friends leaning against black wall looking at smartphones
Getty Images

Forbes — Generation Z has fully captured marketers’ attention. Understanding them is a key challenge unto its own. CMOs continually seek to offer products and services in new and engaging ways—meeting Gen Zs where and when and how they want to be reached. Still an enigma in many ways, Gen Zs represent the next new opportunity for growth for marketers—as long as they get it right.

For informed perspective, it’s helpful to go to the source—in this case, Ziad Ahmed, cofounder of JÜV Consulting and an alumnus of the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Marketing and Advertising list. 

Ahmed, a Gen Z himself, has deep insight into this group based on his own experience as a consumer but also as head of a consultancy designed to help marketers in their quest for understanding of this elusive cohort. As high school juniors in 2016, Ahmed and friend Nick Jain founded JÜV (playing on the words “rejuvenate” and “juvenile”) to directly connect Gen-Z voices to a roster of clients, among them Unilever, Viacom and Edelman. They started the consultancy while splitting their weeks between undergraduate classes at Yale and Princeton, respectively, and JÜV’s Times Square offices.

Ziad Ahmed
Ziad Ahmed

I caught up with Ahmed recently to learn more about him and his unique perspectives on Gen Zs as well as what marketers need to do to be successful. Our email interview, edited for length and clarity, follows.Recommended For You

Jenny Rooney: Tell me briefly about yourself—what makes you unique as a person, a consumer, a startup founder?

Ziad Ahmed: When I was in first grade, my notebooks were full of sketches of devices, companies, and places that I wanted to build. In the third grade, I founded an environmental club that met during recess after learning of the basic premise of climate change. When I was in fourth grade, I made my mom take me to the local Obama campaign office in order to plaster my backpack with pins after becoming enamored with his candidacy through reading TIME Kids. In eighth grade, I was founding a non-profit, texting over a hundred people per day, and becoming increasingly aware of the injustices that exist in our world. 

I have always been a big dreamer, talker, and do-er, and that all stems from being a person who has never been afraid to ask hard questions. I was raised by a family who taught me to be unapologetically curious and unwaveringly community-oriented, so who I am is a reflection of that. As I grew up looking at the world, I asked “why?” a lot. I disrupted openly as I didn’t just accept that things should be the way that things were, and so when I saw how people were being treated in my school hallways — I started an organization to do something about it when I was fourteen (that is now an international, award-winning, and growing non-profit). 

Fundamentally, I’m somebody who asks hard questions — and tries to be part of the solution wherever possible. I ask hard questions about the world that I live in, the teams that I’m a part of, and the things that I buy — and I’m deeply interested in continuing to push the ball forward wherever possible. 

As a startup founder specifically, I’ve tried to build a team that challenges me openly, loudly, and constantly. I’m not just interested in asking hard questions, but I’m also interested in being asked hard questions — and I’m grateful every day to be surrounded by some many folks who push me to be better every damn day. 

Rooney: What has been your ah-ha moment in your career—the whitespace you identified that your consultancy seeks to fill?

Ahmed: As a young teenager, I found myself in rooms at the White House, with industry leaders, and with marketing professionals where I realized just how misunderstood our generation is within these spaces. I remember being in a meeting with government officials at sixteen learning about the concept of “youth experts.” These “youth experts” are oftentimes middle-aged men who are paid to consult on the tastes of Generation Z.

I was baffled that “youth experts” actually exist, and it was then that I decided to start JÜV Consulting because there is absolutely no reason that we can’t speak for ourselves. There is no one that can know us better than ourselves, and by bringing many diverse young people to every table — we are disrupting how people make decisions about young people by being decision-makers in those conversations. 

Rooney: What is the biggest misunderstanding about younger groups of consumers?

