Authenticity and Transparency Are Key When Connecting with Millennials and Gen Z

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Ashley Leone

Consider what millennials and Gen Zers spent their formative years witnessing: 9/11, stock market crashes, economic recessions, mass unemployment, global warming and climate change, and other none-too-pleasant events and worst-case scenarios. Oh, and a global pandemic, though classifying that as a “formative years” event—even for Gen Z—may be a bit generous.

This has led to two major impacts:

  1. An understanding that the choices you make impact the world around you—even if that impact is close to insignificant in the scheme of things.
  2. A desperation to make the world better—even if that impact is close to insignificant in the scheme of things.

Combine those two notions and you have great insight for marketers and organizations alike—younger generations, like millennials and Gen Z, care about who you are and what you do as much as they care about what you offer and what you sell.

Ethics and Integrity Matter to Millennials and Gen Z

The Business Journal recently published an online piece about marketing to millennials and Gen Z in which they talk about the importance of positive brand identity and authenticity. Forbes has also talked about the “significant expectations” millennials in particular have about how a brand handles social responsibility and environmental friendliness, adding that “75% of millennials consider it fairly or very important that brands give back to society instead of just making a profit.”

Younger generations want to know they are buying from, working with, partnering with, or supporting a business or organization that—at its core—is ethical and operates with integrity. Here are just some of the questions millennials and Gen Z will have about your brand identity:

  • How are employees treated?
  • Are supplies ethically sourced?
  • What work is being done to ensure/broaden diversity, inclusivity, and equality?
  • Where and how does the organization give back to the community?
  • How is the organization working to reduce environmental impact and improve sustainability?

Be Upfront and Transparent

It may seem overwhelming to address all these concerns beyond the value of your actual product or service, but truly, it’s not as bad as it seems (at least, not if you’re a company that operates fairly, ethically, and with integrity). This isn’t all that different than a businessperson wanting to sit down with a prospective vendor’s CEO to get to know who they’re working with. It’s just on a much grander scale, and generally doesn’t involve dinner and drinks. Instead, do the following:

  • Keep your website updated. Have pages about diversity initiatives, sustainability practices, etc. Be sure to have an easy to find contact page that directs inquires appropriately.
  • Make sure your customer service is responsive and top-notch. For those questions that come in, provide answers in a timely fashion. And staff those channels with people who are knowledgeable, friendly, and have the patience of saints.
  • Have a social media presence. Outside of the obvious reasons for using social media to interact with customers and prospects, you can also use it to like, follow, or comment on the content of non-profits and organizations that align with your values and initiatives. It’s also a great way to put your ear to the ground and see what the masses like and quickly respond to any negative comments.

Ownership and Authenticity are Key

For all of this, the greatest call is to be transparent and authentic. The areas of scrutiny are broad and easily verified on the internet, so there’s no point in trying to gloss-over or hide any less-than-stellar operations or practices. Instead, take ownership.

If there are areas that need improvement, say so (and explain how you’re working on improving). Millennials and Gen Z aren’t looking for perfection; we’re looking for progress, and that begins with taking a look inward and acknowledging what can be done better, and then actually putting in the work to get it done.

You can, and in some cases should, use the “outside the product” things your company does well (e.g. sustainability practices, diversity initiatives, community giving, etc.) as marketing tools, but that’s not the point. The point is to show that there are people behind the scenes who genuinely care, and are as eager to make a difference, as millennials and Gen Zers are. Make that connection, and the sales will follow. Our direct marketing experts are available to help you start building those relationships.

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