Forbes — Although they are very young and therefore not yet big earners, the increasing impact of the digital natives of Gen Z — folks born between 1996 and 2010 — weigh heavily on the minds of marketers especially those of us at the intersection of social and economic impact.
Research shows that engaging around good causes is a great way for companies to connect with Gen Z. Work from DoSomething Strategic, for example, reveals that 76% of young people said they have purchased (53%) or would consider purchasing (23%) a brand/product to show support for the issues the brand supported. Perhaps even more importantly, 67% have stopped purchasing (40%) or would consider doing so (27%) if the company stood for something or behaved in a way that didn’t align with their values. For Gen Z, buying power is a key vehicle for activism and they expect brands to give back to communities.
In a recent Engage for Good webinar sponsored by MDR Education, we invited a panel of Gen Zers, all teens, from JUV Consulting and Millennial Ad Network to talk about the best ways companies can engage their generation around good causes. Here are a few highlights (you can see the full webinar recording for free here).
The Difference Between Millennials And Gen Z
Members of Gen Z comprise 20% of the U.S. population and 27% of the global population. By 2020, Gen Z will account for about 40% of all customers, and they’re prepared to speak with their dollars.
According to JUV Consulting’s Itai Fruchter, “One key difference between millennials and Gen Z is who we were raised by: Millennials were mainly raised by Baby Boomers and Gen Z is raised by Gen X for the most part. Another difference is that Gen Z are social media natives. Millennials were introduced to social media but Gen Z was born into a world of social media. We speak the language better than anyone else can.”
Millennial Ad Network’s Jake Skoloda shared, “One of the most compelling stats I’ve seen is that something like 70% of Gen Z wants to own their own company. This is because college prices are skyrocketing and they feel college might not be the best route. For our Millennial counterparts, college was a must for them. For us, there’s a lot of focus on entrepreneurship and your side hustle. We just have this very big idea that you can do good with money and having buying power is key.”
John Maher with Millennial Ad Network added, “Technology has now advanced to the point that you can create an online venture to reach target audiences and potential customers with a few hundred dollars and a Twitter account.”
JUV Consulting’s Emma Himes pointed out, “We are the last generation that will be majority caucasian. Our generation is a lot more accepting of equality and in general, more accepting, compared to previous generations.”
Which Causes Do Gen Zers Care About?
While a variety of surveys have shown different causes that Gen Z presumes to care about, our panelists agreed that top-of-mind, current events that get a lot of play on social media are the ones they’ll tend to gravitate toward.
Himes explained, “The causes we care about usually cycle around key issues and current events. For example, the #MeToo movement is something people are very passionate about and it hasn’t come to a resolution yet. It’s on social media, which makes it really easy for Gen Z.”
Fruchter chimed in, “There are topics that come up, like gun violence or sexual violence, where we can focus on a specific event or a specific person which elicits a higher level of engagement. The issues that people will march for, call for real political change and give money to are things you can point your finger at and say, ‘this is an issue, here is an example of it and I want you to empathize with these people.’ Whenever possible, it’s best to make the cause both relatable but also specific.”
How To Engage Gen Zers in Your CSR Programs
So what are the best ways to attempt to connect with the elusive Gen Z? Here are a few of our panelists’ suggestions:
Skoloda: “With social media, there are a million ways to capture the attention of Gen Z. We really don’t have a lot of buying power right now since we’re not in professional fields yet. But there’s a very good opportunity for us to volunteer our time and engage online. The biggest thing is making it something we can personally care about. When we see there are local people that are struggling with hunger every day, we’re much more inclined to get involved.”
Fruchter: “There are ways to engage us in fundraising. We have access to spending power ourselves and through our parents. Use Venmo to get donations. We don’t enjoy donating through a website – it takes too much time. Also don’t underestimate the power of going into college campuses and engaging with clubs that already exist. When you show that you care about what we’re already doing, we’re more likely to care about your issues also.”
When it comes to engaging Gen Z via text messaging, our panelists advised against it, saying it was largely seen as spam. Millennial Ad Network’s Brendan Maher clarified, “Part of the turn-off for Gen Z is that we almost see it as an invasion of privacy to receive a message in our text inbox. That’s our personal space.”
Additional tips to engage Gen Z from MDR, based on their research and experience:
Accept the 8-second attention span: Communicate more frequently with short bursts: images, emojis, symbols, picture, video, multiple screens
Collaborate with them: Mentor – and allow yourself to be mentored.
Trends change quickly: Research and focus groups can get stale almost immediately.
Treat them as equals: Respect is a two-way street.
Appreciate their network: Gen Z has a much larger global network of connections and friends.
Learn from their social media skills: Use social media to perform and self-promote, not just to share.
Want more tips from our panelists about how your company can engage Gen Z, keep on top of the latest memes, successfully employ this generation and hear about which brands are getting it right? Check out the recording from this free webinar.