How CSR Can Help Your Brand Bond With Gen-Z

The bad news can sometimes also be the good news.

This seems so with Gen-Z, the cohort born between the late 1990s and early 2000s. This is a group whose oldest members are barely old enough to vote, have no idea what a Walkman is, may need to be told who created the characters in the upcoming Peanuts movie and won’t understand why many of us were freaked out during Y2K.

For brands that are just beginning to figure out millennials, Gen-Z will be yet another group that can be hard to cater to and understand. It’s a generation that has high expectations, for itself and the brands to which it pledges loyalty. These “screen-agers” also have a fast and detailed brand filter, meaning marketers must present their messages attractively, quickly and clearly, or Gen-Z will move on to the next thing.

On the upside, particularly for brands that respect the intelligence of their customers, Gen-Z will be the smartest and most-educated generation. In addition, when Gen-Z members find a brand they think they might like, they will look closely at a company’s social responsibility agenda. This could mean a bevy of opportunity for smart, socially astute brands, Black Sheep Agency’s Aimee Woodall writes in PR News’ forthcoming Corporate Social Responsibility and Green PR Guidebook, Vol 6.

Below are several other tips from Woodall:

1. Gen-Z Works Hard for Success: Gen-Z is eager to start working. The experience of growing up in economically uncertain times has taught it to move beyond basic needs and tangible achievements—like money and belongings—and center on emotional and social fulfillment. Beyond that, they’re championing the idea that a single generation can make a difference—and that presents an opportunity for you.

Without question, this population is going to drive business in the direction of cause-driven social responsibility because it’s on the brink of becoming the biggest consumer market. Anyone who doesn’t realize that runs the risk of being left behind.

2. It Constantly Seeks Education and Knowledge: Gen-Z has grown up in the digital age, where any amount of information can be at its fingertips. Its members are constant learners, and if you can balance the right amount of education with a greater purpose, Gen-Z may be inclined to grab hold of that message and turn around to share it, with the intention of educating others. Gen-Z can become your best ambassador.

3. Gen-Z Wants to Collaborate to Change the World: Gen-Z admires brands that emit the same level of possibility and togetherness as it does—brands that embody the ideal that we can work side-by-side to make an impact. It gravitates toward opportunities that allow it to feel as though it is collaborating with a brand to create change or as though a shared experience with a friend will help connect the world. Gen-Z is committed to making the world a better place than it found it, and it demands the same of everyone else. It is a generation made for this world and will remake it using its smarts, hope and commitment to companies who want to join it.

Follow Aimee Woodall at @aimeewoodall

Follow Seth Arenstein at @skarenstein