MARKETING AND COMMS
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The Gen Z Breakthrough Brands and Why They Love 'Em

On June 29, Pavegen launched its latest kinetic floor tile installation at London's Bird Street, which runs off of Oxford Street, the busiest shopping site in Europe. The world's first "smart street" converts the kinetic energy of visitors’ footsteps into electricity to power bird sounds during the day and a lighting display at night. | Image credit: Pavegen

What Gen Z want from brands is the new Holy Grail for marketers — you only have to look at the myriad surveys and reports published recently that seek to analyze their preferences and intentions.

This obsession with Gen Z is understandable — after all, this new generation of consumers already are two billion strong and have a combined $44 billion in purchasing power.

According to recent consumer research, Gen Z — like Millennials, before them — tend to support brands that take a stand on issues they believe in regarding human rights, race and sexual orientation; more than 50 percent of Gen Z say that knowing a brand is socially conscious influences their purchasing decisions and 67 percent believe they should be true to their values and beliefs.

Of course, it’s a fool’s errand to try and label or generalize an entire generation. That said, amid all the hype of a Gen Z consumer revolution, a few things do appear clear: This generation of consumers is demanding honesty and authenticity from brands because they have come of age in a crisis of trust — one that is undermining the authority of government, the media and business. They also want brands to do right by society, showing respect for people and the planet; it’s no wonder, when issues such as climate change, gender equality and artificial intelligence/automation are shaping our futures.

More than any other generation before them, Gen Z’s opinions — and the decisions they make based on those opinions — are overwhelmingly shaped by digital and social media. Today, these young consumers have access to more information about brands and companies than ever before and their perceptions about the quality of products and the credibility of the companies that produce them are being shaped by online opinions in real time. Armed with this new information, consumers are quick to judge brands. In many cases, they don’t like what they see.

Most major brands know they must adapt to the social and environmental expectations of these latest generations of more discerning consumers, but that can be a slow and difficult process for large, siloed and often conflicted organizations — especially when marketing and sustainability departments aren’t on the same page.  While these legacy brands struggle to find their purpose, new Gen Z-friendly brands and startups are taking the lead — creating sustainable, authentic and transparent products and services, that address the concerns and aspirations of Gen Z and build trust for the future. Some such as Everlane, Lush, Warby Parker, Beyond Meat and TOMS already are household names — at the same time, a new wave of Gen Z-friendly startups are preparing to challenge and unseat the old brands that fail to adapt.

In Sustainly’s new Twenty for 2020 Trend Briefing (part of our new Trust in Marketing learning and development series) we’ve focused on 20 of these new Gen Z brands from the fashion, food, health, transport and travel sectors who are helping lead sustainable business thinking.

They include Sustainable Brands stalwarts including Ecoalf, Bureo, Mud Jeans and Pavegen, as well as some soon-to-be major global players such as mindfulness app Headspace, online secondhand marketplace Depop, and French ethical fashion label Veja. And there are up and coming brands that are challenging the ethos and values of different sectors — take UK fitness brand Rabble, which is building success by making exercise a form of community play; or the social enterprise, Change Please, that is training the homeless to be baristas.

Taken together, these 20 breakthrough brands are helping to change the world, win the trust of Gen Z and more through truly sustainable business models, and provide a blueprint for the rest of business — the Big Brands would do well to take note.


Matthew Yeomans is the founder of Sustainly, a media business providing companies and agencies the information they need to deliver authentic and creative sustainability content. He is the author of the annual Social Media Sustainability Index

[Read more about Matthew Yeomans]


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