Why listening to Gen Z is making consumer research sexy

Verity Raphael, Content and Social Media Manager at Streetbees
May 11, 2022

‘Making research sexy’. This had to be our favourite quote from our most recent webinar on Gen Z! It came from Jay Richards, Co-Founder of Imagen Insights - the ‘Brutally Honest Gen Z Insight Agency’, who we partnered with to bring you an expert panel on the REAL commercial impact of Gen Z. Alongside Jay, we spoke to Jamie Oyebode from Sky and Sheena Henry from J&J Vogue to uncover how brands can improve their marketing to this ever-evolving cohort. 

Listen to the on-demand recording here 

\ Jay spoke alongside Sheena Henry at Vogue International (a J&J company), Jamie Oyebode at Sky and the Soulstice Collective and Stephanie Money, Executive Strategic Director at Streetbees. 

So how can we make research sexy when it comes to Gen Z? Well believe us, in this climate, you can’t afford to not do your homework. And that doesn’t just mean consumer intelligence, although we’re major advocates of that (obvz).

Actually listening and engaging with Gen Z across all channels is the only way to future proof your brand as they enter the marketplace. By entering into a dialogue with Gen Z, you can build a more authentic, socially conscious and profitable brand that will stand the test of time. And given that they make up one third of the world’s population, and are going to have a collective buying power of $4.4 trillion by 2030, you really don’t want to get left behind! 

Here’s our roundup of why doing your Gen Z research will make your brand sexy - with quotes from the experts themselves. 

1) You’ll build brand authenticity by working with influencers Gen Z actually love 

As the Earned Media Manager of Vogue International (with a brand portfolio that includes OGX Beauty, Neutrogena and Aveeno Hair), Sheena works closely with purpose-driven social media influencers who are popular with Gen Z. Their content is fully integrated with their brand portfolio, which means their trusted influencers become the face of the brand. But how do you ensure your Gen Z influencer marketing is successful?

In a nutshell, Sheena explained that the first step is to do your due diligence to ensure that whoever you’re working with hasn’t said something inappropriate in their past that could come back to haunt you. Then, rather than trying to market to the whole of Gen Z, Sheena suggested that brands should dig deeper and work with influencers who are popular in sub-communities that are under-represented. That way, you’re also amplifying their voices and giving them the platform to speak on issues that Gen Z cares about. Finally, make sure you segment your Gen Z and Millennial influencer marketing. Unlike Millennials, who tend to follow more aspirational content on Instagram and Youtube, ‘TikTok is more raw. It’s straight to the point’, she said.

‘We really give the TikTok Gen Z creators the freedom to create the content that resonates with their audience in a way that feels genuine’. - Sheena Henry

2) Your social media channels will blow up in the right way, because you’ll be asking your followers the right questions

Even if your business doesn’t have the budget or scale for a consumer intelligence team or influencer marketing, you should still be using social media to do your research on Gen Z. And the best part is, it’s totally free!

‘Gen Z are co-creators and collaborators, so you should encourage them to get involved in the making of your brand’. - Jay Richards

Giving the example of hype brand Stitch, Jay explained that ‘it’s the way they engage with their community that makes them so unique. Stitch uses TikTok to ask their Gen Z community exactly what clothing and content they want to see coming up next’ - and the comments sections and engaged follower count speaks for itself.

3) You’ll future proof your business and gain competitive advantage internally because you’ll be hiring diversely at scale

As Jamie, Insights Manager at Sky, reminded the audience, in the age of social media and cancel culture, ‘diversity of thought across a span of age, race, gender, ethnicity and beliefs, is going to help your brand land on that golden winning ticket’. But it goes deeper than that, he continued. You need to ‘make your team feel empowered enough to stand up and say when something’s not right’. That means hiring more than one person to represent different communities, because the human experience is not monolithic. Not only will this benefit your brand: it’s essential, because Gen Z will be scrutinising your brand behind the scenes too.

‘Gen Z wants to see behind your brand. If you’re using Black models, how many Black people are on your team? How many are at the executive level?’ - Sheena Henry 

‘If your employees look like a company from 50 years ago’, Jay added, ‘in 5-10 years time when their spending power increases, Gen Z will just spend their money elsewhere. Stick to this or have no business. You will disappear. Implement this now’.

4) You’ll launch bold campaigns that genuinely resonate with Gen Z 

Jay made another critical point that ‘to engage with Gen Z, brands will need to step outside their comfort zone’. But to do that successfully, consumer intelligence needs to come in at the earliest stages of your campaign and strategy planning. Not at the last minute to sense-check if it will land - or you could be seriously wasting your time! 

‘I am so inspired by this generation who just have so much access, they are so bold and, and just unapologetic about it, forcing brands to make changes, forcing brands to show and represent real people’ - Sheena Henry

Sheena also reassured us that Gen Z ‘are really vocal and they’re telling you what they want you to do to be successful so to stay relevant and competitive you just have to keep up with what they’re telling you. Whether it be diverse teams or unfiltered images, you have to be nimble and agile to deliver what they’re asking for’’.

To round off with a really important reminder from Jamie at Sky: ‘There’s this massive misconception that Gen Z wants to have a fight about everything. When in actual fact, they want to have a dialogue and discussion about everything. They love understanding perspective. Their decisions are right and wrong. There is a moral reason you could conceive as to why they are right and you have to be prepared to listen’. 

‘Be prepared to listen and have a dialogue with Gen Z. Do not talk at, and definitely do not talk down.’ - Jamie Oyebode 

By listening to Gen Z and engaging in a dialogue with them, this will not only make your consumer research team sexy. It’ll make your entire brand sexy! And what’s not to love about that?!

Listen to the on-demand recording here