Opinion

How to ensure a brand is Gen Z ready

Generation Z are redefining their identities, both on and offline, and this offers opportunities for brands ready to adapt, according to Lauren Kelly, senior client director at Landor Australia.

Brands have always had an important role to play in how each generation expresses its identity. But where once the boundaries of that identity were clear and predominantly analogue; the way that Generation Z (commonly defined as those born between 1997 and 2013) are redefining their identities, both on and offline, offers serious opportunities to those brands ready to rise to the occasion.

How is identity and brand shifting under Gen Z?

Gone are the days of working your way up a clearly defined corporate ladder, this generation relishes the portfolio career. And, when it comes to gender and sexuality, Gen Z embrace the fluidity and freedom to move between.

This freedom and fluidity is also impacting the once clear boundaries between the online and offline self. Unlike the generation before that saw the ‘real them’ as the offline self, this age group believes that who they are digitally is just as legitimate.

So, what does this evolution mean for brands?

The role of social media has evolved beyond a reflection of ‘real life’: Not too long ago millennials were dining out in photogenic restaurants and buying outfits purely to obtain that perfect Instagram shot. Now, thanks to Gen Z, there’s no need to own something just to show it on social – and a number of brands are taking advantage of this already.

Brands such as Carlings and Happy99 are now creating digital-only collections thata  team of designers will impose onto a chosen image, for their customer to then post online. This digital only trend extends beyond clothing, to make-up, entertainment and even tourism brands.

So what opportunity does this present for brands?

From digital-only fashion collections, digital artwork to digital experiences – the opportunity lies in expanding the core offer to provide digital-only alternatives. The key to getting this right, however, lies in ensuring a brand stays  true to the core of a brand’s DNA. By looking to the core purpose and values behind a brand, this will ensure any digital innovation is congruent with it.

Moving into the world of avatar’s and gaming

Moving even further beyond the social media self – Gen Z are exploring their identity at the very fringes of technology through platforms such as Nintendo’s Animal Crossing. Here, they create avatars with fleshed out personas, allowing them to indulge in a world unlimited by the realities of their analogue experience.

A large number of well-known brands are already taking up the opportunity to interact with this new world consumer. Marc Jacobs has crafted a series of exclusive looks for games, wedding planners are now transferring their skills to marry avatar couples, and tourism operators are turning digital architects and crafting new islands on platforms for would be travellers to visit.

So what opportunity does this present for brands?

In-game purchases, in-game entertainment, avatar-led collaborations, the opportunity is unlimited but so is the risk of falling flat. To succeed, brands first need to connect with and understand this new
consumer, the similarities and differences between how they express themselves as avatars versus the analogue self, and what role they want your brand to play.

Collaborations between the analogue and digital world

Finally, to close the loop of how the Gen Z identity flexes across the digital experience, we need to look at the new role analogue has to play.

Where once digital was the poor cousin of analogue, Gen Z-focussed brands now create analogue experiences purely in the service of better digital engagement.

Businesses, brands and creators are investing in analogue hubs where occupants document their interactions to further drive the online content machine. Examples include the TikTok ‘Hype House’, Fenty’s Beauty House and the NRG Esports castle, where collaborators come together, immerse in the brand and product and then showcase their experiences online.

So what opportunity does this present for brands?

Analogue still has a vital role to play in the Gen Z world, but where it can be deployed to it’s greatest strength is in adding texture and dimension to the online offer. Collaborations between high touch and high tech, along with physical spaces for customers to immerse in the product are both ways to ensure your brand is resonating with this generation.

So what are the key lessons for brands to learn when it comes to the Gen Z digital identity?

For brands looking to capitalise on this exciting time of digital to analogue fluidity, they must carefully consider what is core to their brand DNA. From here, those that predominantly offer a high-touch product need to explore how they can expand their offer to help their customers optimise their online persona.

Finally, creating spaces through which you put the power of creation in the hands of your customer, will ensure that your brand continues to resonate and evolve alongside this new world customer well into the future.

 

Lauren Kelly is the senior client director at Landor Australia.

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