ITL #570   Different, yes: bridging the generation gap with open dialogue

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Brands must disregard stereotypes as they strive to understand what motivates Generation Z. By Marina Bolanča.



The basic principle of mutual understanding is to start with yourself and assume your share of the responsibility. There’s always a ton of comments about Generation Z or Gen Zers but, to be fair, we were the ones who raised that generation.

 

They are our kids and we taught them through words, and even more through actions, to be the way they are. We gave them the values they needed to adopt, and now that they hold on to them, the labor market is up in arms about it. Who is in the right here, them or us? Perhaps they are simply advocating for the changes that we had neither the courage nor the opportunity to pursue. And we won’t accomplish anything by deepening the generation gap.

 

What is currently different is the possibility of communication – more precisely, direct communication via digital channels with a large number of like-minded people. Then there are also the clearly communicated views and attitudes of Gen Zers, who are introducing some new behaviors to a large audience. And everything that is new and different is confusing at first; people are initially resistant to changes but then they reach a stage where they do their best to understand each other.

 

Abeceda Komunikacije, a European PR agency, has decided to assume the responsibility for the deficient communication and act concretely to reduce the generation gap, improve the mutual understanding, teach listening skills to both parties, and open up the dialogue. Accordingly, we have launched our 20/40 unfiltered communication platform. Presently, the platform is used for different inhouse activities for a number of clients; however, it will soon go public as certain universal issues will be released into the public space.

 

Accepting new views, changing old habits

The project’s mission is to open up the dialogue, start the conversation, and create an atmosphere of understanding that is accepting of new views and new behaviors. Simply put, all of us in the corporate world are used to a certain type of behavior but who’s to say that that is the only right way to behave and that habits needn’t change.

 

That is why we start things off with a study by specific issues and industries. We include all parties in the dialogue and then, after clearly defining and reaching a consensus between the parties, we provide a brand or company with a number of tools to reach Gen Zers in exactly the way they wish to consume the information – and those tools have the greatest reach. We apply the same principle when planning employer branding strategies. Each project is tailored to the needs of the brand and it’s highly gratifying to see the changes that happen afterwards.

 

The thing that needs to be kept in mind is that Gen Zers are the first real digital natives, i.e., the first generation to grow up with fast internet, smartphones, and smart technologies as a part of their daily lives. Jokes are the only way they learn about CDs or floppy disks. Now, imagine a situation where everything is available to you, all the information and content, where you can choose or customize anything you want, where algorithms shape your world… It is quite difficult in such an environment to expect that Gen Zers’ interests are identical to the interests and wishes of the generations to whom, for starters, access to a lot of the information was limited.

 

Gen Zers think globally as, to them, the world is indeed a village. And quite often we view their lack of interest in a negative light. But why not try and understand what they are genuinely interested in, or what moves and motivates them? Have we ever asked them that without patronizing them, blinded by stereotypes, and saying the dreaded “when we were young…”?

 

Don’t be fooled by superficial stereotypes

There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding Gen Zers. For instance, we often feel like they are constantly hanging out on social media, trusting only the many influencers there. You’re not going to believe this, but multiple studies refute that belief. New research into Gen Zers’ habits from Edelman reveals that 88% of them trust their parents and professors the most. Still, that does not mean that they aren’t great researchers themselves. They are very well informed and their consumer habits heavily depend on whether they share the same values with the brands whose products or services they use.

 

If brands wish to earn Gen Zers’ trust, they first and foremost need to be 100% authentic. For instance, if a brand has sustainability as one of its top business goals, then there’s no alternative to that and the goal in question cannot be in name only. The brand’s business practices, its activities in the community, and everything it does and the way it does it must be in line with a sustainable lifestyle. It is on each brand and company to honestly define their purpose in society and to live that purpose. That way they won’t have any issues being authentic.

 

These days, there isn’t an industry that doesn’t find Gen Zers important. The generation in question already makes up a large portion of the purchasing power seeing as they account for 27% of the global workforce. Their influence will only continue to grow, and if brands wish to remain relevant to such a demanding generation who knows what they want, they will have to find their own ways of identifying and communicating with their target group. For starters, they need to understand each other in terms of purpose and meaning, and not just claim that they “get each other.”

 

 

 

 

 


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The Author

Marina Bolanča

Marina Bolanča, Chief Executive Officer, Abeceda Communications. A master of economics with over 20 years’ experience in the communication industry, specializing in strategic and creative communication, Marina is a member of IPRA.

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