Generation Z cares more about values and innovations than heritage and traditions. Lisa Corneliusson wants in.
Generation Z. Digital by default. Constantly connected. With upheaval as norm.
I’ve always been obsessed with youth, perhaps more for every year that takes me further from it. (Yes, I’ve feared non-youth since the day I turned 13.) Right now, I read as much as I can about changing consumer behavior and how Gen Z (the digitally savvy ones who do not know life without a smartphone) is changing the market. We’re heading towards a new value economy and to me it seems this will bring a lot of positive changes. ”Generation Z is the most engaged generation to date and if they don’t like it, they will do something about it. They’re quite activist in their mentality”, says Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia (ok so he’s 76 years old but he’s still on my yes list).
My favorite read right now, the LA Briefing, states a fact: luxury brands have been slow in adopting their businesses to what Gen Z wants. While the luxury segment has largely leaned back on ”the security of heritage” and relied on ”introspection rather than innovation”, the younger audiences are ”less motivated by external signifiers of wealth and more by intangible ideas of value”.
This disconnect got i-D Magazine to start new lifestyle title Amuse, launched to attract this ever-growing group of luxury consumers who are ”driven by experiences more than transactions”. This disconnect is probably also a reason why Kering has put sustainability and innovation at the core of their development. This disconnect is probably why Natalie Massenet made a huge deal out of launching The Net Set earlier this year (an app offering editorially curated content instead of a traditional e-commerce). S-commerce is predicted to be the future, and I’m very curious about Semaine launching next week with the tagline Forget the look. Shop the life. (And by the way, even more curious to know what Natalie Massenet is lending her genius to after leaving Net a Porter post-merge with Yoox. (Is she the next Anna Wintour?! Etc).
This week GANT did a major relaunch, simultaneously communicated in some 70 countries. The campaign feeds off GANT’s Ivy League heritage – not so appealing to Gen Z according to LA Briefing logic. But its message – real people (former Ivy Leagues students) who changed the world, not the shirt – may be one that Gen Z appreciates. I myself think the campaign is ambivalent in its message. After all, Nick D’Aloisio didn’t need Ivy League to teach him code at the age of 12, and GANT, as any other similar brand, needs change that is more than symbolic.
But: Perhaps this feeling of conflict between something rich and privileged (like the Ivy League heritage) and something standing for social change is in my system because I’m not part of Gen Z. Maybe I’m more traditional; my parents met while protesting against nuclear power on the streets of Stockholm in the late 70s; they work with kids and books in the public sector and not with fashion and tech in the private one. But then again, as with most parent-child-relationships, maybe my values stem from what they are and also whey they are not. I am after all an entrepreneurial leftie; accepting the market economy and still wanting to work with things that matters to me.
Discussing this new value economy, Marcie Merriman writes in WWD: ”The entrepreneurial community has the advantage in this new world (…) Large companies need to act more like start-ups and provide alternative innovations, not incremental improvements.” Now, although I am a huge fan of the podcast Startup and love to work for myself, I value a public sector and a welfare system a million times higher than private profit, i.e, I’m not disillusioned enough to think private startups is some overall solution. But if the message here reads that huge companies need to be more receptive to their customers? Then that’s music to my ears. I believe in consumer power – but also, that the consumer isn’t responsible for changes to happen. Changes are needed on policy level; initiated by the companies selling the clothes; agreed upon by politicians directly influential in decisions on how many refugees to welcome to a country. (Amen, Naomi Klein.)
Yes, it’s all part of the same system and it needs radical change, now more than ever.
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