Ahmed: The biggest misunderstanding about younger groups of consumers is that we are just the future. There are so many companies that think that because Generation Z isn’t their target market directly right now that they can just overlook trying to understand us. The reality is though that Generation Z currently influences hundreds of billions of dollars in spending power, is the largest generational cohort in the world, and are the trendsetters on nearly every digital platform. If a company wants a marketing campaign to be successful, young people are an essential audience to make anything go remotely viral on the internet — not tomorrow, but today. Younger groups of consumers establish what’s cool, and I really believe that middle-school girls are always the ultimate trendsetters for culture broadly. We teased middle-school girls for loving Justin Bieber before he blew up, but if people just realized the significance of what young people love — companies wouldn’t need to constantly be playing catch up. There is this pervasive notion that young people are simply the leaders of tomorrow, and that companies can afford to ignore us today. I think that JÜV Consulting exists to say that it is clear that young people are the leaders of today, so you cannot wait until tomorrow to talk to us if you are at all interested in keeping up. 

There are also the classic misconceptions that we are lazy, that we are a monolith, or that our time is later, but I think JÜV’s existence inherently disapproves all of that. 

Rooney: What are brands getting wrong in reaching younger consumers?

Ahmed: I think brands get a lot wrong when it comes to reaching young consumers, but the main mistake is overly relying on two broken mechanisms: research and focus groups. Research is often obsolete because Generation Z’s trends are changing so quickly, and good research is still definitely important — but so many companies buy great research without knowing what to do with it (that is, they equate statistics with strategy). Furthermore, focus groups are the other way that companies use to understand younger consumers, and the paradigm treats us like guinea pigs rather than partners. The adults that shape these methodologies often don’t even know which questions to ask because they are so removed from teen culture. Ultimately, there’s a real lack of actual partnering with young people to co-create products, campaigns, and ideas that resonate with our generation — and that’s what we are here to fix. 

There’s also this tendency in the business world to latch onto a key finding in a way that makes it the whole story. Brands often find out about a new word that the “youth” are using, and then plaster a new campaign around cities calling something “lit” in a way that is forced, bizarre, and cringe-worthy. Overall, companies tend to think that just having information about our generation is enough to be able to market to us, but by failing to rely on young people to understand the “how” and “why” of things, a lot of mistakes are being made.  

Rooney: What can marketers do to better reach this core target?

Ahmed: We think the solution to how marketers can better reach Generation Z is quite simple: Talk to us rather than about us. 

Rooney: How specifically must CMOs be involved with this effort?

Ahmed: I feel really lucky to be meeting with Fortune 500 CMOs at 20-years-old as a CEO of my company, but it shouldn’t be this rare to see someone as young as I am in these spaces. I was checking into a meeting with senior marketing folks at a major apparel company the other week, and I was asked by security if I was there to visit a parent. As young people, we are constantly assumed not to have earned our seat at the table because of our youth. It’s vital that CMOs are directly involved with this effort to invest in Generation Z because the power of young people should be validated at the highest level. Beyond that though, it’s essential that CMOs are directly talking to young folks as strategic partners in order for CMOs to do their jobs better. If a CMO is interested in disruptive marketing that stands out, knowing about finstas, Facebook meme groups, and the latest TikTok challenges are essential to understand how the tastes of consumers are changing. Furthermore, CMOs should not just know about these trends, but should actively work with young people to shape strategy that actually resonates.  

Generation Z is shifting public discourse, popular culture, and purpose-driven efforts within businesses, and if CMOs don’t understand how that’s happening by actually talking to the source, they will be at a significant disadvantage, especially as Generation Z quickly becomes the largest consumer cohort. 

Rooney: What are some examples of marketers/brands getting it right in terms of reaching this young target?

Ahmed: Some great examples of brands doing it right are Wendy’s Twitter really championing the idea of owning a voice that resonates with young people, Fruit Gushers’ iconic meme advertisements that really look like they belong in the Instagram feeds of young people, and Adidas having really rebranded in the last few years that has made a classic brand feel exciting to the middle-school-girl trendsetters.