£22bn ($26.88bn USD). That’s the spending power of the Gen Z student population in the US. For the UK student population, it's £4.17bn ($5bn USD).
In light of recent events, we wanted to shed some light on how brands can work to embrace inclusivity and diversity in their marketing. For Gen Z, these marketing pillars aren't just a bonus—they're expected.
No other generation has championed diversity and inclusion quite like Gen Z. As the most diverse generation in history, they know what it means to celebrate uniqueness, and they look to the brands they shop with to celebrate those same values, too.
Older generations might have been accustomed to less diverse portrayals in media and advertising, but Gen Z expects more. With an upbringing that was parallel to the growth of the Internet, social media, and smartphones, Gen Z's world is a diverse one. And they want to see that world embraced by brands, too.
For brands that want to appeal to Gen Z, it’s critical to show them you encourage and support diversity. Here’s what you need to know about incorporating diversity and inclusion into your Gen Z marketing.
Take a hard look at your current marketing collateral. If the models you’re using in advertisements look a little culturally homogeneous, it's probably time to rethink your approach. Zs celebrate individuality, and they want to engage with visual media that’s as varied and diverse as the world they live in. In fact, more than six in 10 Gen Zs say they like seeing ads that show diverse families. They want to see people that look like them and the people they love, as well as those they engage with from around the globe.
It's not enough to simply swap in stock images of idealized "diverse" models in your advertisements. Authenticity is key. Studies show that Gen Zs overwhelmingly prefer ads that “show real people in real situations”, and which don’t try to paint an idealized view of the world. Remember: you’re talking to digital natives, who are constantly bombarded with perfectly imperfect pictures of their peers on social media. Anything that looks too perfect comes off as artificial.
Gone are the days of the “perfect body” and an ideal sense of beauty. Instead, Gen Z connects most with models who look like they do—not models who marketers think they might aspire to be. Find ways to celebrate diversity in its many forms, from different size bodies and a variety of skin tones to varied ages and physical abilities. The more you can reflect the melting pot of Gen Z life, the better.
Want to do business with Gen Z? Think bigger, and design in a way that embraces your customers’ differences—as well as their similarities. Inclusivity is critical to this group, and their favorite brands have created expansive product lines that have something for everyone.
Case in point: Fenty Beauty. When Rihanna debuted her cosmetics brand, she didn’t just come out with a handful of shades of makeup—she launched with 40 different foundation colors that can fit just about any of her shoppers’ diverse skin tones. The brand has continued to earn loyalty with Gen Z by developing even more shades on all ends of the spectrum.
Apparel companies have also started to become more inclusive in effort to tap into the Gen Z market. Extended sizing designed to fit a breadth of heights and frames is no longer a nice-to-have—it’s mandatory. But that’s just the start. A number of big brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, have won over Gen Zs by creating stylish yet functional fashion lines for people with disabilities. Zs want to know that people with all body types can shop together.
You might consider taking a step back from separate lines for men and women. The majority of Gen Zs believe that people can be "born one gender and feel like another." Brands can acknowledge that “people exist beyond the gender binary” by designing gender-neutral clothing that anyone can wear.
More than ever, it's important for brands to stand behind diversity and inclusivity by supporting specific missions. What you don't want to do is promote messaging that feels empty. Your brand might say you're a champion of diversity, but what are you doing to support those causes in the real world? Be prepared to answer—because Gen Z is going to ask.
Many brands recently posted to social media in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. This is great—don't get us wrong—but it wasn't always received well. In response, many consumers challenged brands to 'open your purse', AKA, put your money where your mouth is.
And some brands did, like Gen Z fave Glossier, who donated $1 million to causes supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
We know that not every brand can donate $1 million. But there are still plenty of ways to authentically embrace inclusivity and diversity in your marketing. Start with step one, and Gen Z will take note.
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