August 27, 2021|
7 min read
How Can Brands Prove They’re Inclusive? Snap Asked Gen Z
It’s also not surprising to hear that Gen Z wants brands to be authentic and inclusive. They want to support brands that they see as sharing their values.
Snap Inc., the parent of popular app Snapchat, recently conducted a survey that backs a lot of this up. It asked its users—largely Gen Z and Millennials—questions about themselves, inclusivity, and brands too.
How Gen Z Sees Themselves
The Snapchat user base is largely teens and twenty-somethings. So, their answers give great insight into what they want from brands.
One insight Snapchatters shared was how they see themselves. According to Snap’s numbers, 75 percent of respondents described themselves as inclusive. More important, 90 percent said they were “kind.” And a good 80 percent of them said it was important to be “true to themselves.”
What does this mean for brands trying to engage Gen Z?
We know it’s easier to connect with people when we align with their values. For Gen Z, being kind and inclusive is important. And we also know that they put their values on a pedestal. Being “true” to yourself can mean expressing yourself in an open way. It can also mean not compromising on your values.
Gen Z Wants Inclusivity and Authenticity
“Being true to yourself” can also mean being authentic—something brands have tapped into. Gen Z sees no reason to compromise on their values, and they see no reason to hide them either. They want to “be real,” essentially.
They expect the same of the brands they interact with. Of the people Snap surveyed, almost half said they felt like brands should be inclusive too. Almost two-thirds said they want to support brands that supported diversity and inclusivity. More than one-third said they were more likely to buy from brands they felt were inclusive.
Again—these statistics aren’t surprising. We know Gen Z values this stuff. We know they want brands to be authentic and inclusive. We know they want brands to support “causes,” to stand for something. And we know they want to buy from brands that line up with their values.
How to Get Past Performative Inclusivity
Of course, as much as we know Gen Z wants inclusivity, we also know it’s tough to give them that. As much as we know people want authenticity, brands often miss the mark on that too. That’s one reason Gen Z puts such a fine point on “being true” to themselves or authenticity from brands. They’ve seen brands “faking” too many times.
And that’s why we’ve seen increasing backlash against “performative” inclusion and “rainbow capitalism.” These acts allow brands to look or act inclusive on the social media stage. Behind the scenes, though, they’re not quite as inclusive as they want us to think.
That’s the opposite of authenticity. If you’re doing something authentically, you do it whether you’re “on-stage” or not. It’s not a performance.
This is usually a problem for brands that don’t know what’s at their core. If you don’t know what your brand purpose is, it’s difficult to figure out your values. So often, the brands that are adrift on this are focused on making money—they think that’s their purpose.
Instead of acting on their values, they put on different costumes, different masks. And don’t get me wrong—we have to talk to people in different age brackets differently. They have different concerns. But there’s a big difference between saying “we support diversity” and signing a big contract with ICE.
Snap’s data gives us some more insight into how brands can avoid this issue. The survey asked Snapchatters how they figure out whether a brand is lining up on their values.
They’re not looking at whether you’ve posted a black square or a rainbow flag on your social media. Snap found most respondents would do extra research about a brand’s track record. Others looked to documents like mission statements and brand values. And they said they’d look at your leadership too. Leadership in an organization can help show inclusivity is part of the culture. People can also look at those leaders’ track records too.
You Need to Know Your Own Values
Remember that the survey respondents said they were looking at brand values. So you absolutely need to know your values, and you need to be able to put them out there for people to see. If you can’t make a statement about your values, then Gen Zers are likely to assume you don’t have any. If you’re posting support for Pride, a lack of values statement suggests you might not be as committed as you say.
Gen Z also wants to use that against your track record. If you say you’re committed to inclusion and your leadership is diverse, these customers are more likely to believe you. What if you put a rainbow flag on your profile but donate to charities that don’t support LGBTQ+ people? Then these customers may not think you’re being authentic.
Again—we have to know our own values. Actions speak louder than words, especially with Gen Z, because they can look up what our actions are with a few clicks. And when we don’t know our own values, we’re more likely to act in ways that don’t “line up” with what we say we think is important.
So: how do we get beyond “performative” actions that Gen Z think make us look fake? We have to look to the core of our brands! When we find our purpose and know our values, putting the “walk” behind the “talk” is so much easier.
Why Does It Matter?
Brands that don’t know their purpose tend to lose their way. They ping-pong between ideas and campaigns. Their messages get mixed up. In the world of social media, it’s easy for people to call you out on past actions.
If you’ve grown as a brand and changed, then you can address those past actions. If you don’t know your values, you don’t have a clear sense of brand identity. How can you say “we’ve changed” when you don’t even know what you stood for in the first place? When this happens, it’s so easy for brands to look like they’re just playing a role to get clicks or sales.
Some people think that getting those clicks or sales is all that matters. That’s short-sighted thinking, though. If you want your brand to stick around, you have to focus on building something that lasts.
The brands that have been around the longest—and are the most successful—have pretty clear purposes. Purpose drives everything the brand does, from picking packaging materials to customer service.
Brands that don’t last tend to forget what’s at their core—their purpose. They end up becoming inauthentic, trying to mimic what they think is “cool” or what they think their customers want.
Gen Z is telling us what they want: inclusivity. Kindness. Authenticity. They want us to be real with them. To achieve those things, we need to look at our brands and figure out what’s “authentic” for us. That can help us avoid being performative—saying we’re inclusive when we’re not, saying we’re green when we’re not.
Like always, we have to remember to start with the why!
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