Commentary & Analysis

Demonstrate cultural fluency or risk ‘brand implosion’, report warns

Brands will need to break out of internal marketing “culture bubbles” and place issues such as racial division, social change and sustainability at the heart of brand strategy – or risk a break up with Gen Zers and their parents.

That the warning contained in a new report – IT’S TIME: Ready (or Not) for the Multicultural Majority from US multicultural marketing specialist Culture Marketing Council: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing (CMC). 

The report, which builds on more than 20,500 consumer touchpoints to date, is  the second part of a comprehensive study by CMC on Gen Z (ages 13 to 17).

“Gen Z is a diverse generation that feels a sense of unity with other minority segments and understands that hate and racism are the biggest issues they face together,” said CMC research chair Nancy Tellet, founder, brand & consumer navigator at PureClarity LLC. “As a result, when they see brands acting in a way that doesn’t align with their values or that is culturally obtuse, they walk away and spread the word. Offending Gen Zers and their parents  can be akin to brand implosion.”

“Offending Gen Zers and their parents  can be akin to brand implosion.”

Six things you really need to know about Gen Zers, according to CMS: 

1)  Brands that offend can kiss Gen Zers and their parents goodbye
More than half of people ages 13 to 49 have quit a culturally illiterate brand, saying it “offended them or disrespected their values”—that number skyrocketing to 72 percent among Black female parents—but the number-one reason Gen Zers and  Hispanic and Black parents have quit a brand is disrespect for their own or another racial group (it ranked third among NHW parents). Nearly a third of teens will quit a brand if it offends the LGBTQ+ community, compared to only 15 percent of their parents. Other issues for breakups include animal cruelty and sustainability.

2)  Brands can take calculated risks if they know their consumers’ cultural values first
Nike using Colin Kaepernick in their ads was a calculated risk based on knowing that their customers value “freedom of speech/right to protest” over patriotic symbols—sales did not suffer. When Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods took steps to address gun violence by tightening their restrictions and removing some types of firearms and ammunition from their stories, they saw no ultimate negative bottom-line impact—in fact, 67 percent of multicultural people ages 13 to 49 and 53 percent of NHW said they were more likely to shop in these stores after this move.

3)   Brands cannot rely on price alone to woo Gen Zers and their parents
92% of Gen Zers and their parents agree some things matter more than price: trust, reliability, healthy/organic and style were important. Teens often distance themselves from brands that commit offensive gaffes because those brands reflect poorly on their social media personas. When it comes to food, nearly a third of Gen Zers and their parents say healthy and organic matter more than price. Nearly one out to two parents buy healthy/organic foods and beverages just for their kids and not themselves—this number jumps to 62% among Hispanic parents. In addition, building relationships with Hispanic teens is critical to brands as they are more likely to make their own choices due to their heightened family responsibility role which includes bill paying and purchasing.

4)  Brands wooing teens should supercharge their marketing via solid social media strategies and influencer endorsements
Social media fashion and lifestyle influencers have the most cache when it comes to purchase behaviors by young consumers. Hispanic teens and Hispanic adults ages 25 to 49 are 55 percent and  44 percent, respectively, more likely to try a product endorsed by an influencer than a traditional ad compared to 37 percent of their non-Hispanic counterparts. When the celebrity or influencer is known to be unpaid, the numbers increase to 69 percent of Hispanic teens, 59 percent of Hispanic adults, and 48 percent of their non-Hispanic counterparts.

5)  When considering a purchase, teens value word of mouth and then shop online
When it comes to purchase consideration, word of mouth is most important followed by advertising and online inspiration. In the final path to purchase phase, 74 percent of Gen Zers and their parents go online, primarily to search for more information or head to a marketplace sales site. 

6)  Gen Zers are all about style, savings and sustainability
For many teens, style counts more than price,. While leading fashion chains have wooed teens with throwaway fashion at low prices, teens are also adding to their style with affordable vintage, fuelling thrifting fervour. 74% percent of Gen Zers and their parents 13 to 49 “love to thrift”.

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