What are Millennials and Gen Z actually influenced by in Marketing?

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An insider’s perspective

by Holly Wyatt

As an Account Manager here at IMAgency I am responsible for guiding and advising my clients on the best way to execute their influencer marketing campaign, in addition to managing the talented and dedicated in-house campaign team.

I have had the pleasure of working on a variety of brands, across different markets and sectors, and recently it has become clear to me that for brands to be relevant to Millennials and Gen-Z, they need to have a voice in current affairs to demonstrate that they are socially responsible. Transparency is key - it’s no longer just about the product but about where, and who, it comes from.

Topshop made news headlines, again, this week and this time not about it’s owner’s behaviour but because it has closed all US stores and narrowly missed bankruptcy. Why? It’s admitted to not keeping up with the trends to stay relevant. Topshop’s product didn’t hit the sweet spot, 2. it’s owner was allegedly committing tax fraud and 3. it wasn’t accessible on online marketplaces such as Amazon or Asos. The barrier to entry became too much for the online generation - after all, 50% of Gen Z say they couldn't live without Youtube.

For brands to not follow in Topshop’s footsteps they need to get the Millennials and Generation Z’s on board by being outspoken on current affairs and caring for the environment and human rights (ie. don’t commit tax fraud). Let me paint a picture - these are people born post 1995 who are likely to be refusing to fly in 2019 to reduce their carbon footprint, they never shop at Starbucks due to claims they're not paying taxes. Greta Thunberg is their young hero, encouraging children to strike for the future of the planet and building a huge social presence in the process and David Attenborough is the Godfather.

They want to see brands making a stand for the environment, having a voice in politics and human rights and be transparent about where their products come from. Of course, the product has to be good too.

When it comes to taking a stand on current affairs, take Patagonia as an example, the American clothing brand who already pledges 1% of profits to help the environment has recently made a huge political statement towards the US Government by pledging to donate the company’s whole $10M Trump tax cut to fight climate change - what does this make me want to do? Shop there.

Political stands are awash on social. Whether you’re a fan of Taylor Swift or not, she is not a stranger to political moves, her latest, and arguably ‘most powerful move yet’ , comes during LGBTQ Pride Month, June 2019. Her latest music video ‘You Need to Calm Down’ was released on the 17th June and features a star-studded cast living on a road where anti-gay protests are happening, towards the end we see Taylor and Katy Perry putting aside their huge celeb feud to call upon the people to sign the Equality Act on Change.org. If passed the Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Watch the video here.

This month we’re excited to be seeing brands take to LinkedIn and Twitter to flaunt their offices decked out in rainbows, showing support for LGBTQ Pride Month.

In terms of social responsibility and the impact on the environment, look at Adidas. For 2019 Adidas has pledged to make 11 million pairs of shoes from ocean plastic, collaborating with Parley to lead the fight against plastic. Adidas is using the power of influencer marketing to spread the word about the yearly event #RunForTheOceans to raise money for the cause, collaborating with sports influencers such as @PaolaTurani to reach Millenials and Gen Z.

In terms of transparency, the fashion industry is making huge steps in #consciousfashion and insane research is happening to make the materials used to make our products traceable, using blockchain technology. There’s already been a 9% increase in transparency since 2017 and transparency is key when it comes to what drives Gen Z, Gen Alpha and Beta to purchase. Clothing labels will hold scannable tags which open an app that tracks exactly where the materials come from. If you buy a pair of leather shoes you will be able to see the exact geolocation of the farm where the cow came from, the slaughterhouse it was taken to, the tannery where the hide was treated to make the leather and so on. Up and coming designer and RCA graduate Alice v Robinson explores zero waste, traceability and transparency where she uses Bullock 374, and only Bullock 374, bought from a farm in Shropshire, to make her entire collection. The collection is currently exhibiting at the V&A in London.

And finally, we are seeing this shift make its way into influencer marketing as well. It’s not just huge global brands like Patagonia or celebrities like Taylor Swift taking a stand, but influencers too. Take @Gracebeverley , an Instagram superstar and Oxford Uni graduate, who, with her recent success on Instagram, has founded not one but 2 businesses in the past 6 months: apparel brand Tala and fitness equipment and guides brand B_ND store. Both business’ roots lay in sustainability and ethical sourcing: the products are ethically sourced, the journey is transparent to the consumer and they re-invest profits in charity. Most recently B_ND has released a rainbow band for Pride month. The result? People love it... B_ND’s first drop of 10,000 products sold out within a mere 30 minutes.

Grace Beverley’s achievements arguably come down to her success as an influencer who worked with brands. Grace ensured her partnerships were with brands who shared the same values as her, she studied her audience meticulously and produced content for the chosen brands which her audience loved. Now, she has cashed in on this knowledge and has cut out the middleman, in this case, the brand. All of this has given her the glory as one of GBEA’s 20 most exciting young entrepreneurs to watch in 2019 and making her the perfect example of an Influencer who is doing it right.

So what are Millennials and Gen-Z actually influenced by in Marketing? They have a desire for the brands they purchase from to have an opinion on current affairs and take social responsibility for their products’ impact on the environment, such as actively offsetting their carbon footprint. When Millenials and Gen Z see a product and research the company, the social responsibility box needs a big tick. Do it and reap the rewards it brings.

My advice to brands? Stay on top of public mentality shifts like this one. Keep in mind that the kids that are striking for climate change now are the consumers of the future and may well have no interest with brands who aren’t participating in this movement. Collaborate with influencers who share your values. This will result in quality original content for your product to reach these young audiences in that sweet spot. Trust in the influencer’s knowledge and hand them the reigns as someday, they might do a Grace.