How to Keep Gen Z From Breaking Up With You

pop art image of fashionable woman

Brand loyalty is down. “Genuinfluencers” are in. YOLO is here to stay. Confused? Fear not – here’s how to re-engage with younger consumers, on their terms.

By Alan Palmer, Vice President, Corporate Sales, GWI

If you think young people are still contouring to look good on the ‘gram, ordering Avo Toast, and wearing flower child crown Snapchat filters, let us update your worldview. Gen Z is turning away from careful curation of “perfect” social media personas with 22 percent saying they’ve quit using any filters on Instagram and Snapchat.

So, what’s in now? Embracing vulnerability and authenticity. That’s what. But what happened?

You guessed it: the pandemic.

This forced everyone, but especially younger consumers, to reset their #LifeGoals and prioritize experiences over “stuff.”  We found a growing feeling that “Time is Finite”. People are now looking to simplify their material needs. Not add to their “stuff”. Simply put, they’re looking for quality – and meaning.

For those in the know, this new mindshift brings great opportunities. Smart brands who are quick to pick up on the changing cultural conversation, and take a fresh approach will resonate strongly with Gen Z and millennials. Here are a few insights to inspire you.

Perfectly Imperfect

Today’s Gen Z consumers told us the obsession with the curated self is over. They are craving authentic conversations, especially as they navigate a world emerging from a collective global crisis. They told us they’re over the fleeting thrill of social validation. It didn’t work. It didn’t make them feel better.

In fact, it made them feel terrible – and they know it didn’t make their friends feel good either.

Only 20 percent of Gen Z said they wanted their lifestyles to “impress others”, which bodes well for the future of humanity. 60 percent of Gen Z are in acceptance of “others being their authentic self”. Which means brands need to get real too. Younger people will look to brands which promote fairness, diversity, vulnerability, openness – and act authentically.

So who are the new Gen Z role models? Self-effacing “Genuinfluencers,” like activist and model Munroe Bergdorf, who do not play to the “buy now” button on social media, but tell it like it is, using the power of a public platform to lift others up.

GWI social media info graphic


If brands turn their messaging away from the performative, and become informative, partnering with “real” (or famous-but-keeping-it-real) spokespeople, Gen Z-ers will respond. Maybe not with a heart, thumbs up, or burst of confetti emoticons – but with their long-lasting loyalty and appreciation.

You Only Live Once – Make it Count

What about millennials? Well, here’s the big trend: YOLO (You Only Live Once).

Similar to the devastation of WWI, young people today have had to face unprecedented death, mental health setbacks and economic hardship over the past two years. Not everyone made it through the pandemic. Nearly 5 million people have died so far from COVID-19 – and numbers are rising again in some countries with low, or no, vaccination rates. Young people looked on in horror as the devastation played out, and their lives effectively got put on hold. Which is why it’s not surprising that we heard a “throw caution to the wind” message over and over again from survey respondents.

But, this is much more than pure decadence, chasing pleasures for the sake of it. It’s about finding a new way to live. Only 29 percent of millennials say that having a routine is important to them, down from 34 percent at the beginning of the pandemic.

Gen Y wants to shake it up. 42 percent of millennials say: “Exploring the world is important to us.” In messaging, brands can tap into this urgency around novelty, change, experimentation and excitement. Use visuals of jumping on a plane, taking the slow train, or hitting the road (cue: #VanLife) with friends and/or loved-ones, a dog and a laptop.

33 percent told us they now identify as: “adventurous,” “outspoken,” “daring” – and “ambitious” – but that doesn’t mean they’ve got their eye on the corporate C-Suite. 15 percent of millennials said they were planning on starting their own business in the next six months, to shore up their own futures, rather than rely on an employer. If brands build on this momentum towards change, they can capture millennials’ attention. These new keywords show a shift in personal identification, something much deeper is going on here, something that will really last beyond these times we’re living in.

Word to the wise: This means ditch the “It’ll all be back to normal soon” stance. It won’t. This is the new Roaring Twenties – with a twist.

YOLO – because you never know what tomorrow might bring – #JustSaying 😉