Gen Z: the new brand battleground?

We recently launched The Most Connected Brands Index to help businesses and brands understand how they are connecting with consumers and provide them with ways to improve. Rahul Titus, Head of Influence at Ogilvy, helped contribute to the report:

For the last decade, brands have focused on winning the attention and spending power of the ever-elusive Millennials, a target audience smack in the middle of the sacred 18-49 demographic.

However, a sleeping giant has been slowly awakening in the background – meet Generation Z. Usually defined as people born between 1996 and 2011, this new audience is poised to shape consumer behaviour and expectations for years to come, making Gen Z the new frontier for brands to get right.

Projected to account for almost half of all US consumers by 2020, brands who win the Gen Z battle, might win the war. This is why the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, etc. have invested heavily in getting their Gen Z strategies right.

However, this isn’t easy. Gen Z is as complex and nuanced as every generation before them. There is no catch-all targeting option to lump them into, or any single strategy to engage with them – they are the most diverse and multicultural generation ever.

Having grown up in the era of fake news, they are quick to respond to misdirection and do not respond to hype. Instead, they are looking for brands to be transparent and authentic.

The most inspired brands for this audience are the ones that not only tell their stories, but also allow Gen Z consumers to see them prove their commitment to what they believe in.

Even brands that have always thrived amongst a Gen Z audience like YouTube are now finding themselves on rocky foundations. The undisputed home of long form content has had its founding USP stripped away with the launch of IGTV earlier this year.

Competition also rears its head in the form of ad-free streaming services like Spotify and Netflix, which continue to fight for space in a growing market. At its simplest, YouTube finds itself at a key moment in the brand lifecycle – to stay relevant or decline, with Gen Z holding the keys to their future.

These young consumers wield influence far beyond their wealth and experience and brands are starting to wake up to this reality. Gen Z’s fundamental individuality presents the biggest challenge and opportunity for brands. It will be interesting to see which brands get it right and how.

Rahul Titus, Head of Influence, Ogilvy