Capture Gen Z's Attention With Cause Marketing

Despite how some marketers approach things, Gen Z  isn't a monolith. Like every generation, they are a large audience with segmented interests and outlooks. But one thing is abundantly clear: Gen Z is one of history’s most politically active cohorts.

And they aren’t just talking about the causes they care about, they are investing time, energy, and money where they feel passionate. For instance, 32% of Gen Zers and 28% of Millennials have donated money, contacted an elected official, volunteered or attended a rally to address climate change in the last year.

This is good news for the marketers mentioned above. There are opportunities to join forces with Gen Z consumers, turning them into allies and brand advocates via causes that align with their personal values. Below, we take a look at some of the areas where Gen Z is most active and engaged. 

Environmentalism

The environment is a huge concern for audiences like Gen Z and Millennials. They obviously have a vested interest in the outcome of climate change, poised to take over a world left behind by previous generations. 

But this isn’t just a matter of survival. It’s also about empathy. As the world becomes more connected, we’re able to see more and more examples of climate change’s devastating effects around the globe. From people to animals to the world itself, the negative impacts are front and center in social feeds and the homepages of favorite digital destinations.

Being a positive partner who actively participates and encourages sustainability can be a big boost to your brand. Companies like Patagonia and Seventh Generation use cause marketing as a core component of their branding, business practices and even their packaging. 

This “practice what you preach” mentality is something audiences are quick to reward. Patagonia specifically has gone to great lengths to promote a planet-first, profits-second way of life. They even go so far as to encourage customers to repair their products instead of buying new replacements. 

According to a Pew Research survey, 71% of millennials and 67% of Gen Zers believe climate change should be a top priority. Similarly, 61% of Gen Z respondents to a Facebook survey also said they’d pay more for products or services that are produced in an ethical and sustainable way.

Body Positivity
In a 2018 study conducted by Johns Hopkins, roughly three-in-ten teens reported a lot of pressure to look good. That’s no surprise considering today’s social media climate, the place many (if not most) millennials and Gen Zers choose to spend their time.

Many TikToks and Instagram posts are devoted to looking good, dieting and makeup tutorials. Those same social networks have come under heavy fire for making young people feel pressured to achieve perfection. Often via “viral” posts or memes that use altered photography. 

Brands that choose to buck this trend and embrace body positivity will see equally positive results. Gen Z and millennial consumers are quick to support companies that champion diversity, and that extends beyond ethnicities. Models who feature different shapes, unique physical characteristics and disabilities are becoming more and more commonplace for a reason. 

Translating the body positivity movement into your marketing practices shows you understand and empathize with audiences, trading the classic idea of perfection for representation. Old Navy has released an extended size collection, using a wide range of talent to represent this new offering. This investment in inclusion and acceptance extends beyond their marketing campaign. It includes new in-store displays featuring new mannequins and a price parity regardless of size. 

Personal Identity
The mainstream concept of identity has evolved rapidly in recent years,and it shows no signs of slowing. Gen Zers are much more likely than older generations to say they personally know someone who prefers to go by gender-neutral pronouns, with 35% saying so, compared to 25% of Millennials.

Our collective understanding of identity—from personal pronouns to preferences in a partner—has gone from binary titles to a spectrum of possibilities designed to be more representative. 

As individuals become more aware and accustomed to using this terminology, brands must do the same to stay relevant. From wide-scale campaigns to small experiences like website form fills, showing you understand your audience’s identity and preferences goes a long way. It’s about more than brand loyalty. It’s a sign of acceptance and solidarity with underrepresented communities.

This isn’t reserved for fashion and beauty brands. Even Target is taking steps to be more inclusive, taking steps to make in-store signage more gender neutral. The company has also offered more all-gender clothing options for children. While these may seem like small things to anyone who identifies as cis-gender, it marks meaningful change for others in an everyday setting where they shop.

Diversity and Inclusion 
Racial inequality has long been an issue both in the US and throughout the world. These disparities reach back throughout history, but have been amplified in the last century as technology evolves. 

That exposure is just one factor that helped the rise of social movements like Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate. These causes have shed light on the everyday inequalities people experience, and millennial and Gen Z people have taken notice. 82% of Gen Z agrees that racism is a major problem in America, and 79% agree that Black Americans are frequently discriminated against in the United States. 

These attitudes affect more than Gen Z and millennial politics. They also impact their buying habits. 67% of Gen Z survey respondents said they would strongly consider a brand’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement when deciding what companies they’ll purchase from.

Beyond social movements, this audience also has a keen eye for representation in marketing campaigns. 77% of Gen Z say they feel more positively towards a brand when it promotes equality on social media. 71% said they’d like to see more diversity in advertising. 

Brands in every category have taken notice. Ben & Jerry’s has been a key example. Their response to the social climate in 2020 has pulled no punches. A formal announcement condemning white supremacy and new flavors that offer solidarity and support for the Black community show the brand provides more than lip service. 

In Summary 
Successful brands are succeeding by embracing and championing causes that are important to consumers. But many other brands are succeeding because they embody those causes. And these aren’t just upstart companies; they’re category leaders who have established strong footholds by making social movements the core of their business.

As long as your brand is authentic, empathetic and embracing these movements for the right reasons, cause marketing can be a very effective tactic. It can build loyalty among current customers while attracting new audiences who value social responsibility.

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