Six Degrees recently held an event in partnership with WGSN, trend forecasting agency, to discuss the next wave of consumers and the key strategies to engage up and coming consumer groups.
Head of Insights at WGSN, Lorna Hall, discussed the differentiating factors between Millennials (who we all know and love, or maybe love to hate) and future consumer groups, Generation Z and Alphas.
It was a fantastic morning which highlighted how businesses and brands need to adapt their communication and product strategies to meet the changing needs of new consumer groups.
By 2020, Generation Z will be the largest group of consumers worldwide, making up around 20% of the Australian population.
Lorna dissected best practice examples of organisations that are leading the way in engaging these generations. Below are some of the key insights from the event:
Compared to other generations Millennial consumers value experience over things. To engage with this consumer group, brands need to bring the product or service to life.
This includes unbranded product experiences which give brands an opportunity to engage with consumers in an unbiased way and offer the opportunity to overcome preconceived bias. McDonald's did this with unbranded food trucks to test new products and re-engage with consumers who may have previously dissociated themselves from the brand.
Lorna highlighted the popularity of health and wellness and how this is the newest measurement of social capital and wealth, over ‘things’. This is evident in the rise of new fitness trends; activewear or “athleisure” wear which is the new little black dress.
Millennials are treating their social channels as their own ‘digital memory’, therefore are more considered in the content they create, share and engage with. As a result, brands need to be more considered in their social campaigns and which influencers they align their brand to. Consumers are less likely to engage with the traditionally successful “like and share” style posts and we have seen a rise in native content and influencer focused marketing.
Millennial consumers are often aware that influencers are paid for their involvement in a brand. When there is a strong alignment between the product or service and the consumers’ needs this seeming contradiction is ‘okay’ in their mind.
Another interesting fact Lorna shared is that there is a new movement underway. Older Millennials are disassociating from their younger Millennial counterparts, this is predominately due to the bad press this segment has received.
Gen Z are the true digital native generation. This has changed the way they communicate with one another, how they experience brands and even how they perceive themselves and others.
Gen Z are moving their online presence away from the ‘#blessed’ or ‘humblebrag’ trend (a humblebrag is a self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud). Instead, they are promoting an online persona of ‘realness’, accepting and celebrating the ‘flaws’ which make them unique and individual and rejecting the traditional photoshopped and unrealistic images that flood the media.
This realness can be replicated by brands in the way they communicate by using inclusive language and promoting diversity in their advertising campaigns. This builds brand loyalty and engages with consumers who may otherwise feel isolated because of these campaigns. An amazing example and one of my personal favourites is by H&M.
Gen Z is a highly politically and socially engaged generation. This realness and authenticity also translates to the brands that they want to interact with, as they have an intrinsically low level of trust for corporate brands.
Brands, organisations and senior leaders need to stand for something to gain the trust of this generation. They should align themselves with relevant causes such as sustainability, fair working conditions or environmental conservation. We have seen examples of this in Australia with the marriage equality vote. Many business leaders aligned themselves to one side of the debate and actively promoted this on social media.
Another key strategy will be an increased focus on influencer marketing as this generation trust and respect the choices of their peers over the celebrities, models or actors.
The youngest generation will be experiencing the world of digital from the womb. They have been ‘tablet trained’ before toilet trained, and will have technical proficiency to a higher level than any generation before them.
“Generation Alpha have been tablet trained before they have been toilet trained"
Alphas have high expectations of brands, they want to be involved in product personalisation. Coding will become second language and augmented reality will shape how they interact with brands and products.
Sadly, this will lead to digital isolation and have effects on mental health and may pose a potential issue for this generation.
In closing, Lorna highlighted three key areas in which brands will need to focus to remain relevant and engage with these different consumer groups:
- Transparency with their consumer and a well-defined social and political conscience
- Authentic and interactive consumer experiences
- Product and/or service personalisation which appeals to the moods and needs of the consumer
Brands must embrace the changes future generations demand to stay relevant.
Bricks and mortar retail is in decline due to the rise in online spending. The growth of private label has impacted all categories across FMCG and consumer goods. Understanding and embracing these trends and implementing this thinking into brand strategy can help to ensure that brands are competitive, by building brand integrity and loyalty from a young age.