New report examines brand affinity among Gen Z – and the companies getting it right

How should marketers prepare for the incoming move of Generation Z into the workplace? According to a new report, the narrative of a more conscientious, ethical generation is mostly true – but don’t feed any stereotypes.

The 2019 AFFDEX report, from student discount hub UNiDAYS, found Nike, Netflix and Instagram were the most popular brands across all categories. YouTube and Adidas completed the top five.

What marked them out was what the report put as part of its methodology as an ‘affinity surplus.’ While across some industries these attributes were universal – ethics, trust, recommendations from friends – others painted a more complicated picture.

“Gen Z is boldly and enthusiastically embracing everything the newly connected world has to offer,” the report notes. “However, through this study there runs a strong thread of pragmatism amongst Gen Z. This can be seen not only in strongly-held affinity for certain long-established brands but by prioritisation of more complex ideas such as brand trust.”

A report earlier this month from creative agency ZAK explored the changing social status from younger users. Two in five respondents, for instance, said they used Facebook as purely a messaging service. The report noted Gen Z is a demographic with the ‘spirit of an entrepreneur and the heart of a hacker, shaping what they have around them to achieve personal, social or work goals.’

When it came to social media usage among Gen Zers Facebook predictably polled poorly. Instagram, cited by 80% of those polled, came top, ahead of Snapchat (71%), WhatsApp (68%), Facebook Messenger (60%) and Facebook itself (58%).

These shifting sands mean potentially billions of dollars at stake whether brands had an affinity surplus or deficit. Automotive is a fascinating example, with Tesla and Jaguar cited as brands with a particular surplus. With younger generations increasingly eschewing driving – again with an environmental bent – it could explain the most ‘dramatic’ situation, as the report puts it.

“In a market such as automotive that is worth billions of dollars of year, having this much market share at stake for a whole demographic equates to dramatic amounts of revenue at risk,” the report notes. “In fact, the threat is even greater than these numbers suggest because Gen Z are at the lifestage when their buying behaviours are being shaped and crystalised.”

This publication has previously explored Gen Z trends and the issues and implementations facing marketers. Writing for MarketingTech in January Omri Mendellevich, CTO at Dynamic Yield, noted the importance of visual search technology going forward.

“While sectors like fashion are well-suited for visual search, retail industries like electronics, automotive, and other industrial eCommerce sectors who typically target shoppers according to brand loyalty may pass over the bells and whistles,” wrote Mendellevich. “Visual search is set to become an indispensable piece of the eCommerce puzzle, already driving meaningful results with Gen Z shoppers.”

“While it’s revealing to see Gen Z’s stereotype doesn’t necessarily stack up, it’s important to note that ethical concerns are still important to this generation,” said Alex Gallagher, chief strategy officer at UNiDAYS.

“What the UNiDAYS AFFDEX shows is that Gen Z students, like all generations before them, are complicated consumers; consumers entering the workforce and increasing their buying power each day. The companies looking to succeed, not just in the here and now, but in the future, will need to learn to treat them as more than a stereotype.”

You can find out more about the report by visiting here (email required).

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