Myth-busting Gen Z-ers by a Gen Z-er


Who is Gen Z and how can we reach them? Every brand's current 'million dollar question'. Our very own Gen Z-er breaks it down for us.

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A quick Google search about Gen Z results in thousands of articles and studies that attempt to answer what seems to be every brand’s current ‘million dollar question’: Who is Gen Z and how can we reach them?

I know this having been recently tasked to do some research about Gen Z, and to be honest, I was quite surprised by several statements I read. So, I thought I’d do some Gen Z myth busting of my own. And what qualifies me to do this? Well, I’m a Gen Z-er. Yes, I’m a 21-year-old student studying at the University of Cape Town and am lucky enough to have recently been given an opportunity to flex my establishing marketing muscles at Because.

To give you a little more insight into my generation, I’ve picked some of the claims made in the articles I came across doing my research and will aim to give you my take on them, referencing my own friendship circle and my vast (21-years) of life experience. Here goes…

Claim 1: an obsession with price instantly makes them less loyal to brands.

Not true. I’ve been growing up during a global recession, which has made me aware of how I spend my money and what I spend it on. I’ve found numerous studies that claim that Gen Z have become less loyal to brands, but I disagree. I’m not less brand loyal, instead I’m less retailer loyal. I’ll still buy my favourite brands, but I’ll do my research and find where I can get them for the best price.

Claim 2: gen z are a more inclusive generation that takes pride in its authenticity.

True. At my varsity campus we have vegan-friendly food options at the cafeteria and gender-neutral bathrooms. Up until a few years ago, this was pretty unheard of, but now I have come to expect this of public places. I’m not as clued up as I could be about the different diets and sexual orientations that exist, but I do believe that people have the right to express themselves freely and without discrimination from others. IMO it is also our duty to make everyone feel comfortable being themselves and expressing themselves as they wish, regardless of whether other people agree/disagree with their choices. For example, the majority of my friends don’t follow a plant-based diet, but we are supportive of those who do. We make sure that the restaurants we go to cater for them so that they’ll feel included when we’re out together.

claim 3: gen z is not only turning away from unsustainable brands but is embracing and willing to pay more for sustainable products. 

Not true. I grew up in a household where you wake up, brush your teeth, make your bed and recycle. We have 3 different bins for recycling in my house and without fail use reusable shopping bags. My mother taught me the harm that plastic bags cause the environment and why taking your own bags shopping matters. I vividly remember getting taught about global warming, the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) and the dangers of CFD’s in primary school. I think that it’s safe to assume that most other people that grew up in my generation can relate to this too. So, naturally we tend to favour products that come from sustainable resources and that don’t harm the planet.

Controversially however, I am not willing to pay a premium for something just because it’s more sustainable. I believe that businesses need to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint without putting the burden on the consumer by making us pay a premium to be sustainable. It’s not just my world that I’m trying to save, its all of ours. Adidas is a great example of how things should be done. They have partnered with Parley Ocean Plastic to make eco-friendly running shoes such as the Ultraboost and the Supernova. What I like about Adidas is that the price of their eco-friendly shoes is the same as the shoes that aren’t. Their eco-friendly shoe prices range from $60-$180 which means that they cater for most budgets, proving that you don't need to pay a premium for sustainable products.

claim 4: gen z don't want to pay full price for anything.

True. I personally love a good deal. Who doesn’t? Recently I bought a pair of shoes that I’ve been coveting for a while. I could have gone straight to the brand’s website and bought them off there some time ago, but given I know Superbalist runs ad-hoc student-card specials, I chose to wait (and it was worth it).

In an age where we have access to more info (and therefore better deals) than ever before, we can shop around online and find the best bargains. I won’t pay full price for something that I can find at a better price elsewhere.

claim 5: gen z takes a holistic view of health.

True. Personally I go to the gym at least 3 times a week and go for a morning run along the beach most Sundays. Health and wellness have always been something I’m very passionate about. One of my favourite activities that we do in my friend group is to go on a hike in the morning and then head to a great juice bar in town (the fact that we live in beautiful Cape Town does help).

I recently moved onto my own medical aid. I chose a brand that rewards its clients for being active and meeting weekly activity goals with discounts on smoothies, healthy food, outdoor activities and getaways. The majority of my friends are also with this medical aid for the same reason. I’m happy to engage with a brand if I see a clear return for doing so!

I’ve also noticed that some of my friends are choosing to not drink alcohol at all or replace every other drink with an alcohol-free beverage. This is because they want to be healthy and not feel hungover the next day. When I was young(er) I always saw all the older, cool kids on TV and on nights out smoking cigs. Now I can only think of a handful of people that smoke cigarettes with the ‘smokers’ in my group opting instead for the supposedly healthier vaping option. I guess time will tell...

So, who are Gen Z?

I can’t speak for a whole generation, but what is written above is who I am and what I stand for as a member of Generation Z. In my opinion, the reams of Gen Z articles I went through weren’t entirely wrong, but they weren’t necessarily always right either. I guess that’s the problem with generalising and stereotyping, something most generations really don’t like.

I feel I can speak for the majority of Gen Z when I say we are all skilled researchers who have grown up with the internet at our fingertips. We have a particular knack for seeing through a brand’s BS. And we’re all pretty good at using Social Media to tell the world how we really feel, hence today’s cancel culture/call-out culture.

So how do you reach us? Be real. Have integrity. Don’t adapt your marketing strategy to appear more woke and interested in our social justice issues because you think that’s what we want you to do. Be better because that’s who you are as a company. Do good because simply it is the right thing to do. And be authentic - put people and the planet first and you won’t have to find us, we’ll find you.