Craving social impact: 3 ways to connect with Gen Z consumers

Last updated
Apr 26, 2024
Explore the dynamic world of Gen Z, a generation that prioritizes authenticity, social impact, and digital fluency, and learn how brands can align with their values for a genuine connection.

Gen Z is a socially conscious and action-driven generation. Born between 1997-2012, this generation is reaching adulthood and starting to flex their buying power. It’s fundamentally changing the way B2C companies market their products and services, but there are still opportunities to surprise and delight these savvy consumers.

Unlike my “elder Millennial” generation that’s still haunted by the sounds of the dial-up modem, the Gen Z generation doesn’t remember a time before the internet. This undoubtedly affects what they expect from brands they buy from – consumer trends show that they’re markedly loyal to authentic brands and peer recommendations. 

But even more than Gen Z’s focus on authenticity and digital savviness, they take an active role in social impact and want their purchases to mean something more than just another sale. Expectations are extremely high and include brands placing a stronger focus on themes like transparency, social justice, environmental sustainability, and diversity. And Gen Z consumers don’t mind calling you out if your brand misses the mark. 

Gen Z is also highly influenced by the recommendations and voices of their peers, and they’re ready to take action at any time. This is the future that all consumers will require of brands they love, so better to start integrating this into your organization now.

Here are 3 unexpected ways your brand can connect with Gen Z on an authentic, social-impact level:

  1. Partner with nonprofits. Use your checkout page to encourage Gen Z's participation in campaigns and initiatives for activism and community building. The key to this integration is offering authentic brand partnerships that are above reproach. Brands or nonprofits you align with must align with your company’s ethos and be equally committed to nurturing Gen Z leads. 
  2. Educate and inform. Build trust with Gen Z by sharing the truth about your products or causes to support – arm them with information that they can use with their peer group. Invest in creating content that educates, entertains, and inspires action, including user-generated content and collaborative projects. Thank them for their commitment to the shared cause as well, to build rapport.
  3. Show the social proof. Ask for reviews online in relevant places, yes – but you can take it one step further with Gen Z testimonials and user-generated content. Brands are even moving to a photography style, or tagged images from social, that feels more raw and spontaneous to catch that Gen Z rizz. Ahem, charisma… 

Measuring impact: A marketing success story

In 2021 I had the opportunity to redesign and launch a new website for Shine Performing Arts Center. Their founder, Claire McNeill, works with Gen Z students every day so when we went to launch their new website I got a masterclass in how to reach this audience. 

Claire planned for a digital scavenger hunt on their new website – all hosted live on social media. She would call out a question, then the students would scour the website to find the answer for the chance to win a free shirt, a private lesson, or a pack of fun SHINE-specific stickers. They were all in on the new website and so excited about being able to win a prize by “knowing the most” and flaunting their digital agility. 

I can honestly say, I have never experienced so much fervor around a website launch. On launch day alone, Shine experienced +250% increase in unique website visitors, and people were staying on the page for 3:50 minutes (which sends strong positive signals to Google). Plus, they generated a ton of buzz in their social media engagement. 

Even after launching dozens of websites – I never would’ve thought of this brilliant approach for Shine’s launch. But they knew it was the perfect way to share the new look and website to their students.

When you partner with a nonprofit or social impact cause that works with Gen Z every day, lean into their expertise and trust it! 
A Gen Z woman checks her phone for deals wearing a vegan leather backpack and sustainable fashion

A lot to love about Gen Z

I know I’m just an elder millennial (born in the prehistoric days of dial-up and landlines), but there’s a lot of loyalty to come from the Gen Z generation if you can meet their expectations. I appreciate their candor and ability to hold brands to a higher standard, as well as how much they lean on each other for support. Although it’s “the digital generation,” they’re very hands-on in their humanitarian efforts and inter-personal connections.

And I’m here for it!

Resonating with Gen Z is a chance for everyone to win – companies can find local causes to support, nonprofits get an added visibility boost from these new customers, and the marketplace as a whole can do more good. 

What’s not to love about that!?

Paylode enables companies to use their ancillary revenue streams generated through perks programs, to make a social impact. Many companies end up donating their ancillary revenue to charity. Interested in a campaign like this? Let us know.

About the author
Lauren Atherton
Lauren is a branding expert with over a decade of experience in advertising, internal creative teams, and tech startups for some of America’s most beloved brands. She now leads HeartSpark Design – a remote branding studio that works with small nonprofits to build brands that win major grants, secure game-changing partnerships, and far exceed their fundraising goals.
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