Trust and Pixie Dust
Young people, whether they are from Generation Z or Generation Alpha, are demanding a high level of transparency and trust from everyone in their world – from politicians courting their vote to brands courting their business.
Of course trust, as an important quality, isn’t unique to the younger set. Maintaining a culture of trust in the workplace, for instance, is crucial to everyone. An article in the Harvard Business Review entitled the Neuroscience of Trust discusses the fact that employees at high-trust companies are more engaged, energetic, and stay longer – at low-trust companies the opposite is true. And the author, Paul J. Zak the founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has performed the experiments to back this up with results showing how oxytocin, a powerful neurochemical that is released in the brain when people bond socially, is produced when we are trusted by others and therefore become trustworthy.
How does this translate to youth? After all, only a small percentage of Generation Alpha and Z are old enough to work. Essentially, the effective and compelling ways we gain trust in the workplace (or should), like sharing information broadly and intentionally building relationships, are also the ways we gain trust with youth.
The youngest generations have grown up in a world of constant noise and an over saturation of continuously streaming content broadcasted by more channels then older generations could have ever dreamed about. For brands especially, this means that it’s not enough to communicate to young people about a brand proposition, they must earnestly communicate with them and create a powerful purpose that is more than “sell stuff.” According to a survey by brand consultancy BBMG and strategy firm GlobeScan, Generation Z is three times more likely to say that the purpose of business is to “serve communities and society,” and they are more likely to trust that large companies are operating in society’s best interests only when the companies show it by their actions and their employees’ actions. Brands can’t package and sell altruism, it has to be an intricate part of their DNA and anchored to every idea, communication and story they deliver. Today’s youth are smart and savvy and do not easily fall for exaggerated cause-driven marketing designed to push a product rather than drawn from the true belief in the cause the company is backing.
This trust factor that young people are so vehemently captivated by helps to explain the role of influencers in their lives. In a survey of young people by Morning Consult, a vast majority of respondents (88%) are looking for influencers who are “authentic and genuinely care about their interests.” The same number report that they have heard about products they are interested in buying from social media influencers. Because of this “influence of influencers” and for all the reasons they are able to capture the attention of young people, brands now need to reinvent themselves in ways even Don Draper couldn’t have conceived. Brands who are hoping to be part of the 140 billion (with a “b”) spending power Generation Z has, need to fearlessly and with conviction communicate with them, authentically.
It’s not magic; while all these ideas to communicate to and with young people are great, unless we are also empowering youth to be engaged in decisions while developing meaningful relationships with them, no amount of social impact marketing will sway them – no cause will be great enough.
A blog post from the communications agency, Kelton sums it up neatly; in order to connect with young people, brands need to engage, make content accessible, keep it simple, involve them in discussions, and be authentic. In other words, be trustworthy, have genuine and meaningful conversations and give young people what they want most, a voice.