Busting myths about Gen Z

Axe, Glossier and General Mills focus on Gen Z truths to build their brands and campaigns.

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This article appears in the November/December 2017 issue of strategy.

What You Don’t Know About Gen Z – published by Idea Couture, and authored by its editor Dominic Smith and former tech analyst Jaraad Mootee – reveals what motivates those born after 1996 by examining the myths around them. We paired some of those clichés with brands that recently tapped into actual truths about the demo.

Myth: Social made Gen Z shallow
Real insight: Axe praises teen peers

Teens aren’t necessarily glued to their phones to feed their selfie appetite – they also use social media to maintain genuine, real-world relationships.

For its “#PraiseUp” campaign, Axe enlisted Toronto Raptor Kyle Lowry and Blue Jay Marcus Stroman (featured above) for social videos of the pair complimenting each other. The brand then challenged young men to record themselves giving praise to their friends, forging deeper connections and demonstrating that sharing affection doesn’t make them less of “a real man.”

Myth: Gen Z doesn’t care for products
Real insight: The Glossier movement

Gen Z is not as anti-materialist as their experience-seeking millennial predecessors. They love to shop, but they shop smart, seeking out products that provide value and an emotional connection to something bigger.

The grassroots NY-based cosmetics brand Glossier has built itself on this idea. Besides being sold at fair prices through online channels, the brand is constantly getting feedback on how to improve the products from its community of followers. Teens also share thousands of looks under the “#glossierpink” hashtag each day.

Myth: Gen Z wants to save the world
Real insight: Pizza Pops gets weird

Considering the world they are inheriting, it’s assumed that Gen Z will embody the reductive “social justice warrior” trope in a fight for equality. But their bigger priority is actually individuality, developing their own personalities before looking to save the world.

General Mills’ Pizza Pops recently ran a cheeky campaign that built on the way teens define themselves as different and weird, showing anthropomorphic Pizza Pops embracing awkward teenage realities like trying to talk to a romantic interest, their love of nerdy pizza-themed pop culture (“’Zza Wars”) or coping with literal “pizza face.”