Gen Z’s behavioural traits make them one of the most challenging audiences to please, and Twitter’s Mitchell Kreuch says understanding their unique expectations, experiences and values is key for brands to enjoy sustainable success.

“Graduates of the COVID-19 pandemic”, “real digital natives” or known quite simply to be “hyper-aware”. Gen Z has had many different titles bestowed upon it but the consensus is clear – this generation is unlike any other.

Born in the thriving internet age, they are more familiar with social and mobile networks than the digital immigrant millennials, who had to adapt to technology. This has produced a hyperconnected generation that easily collects and cross-references many sources of online information to learn about the world around them. 

Whether it’s climate change, workplace bullying or even cancel culture, this expressive group believes in the power of dialogue and conversation to resolve global issues.

They are vocal and not afraid of voicing opinions, online and offline. They are holding up a mirror to society, forcing us to take a closer look and re-examine our old ways. They have high expectations of the various facets of their lives – be it their careers or what they consume – making them one of the most challenging audiences to please. These behavioural traits spill over to the way Gen Z view consumption and their relationship to brands. 

Critically, as their presence grows, so does their influence. Gen Z will make up a quarter of Asia Pacific’s population by 2025 and possess a global spending power of approximately US$140bn by 2030. Their mighty presence is indisputable and for brands who wish to win their hearts (or wallets), they must learn how to communicate and connect with these very unique consumers.

What does this mean for brands?

Beyond the labels, Gen Z’s voices are hard to miss. Often engaged and enthusiastic about the issues they deem worthy, it’s common for this group to actively participate and start conversations through services like Twitter. Whether it’s a discussion with like-minded individuals and friends, or interacting with brands via social channels, Gen Z is eager to join in when the topic is aligned with their values and interests.

The implication for brands is this – if they can create the right conversation, one that appeals to the Gen Z audience, then half the battle for their attention and love is won. Indeed, spending a significant amount of their time (and consequently, their lives) online, Twitter research (Audiense, Singapore, Twitter Users, Aug 2021) reveals that Gen Z is strongly influenced by online content. Additionally, online ads and social media usually serve as their first ports of call for guidance when making purchase decisions.

But what makes them tick? And more importantly, what should brands look out for when trying to build relationships with this unique generation?

1. Prioritise authentic and organic content that is relatable

While this might seem obvious, it’s actually worrying to note that many Gen Zs in Southeast Asia do not feel seen by brands or advertisers. Respondents to a Twitter survey show that in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia (Global Web Indexes for Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, Twitter Users, Q1 2021, data retrieved Aug 2021), more than 90% of Gen Z do not feel represented by the advertisements they’re exposed to.

Without an element of relatability, forging a genuine connection is difficult. But therein lies the opportunity – Twitter knows that Gen Z values belonging to fandoms and value a sense of community. So for brands that can learn how to speak their language and create content that is related to their passions and interests, gaining their favour isn’t an insurmountable challenge.

For instance, by acknowledging how tough it was for BTS fans to purchase exclusive products and including hit song lyrics in a tweet, the Singapore Civil Defence Force enjoyed an outpouring of love and appreciation from the local fandom.

2. Hear them out and let them contribute

Gen Z consumers on Twitter are the most eager to engage with content they find interesting and are also open to exploration. 

For example, we’ve found that 60% of Filipino Gen Zs on Twitter are receptive to buying from brands they’ve seen advertisements of, while 43% like being the first to try new things (People on Twitter, GWI Q2–Q3 2020, Philippines, all verticals, 16–24 years, weekly Twitter users vs. non-Twitter).

Whether it’s sports, gaming, entertainment or what’s currently trending, if brands can sustain a conversation and deliver relevant content, they can create and build lasting relationships with their audience and, better yet, even leverage their creativity and enthusiasm.

According to a National Retail Federation study, 44% of Gen Z respondents expressed interest in submitting new product ideas. To ensure that they feel heard and recognised, brands should encourage these consumers to contribute to the product development process and really take their suggestions into consideration.

Gen Z consumers enjoy participating, so by giving them a platform to express themselves and see their ideas come to life, brands can gain their trust and win them over.

3. Join the conversation

Capturing the attention of Gen Z requires something more. Numerous research studies indicate that younger consumers increasingly want brands to take a stand on social issues and show support for key movements. Also, because global events develop at the speed of light, Twitter is where they come to keep up with and be part of the real-time conversations, engage in discourse with one another, and gauge and evaluate the efforts brands are making. It’s clear that Gen Z cares about social issues, so, naturally, they want the brands they love to care too.

Gen Z is also a fun bunch. In addition to compelling businesses and their followers to drive change and be part of it, Gen Z has its own brand of humour and welcomes light-hearted exchanges. Listen to their jokes, make them laugh, use familiar memes – there are plenty of ways brands can tap into the latest topics that Gen Z is excited about.

While each generation has been touted as rebels bringing in unprecedented change, for the first time ever we have the added element of technology that creates hyperconnectivity.

Gen Z deeply values the power of online communities as they provide platforms to give voice to causes they care about and to connect and mobilise around issues.

Understanding their unique expectations, experiences and the values that influence their buying behaviours is key for brands to secure sustainable success and win over this generation.