Vault — Technology and social media are mobilizing young people more than ever before. The post-millennial generation, Generation Z, is the first generation to emerge after the creation of the Internet, and through the Internet they’re changing the world.
According to the National Retail Federation, Gen Z holds $44 billion in spending power. Companies are quickly recognizing this opportunity and directing advertisements to Gen Z to tap this potential. But when companies aren’t caught up-to-date with trends, ad campaigns can come across as cringey or trying too hard, and, given the speed at which information is shared online, one misstep can be disastrous for a company’s image.
This communication gap was the impetus for JUV Consulting, a consulting firm started by high school students seeking to help companies better understand this new demographic in the Internet age.
This past week I spoke with Jacob Chang, a rising junior at the University of Chicago and Director of Insights at JUV Consulting. Jacob is in charge of research, media relationships, and ensuring that JUV shares everything it knows about young people with everyone it works with. Below is an excerpt of our conversation.
VAULT: What is JUV Consulting?
JACOB: JUV is a really interesting company because we’re a company of young people. We’re completely built up of people and students ranging between 15 to 24 years old, and all of us are within Generation Z. Our whole value proposition to the companies and organizations we work with is that, as young people, we can best represent our generation at the table. If you’re trying to market to us or if you’re trying to relate to us at all in some way, we deserve to be there because we have the lived experiences and we have the way that you should best talk to us–you need to do that by allowing us to work with you. Without any young people there, you’re not going to be able to actually know what’s going on, and you’re not going to be able to successfully market or create campaigns that will resonate with us. And that’s really why JUV was founded: to empower young people and give them this voice to talk at the marketing table.
How was JUV Consulting founded?
The two co-founders, Ziad [Ahmed] and Nick [Jain], were two of my high school classmates. They founded JUV when they were in high school. Ziad is an activist, and had previously started a nonprofit organization aimed to attack stereotypes and stop the spread of harmful stereotypes in the world. From that experience, he discovered that young people deserve more of the stage–companies need to be giving that to them because they have money and the means to allow us to make change and to make things happen. Young people themselves don’t have the money or resources to do that. And that’s why he had the idea for JUV. Early on, after he founded it, he asked me to join, and since then I’ve been a part of JUV. I’ve been able to watch it grow tremendously, and it’s been a super exciting experience.
What is the biggest challenge for companies to target Gen Z?
The biggest challenge for targeting Gen Z is definitely being able to understand that we move so quickly. We change our interests and our tones so quickly because of the world we’re a part of, where there’s social media and there’s data everywhere. There’s so many trends shifting constantly because of a new Tweet or because of a new celebrity or something. And I think brands really need to be conscious of this fact: it’s difficult to understand us because we’re so fast-changing and quickly lose interest in things that other brands may think we still enjoy or still like. That means, for a lot of companies, their research divisions will take the time to sort of understand us, and then by the time they get a result, that trend has passed. We’re no longer interested in the same things and there is something completely new that they don’t know. Companies fail to understand this trend and they need to be able to move quickly.
How does JUV recruit members to maintain a group representative of Gen Z?
JUV recruits in a bunch of different ways. We use our network of people that we have just because we’re young. Young people know so many people through social media connections and friends. We also post online through our social media profiles, and find people who are interested in what we’re doing and people who stumble across our postings and listings. For example, when we hire consultants for our teams, we put an application up on our website. We have all JUV social media handles posted on our website, so our Facebook will reflect that. We might post on Instagram and say “We’re Hiring,” and then a lot of the executive team might share it on their personals, so through that we’re able to reach many large, young audiences and recruit that way.
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs on how to pursue their ideas and make them a reality?
Don’t be afraid to take the step forward. If you’re interested in something, do it, because we’re in a position where we have so much freedom and so much data and information available to us that it’s not really difficult to start something. In the past, it was difficult to learn how to create a company or learn how to start a nonprofit organization because there were so many holes you had to jump through, so many forms you had to fill out. But now you can just Google everything and find out exactly how to do all the things you want to do, for free. I think if you’re interested in something, be curious, and learn more about it on your own time. That’s how you can really start and be an entrepreneur and do the things you want to do. It’s much easier than ever before–that’s what makes young people and Generation Z in particular really special as a demographic, because we’ve been gifted this opportunity that other generations never had when they were young and they had to pursue more traditional paths.
Do you have any takeaways from your time at JUV for college students entering the workforce?
For me, I think the biggest thing is to acknowledge that you’re young. That means you should always be humble about what you know and be respectful of people who might have a little more experience in the field. But that doesn’t mean you should let them boss you around. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have your own opinion that matters. I think it’s really important to be able to understand that a lot of times companies don’t give young people enough credit for the work they do or ideas they have, and they should try to convey that. Young people should try to be more outspoken and have more initiatives to bring to the table in ways that are also respectful of the people above them who are their bosses. I also think being young means you have a lot of time to figure out what you really want to do. We have the ability to take more leeway in the things we’re exploring and pursuing with our careers. You might not love the first job you end up in. You might not love the second job you end up in. But you have the time to figure out exactly what you want to do, and you should use that youth and your experiences to drive finding something you really love. I think that’s what makes young people special as well. That we have so much time to figure out what we want to do. So make sure you use that time wisely.
What do you think the future looks like for Gen Z?
The future is really bright. Generation Z is the most diverse generation ever, and that means we’re so accepting of people, and we’re so socially responsible and conscious. That’s going to lead into how we lead our lives as well as the world in the future, which is going to be Gen Z-dominated. We’re going to be the majority in the near future, and that means we’re going to be more accepting of people, that we’re going to be trying to enact policy that makes social responsibility and social change and wellness actually happen, unlike what’s going on right now. I think that’s going to be the driving force behind what happens in the future within Generation Z, and we’re going to see that and hopefully become a better world.