News & Insights

A Look at What Gen Z Values and How Brands Can Win

By Craig Blakaitis

Abstract illustration of young people.

As Gen Z continues to come of age, brands are spending more time (and money) trying to grab a share of the $360 billion in spending power the group has.

Born between 1997 and 2012, the group is the most diverse and educated generation yet. They create their own trends, aesthetics and micro-communities, and have ever-changing interests and constantly evolving identities. This constantly evolving generation is keeping brands on their toes – with many asking the question, “how do I stay relevant?”

As an integrated communications firm, we counsel our clients on how to successfully build a relationship with Gen Z. And while Gen Z is constantly ahead of the latest trends, their values remain constant – providing an opportunity to drive mindshare. So, what does Gen Z value?

Let’s take a look at a few values that stand out among the rest and brands that have leveraged these values successfully:

1. Diversity & Inclusion

As the most diverse generation yet, Gen Z doesn’t just want diversity – they expect it, and they won’t stand for not seeing themselves reflected in the brands they support. The group wants to see representation on all fronts including disabilities, age, race, body type, gender and sexuality.

And when it comes to diversity & inclusion, one of today’s biggest pop stars has created a lane of her own. Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty celebrates “fearlessness, confidence and inclusivity” through a collection of loungewear, athletic wear and lingerie. Going beyond body type, the brand has utilized models with congenital amputations and skin conditions like vitiligo in advertisements, owned content and influencer marketing to effortlessly display the diversity Gen Z desires – with many saying the brand is the most inclusive out there.

2. Freedom to Have Fun

Gen Z prioritizes fun more than any generation – especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. They see fun as self-care, being care-free and making themselves feel better – and they expect brands to have fun too.

Crocs leaned into fun so much (we’re talking fried chicken on your shoes fun), it helped them nearly double their revenue in a two-year span. While their never-ending gamut of clog collaborations with brands like 7-Eleven, KFC and Minecraft aren’t always the most practical for everyday use, they are the embodiment of fun, and they get consumers excited to wear such unique and exclusive, and sometimes silly shoes.

3. Financial Independence

Gen Z isn’t waiting to be settled in their careers to think about finances. The generation of solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and students alike know that financial literacy can lead to success in life, with the group saving, investing and finding passive methods of income, unlike any other generation.

Playing into the cool, rich auntie role all too well, RF|Binder worked client Auntie Anne’s to display its understanding of Gen Z’s financial goals by hosting a day-long pretzel and $30K cash giveaway on social media in partnership with Cash App to help “fuel the hustle” of their young audience. Gen Z spent the entire day telling the brand how they’d use the cash to fuel their goals and passions, resonating with the activation so much that Auntie Anne’s received over 45,000 entries to win cash and trended on Twitter all day long.

With so much purchasing power, prioritizing the values of Gen Z gives brands a unique opportunity to drive relevance, sales and awareness, and grow their business across the board. At RF|Binder, we love working with brands to crack the consumer human truth and create campaigns that drive brand relevance and impact. Challenge us to dive in and find that human truth for your brand.

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