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The Brand Story Told By the Customer - Meet Gen Z

The brand story is a popular topic in marketing. Books are written on it, and agencies and consultants make their living helping companies tell their story. But could the brand story be heading for a big change as younger consumers gain strength in their buying power and digital voice?

The brand story traditionally starts with the founders, the path they took to build the perfect product and conclusively ends on the ultimate customer experience. This holds true to digital-based brands, where telling the story is conventional and trendy; just browse the About Page of most startups. Of course, the brand story is important. But the question is, how relevant is it, especially as companies age and the emotional link isn't there with the newer and younger customers. A case in point is Apple, perhaps the most iconic brand today. 

In Interbrand's 2019 report on how the best global brands connect with Generation Z, it may come as no surprise; Gen Z wants brands to reflect their values. Brand-hype isn't cutting it anymore. They expect brands to score on trust, loyalty, and engagement. And these aren't just empty demands; they reflect how they speak about brands on social media and online. This group not only communicates differentially amongst each other but also with brands. Today's young consumers are tech and digital native, and unlike groups of consumers before them, the internet-connected world is the only one they have ever known.

That savviness means their world revolves online where they talk and exchange amongst themselves a lot, and as young consumers, Gen Z buying power impacts 40% of consumer sales.

As Interbrand states in their study, 'iconic moves aren't about loud noises and baseless stunts anymore— they need to be guided by principles and ideals consumers hold dear.' Growing in a more progressive and accepting society, Gen Z is a group that is active in social and environmental causes such as climate change and social equality. All attributes that impact in a very dynamic way how brands must communicate and behave.

Infegy used social listening data of Gen Z to uncover varying personas. 

Perhaps it's not surprising as this group watched their parents go through the 2008 financial crisis that 'long-term economic and life goals are top-of-mind.'

One persona featured in the study - Entrepreneur - reveals how even higher education is seen as optional. The traditional path for this persona group is radically different from their parents; the Entrepreneur is planning their career path to start their own business rather than go through formal training. Entirely possible in today's increased offers of online training and lower entry points for new ventures. 

Baby boomers relate to Apple through the story of Steve Jobs and his mission to change the world (at the pinnacle of the technology revolution); this isn't how Gen Z relates to the company. 

And this holds true with other older brands tightly associated with the founder and heritage, which is perhaps why cross-branded collaboration between names such as Off-White and Louis Vuitton resonate with younger buyers, a consumer-driven interweaving between old and new.

It is critical to listen to customers in a digital-first world and foresee changing expectations in what they want and expect from brands.  

And that their story is from the perspective of the consumer, aligning to values, causes, and about conversations that matter to them.

Watch this space as we continue to explore the Digital-First World and its impact on brands.


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