World Z

Gen Z: 15 years and younger. Born after 1997. 68 million of them. Only 54% are Caucasian. As the oldest of this blooming generation approach the end of high school (or according to some demographer, begin university) marketers are keen to get greater insight into their psyche, to help combat some of the horrifying effects that accompany being a digital native (ie cyber bullying) and understand how to engage with Gen Z as purchasers and primary influencers. Gen Z has never known a world without the Internet. The majority of them have only lived through some kind of downturn and global turmoil (dot.com bust, 9/11, Great Recession, Newtown Shooting, Kenyan Mall Massacre). They’re also the first generation to have truly diverse social circles from relatively early on (a blur of male/female, different socio-economic groups, ethnicities and gender fluid friends). Societal changes since 1997, and the more individualistic orientation of their Gen Xer parents are shaping Gen Zers attitudes to brands. And the relationship they want with them is distinct from even the youngest of Millennials. So based upon our CultureQ research and day-to-day interactions with Gen Zers, we’ve formulated a quick action guide to help you deepen your connection with them: 1.  Involve them in the purchase decision now, rather than think of them as a future purchaser. Traditionally brands have seeded relationships with younger audiences as a way to capture their future purchasing power. This is now shifting. Gen Zers as diligent researchers use technology to identify brands that could benefit them and their family members. More than other generations have in the past, they’re shaping their parents...

Cool observations on hot days

Summer is the perfect time to people watch, catch up on those podcasts you’ve been meaning to review, and indulge in news articles. So, after a summer of reading, researching, reflecting and of course working, we at Onesixtyfourth have a couple of observations we’d like to share with you before the 2014 brand and marketing planning cycle starts. Gen Z has the power As a 23 million strong generation, Gen Z (under 17 year olds) may not be as sizeable as the Millennial cohort, but what they lack in volume they make up for in influence. This is the generation that thinks dial up was something dinosaurs did, advises venture capitalists on product ideas, and self-publicizes like previous generations played neighborhood baseball or football (dependent upon if you grew up in the US or UK). The technological context that’s empowered them at such a young age has its down- as much as up- side. News of school shootings and terrorists attacks are more difficult for parents to hide. Security drills rather than fire drills are commonplace in their schools, and additional airport security checks are just a routine part of travelling. And, yes it affects them, they’re often less optimistic than Millennials (especially those at the older end of the generation), and seek relationships with brands that are consistent and feel familiar. Their role models aren’t of the same ilk either; they’re often more ordinary than aspirational. Interestingly, Gen Zers value them because of this. Rather than represent the person next door, they are the person next door - with more talent perhaps. Real people teach Gen Zers anything...

The myth of globalization

I’ve just finished reading MegaChange 50: The world in 2050, written by a group of writers from the Economist. As the title suggests, the book gives a view on the trends shaping the world and its development in the future. Amidst the many fascinating themes and projections, the chapter that surprisingly captured my attention was the one on globalization. After all, the concept is hardly new - global markets have existed since the late 1800’s, and the term has been commonplace since the 1990’s. Laza Kekic  (one of the book’s authors) defines globalization as “The extension of markets across frontiers. The declining importance of national boundaries on goods capital and technology, culture and ideas.”  He has it spot on when he says despite globalization being one of the most powerful trends since WW2, in reality it’s not gone as far as people think, we’re actually only semi-globalized. This idea is always apparent to me than when I interact with retail banks. Banks are missing a trick Many such banks point to their global status as a gold star in the hopes of enticing today’s more affluent, contemporary consumer to develop lifetime value from these global citizens where-ever they travel, live or work.  Since 2008, however, regulation of banks has increased, enabled by the joint efforts of banks and regulatory bodies. The laws that have become practice were designed to increase consumer confidence and shift the power balance in a complex sector that was perceived to be badly broken. Yet, protectionism seems to have evolved into operating strategies that are more about institutional control than collaborative consumerism and trends towards...

J.C. Penney: we learned to listen to you

To secure loyalty, a brand’s experience should reflect its consumers’ values, lifestyles and interests, sincerely deliver its promise and credibly reflect its heritage. People want to see themselves as part of the brand; sometimes a slightly more polished version but never a dramatically different persona that feels out of step with their life. Given this shifting context, when J.C. Penney evolved the brand experience to woo a younger target audience, their core audience was right to feel misplaced. Under ex-CEO and former Apple Executive, Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney, first established in the frontier lands of Wyoming in 1902 for miners and farming families, looked to become “a happy place to hang out.” Coupons were ditched in favor of everyday low pricing and old faithful lines were displaced. Check out by smart phone and Wi-Fi hot spots were central to Millennialize the retail experience and appeal to more affluent consumers. J.C. Penney’s heartland clientele did not recognize their reliable go-to brand, which to this day prides itself on its commitment to make “everyday matter.” How could this national institution believably transform overnight into Apple’s much older sister? Many labeled it an awkward branding jumble; and one that resulted in disastrous sales. At Onesixtyfourth, we believe brands should mirror societal shifts. And CultureQ, our proprietary tracker of sentiment reveals that men and women across cohorts are growing more and more tired of divisiveness in all areas of their lives; the haves vs the have nots, the young vs the over the 40’s, Republican vs Democrat, it goes on. So, what’s the impact of such divisions, and often, artificial separations imposed by...

Amazon: Keep calm & consistently practice good brand citizenship

Poor Amazon. What a difficult few months it has experienced. Back in Summer/Autumn 2012, the brand that defines Internet retailing was riding the crest of a wave. Our CultureQ participants ranked it as both a leader and a good brand citizen. Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers alike in the UK and US believed Amazon offered products and services that simplified and enriched their lives by making shopping easier and often times cheaper. What’s more, they touted the brand for its efforts to define new lifestyles and ways of doing things. The last few months, however, have been a roller coaster ride for Amazon’s brand reputation. Despite gathering larger than ever revenues last year and sitting on pile of cash close to $9bn, the company reportedly paid paltry levels of corporation tax in Europe, something which doesn’t sit well at a time when every day people are feeling the full force of tighter fiscal management. In February, the brand’s new Kindle Whitepaper ad, Perfect at the Beach, which makes a non-issue of gay marriage, was well received by some. Early March and another hiccup - its decision to stock the awful Keep Calm and Rape Them, Hit Them, and Knife Her tee shirt line. Brand leadership requires a connection to social context With the shooting in Connecticut still fresh in American’s minds, it’s no wonder people across generations are reporting they’re still very concerned about becoming the victim of random acts of violence (CultureQ, December 2013). Furthermore, some women tell us they’re especially concerned about women’s rights and civil liberties being compromised in the US during 2013 (CultureQ, December 2013)....
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