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How tech companies can lead with purpose to inspire and connect better with Millennials & Gen-Zs

Millennials and Gen-Zs are the most culturally diverse population yet, and they have high standards for openness and inclusivity. Technology has brought about global changes that have led to transformations in business and lifestyle, and these generations who grew up with the internet are certainly at the forefront of these changes.

Growing up with social media, smartphones and the plethora of information available online has made Millennials and Gen-Z very cautious about how they form perceptions of brands. Because of their ability to sift through information quickly at the touch of their fingertips, they take a more progressive stance on various issues such as climate change, discrimination and gender equality. Critically, this means that they resonate better with brands who share their views and help improve the world.

The data in our Participation Brand Index bears this out. Amongst the ‘Big 5’, there is a strong positive correlation between ‘championing social issues’ and ‘brand love’.

Chloe Thio

8 Mins read

Growing up with social media, smartphones and the plethora of information available online has made Millennials and Gen-Z very cautious about how they form perceptions of brands. Because of their ability to sift through information quickly at the touch of their fingertips, they take a more progressive stance on various issues such as climate change, discrimination and gender equality. Critically, this means that they resonate better with brands who share their views and help improve the world.

The data in our Participation Brand Index bears this out. Amongst the ‘Big 5’, there is a strong positive correlation between ‘championing social issues’ and ‘brand love’.

Positive participation chart

Chart showing positive participation and performance correlation when it comes to championing social issues and user sentiments on brand love.

Being the first generations of digital natives has made them very shrewd consumers. They are natural researchers, delving deeper into things, posing fundamental questions, and coming up with informed decisions on topics they are passionate about. As such, tech brands cannot rest on their laurels by taking a backseat when it comes to the product development process. Millennials and Gen-Zs hold the key to the next era of technology and digital transformation – they cannot afford to be left out of the product innovation equation.

Here are a few ways tech companies can use purpose to better connect with Millennials and Gen-Zs:

1. Confront unconscious bias by embracing more fluid notions of gender

Gen-Zs are passionate about equality for all. They are generally less conservative than their older peers and more educated on issues of inclusion and self-representation. They expect technology to embrace the acceptance of fluid notions of gender. Companies such as Facebook and Google are known to have LGBTQ inclusive workplace policies that will benefit employees, but more can be done on their existing products and services, especially when these have a direct trickle-down effect to the wider community. These companies can have a powerful impact in the education, understanding and eventual normalisation of inclusivity.

Fostering an inclusive community could look like revising their algorithm to show more self-care and wellness related content, blocking out hateful comments, and reinforcing stricter guidelines on social media platforms. Instagram has updated its functions to allow users to add pronouns to their Instagram profiles and this is just the tip of the iceberg of what tech giants could be doing to champion an inclusive community for all.

instagram app

In Singapore, Apple tops the Participation Brand Index’s table for brand love amongst Gen-Z and Millennials. This will have been aided by a new avenue of emojis which allow the LGBTQ+ community to express themselves, which resonated well with Singaporeans. Tech brands should continue to update their product offering to increase brand traction and relate more deeply with their audience.

Emojis

Brands more widely can also definitely do better in this space, in particular by practicing more active listening. This way, brands can better understand the pain points of the current generation and more effectively fine-tune and iterate to their products or services in ways that better connect this younger audience.

2. Lean into reducing the carbon footprint in a post-pandemic era

Amid the turmoil of the pandemic and hopeful talk of a ‘green recovery’, many of the world’s biggest businesses have publicly pledged to reduce their carbon footprints. Millennial and Gen-Z’s concerns about the environment are increasingly influencing the brands they support.

Our Participation Brand Index shows there is a direct correlation between brands ‘making a positive impact on the environment’ and ‘being seen as a leader, as opposed to a follower’ – and this correlation holds true across regions.

Chart showing brand influence
Chart showing brand influence
Chart showing brand influence

Charts showing a direct correlation between the influence brands wield and brands making a positive impact on the environment

According to a 2019 climate change perception survey that interviewed 1,000 Singaporeans, it was found that almost 4 in 5 Singaporeans were prepared to play their part in a low-carbon Singapore, even if that means bearing additional cost and inconvenience as consumers.

Google’s Singapore initiatives have helped it become the top scoring brand in the Participation Brand Index for ‘makes a positive impact on the environment’. Google stated that their data centre in Singapore owns a reuse water system that pumps recycled water through tubes to cool servers off. The company’s ‘reduce and reuse’ policies have resulted in a 100 per cent landfill diversion rate. (Source: Eco-business)

The UK is the 15th most eco-conscious country in the world, but is falling behind on its air pollution and garbage disposal (comparethemarket.com). Meanwhile, an Oliver Wyman 2021 report highlights that e-commerce deliveries to consumers generate 0.5% of total traffic in urban areas while physical retail generates 111% – brick & mortar shopping generates more than double the emissions of shopping online. This focus on e-commerce may have aided Amazon’s high scoring in the Participation Brand Index in the UK.

Bezos earth fund

In the US, Jeff Bezos (Feb, 2020) stated he was committing $10 billion to address the climate crisis in a new initiative he called the Bezos Earth Fund. In Nov 2020, he named the first 16 environmental organisations who would receive his fund.

Unfortunately, many of these great initiatives by the Big 5 are kept behind closed doors. These companies would benefit greatly from better publicising these initiatives – both for appearing like brand ‘leaders’ and for better engaging younger purpose-led generations – particularly if they are able to create awareness through a cultural lens.

Again, brands more widely apply these lessons, by being more conscious about the processes surrounding product sustainability – ultimately allowing themselves to be more accountable to the mass public. Small steps can be made through the use of recycled packaging and cutting down on waste to demonstrate a brand’s commitment in reducing carbon footprint. By promoting key values such as honesty and transparency, this will also help brands build brand affinity for the long-term.

3. Be culturally attuned to the concerns around data privacy

Comfortable sharing data chart
Amazon culture shaping
Amazon culture shaping

Charts showing a direct correlation when it comes to people being comfortable in sharing their data and the relevancy of a brand in pop culture.

Data is the new currency in our brave new digital world. While we use data to help make better decisions and improve our lives, consumers are also growing increasingly concerned about data privacy and data security when sharing their information. This has contributed to a growing trust gap, making it a challenge for companies when it comes to data collection.

A survey by YouGov revealed that 1 out of 5 Singaporean Gen-Zs are willing to exchange personal data for free content, but that this may not be the same for older generations. This suggests that attitudes towards data exchange may vary according to age, and younger generations may be less hesitant about sharing their personal data.

On the other hand, according to new research from Qlik, more than half (56%) of Singapore consumers tend to make decisions based on their emotions, experiences and intuition, as opposed to factual data and technology. And more than half (51%) of Gen-Zs are wary of devices, websites and apps collecting data or personal information about them in return for convenience and productivity. This suggests even younger consumers are becoming more risk-averse in their data privacy habits, especially if their gut instincts are telling them to be careful.

Google cookies

Google, in a bid to address this long-standing issue on privacy, has taken a stance and charted a course towards a more privacy-first web by embracing a cookie-less world.

If the lifeblood of the digital economy is data, its heart is digital trust – the level of confidence we have in the people, the processes, and the technology that builds a secure digital world. Therefore, tech brands need to take a strong, purposeful and meaningful stance on this increasingly important social issue of data privacy.

In summary, The Big 5 have an immeasurable impact on the everyday lives of people worldwide. As tech leaders, their products, services and innovations shape our behaviour; they wield enormous power to make pivotal changes in society. At the same time, younger generations are increasingly progressive and looking to brands to lead with purpose. To continue to succeed and to win the hearts of these young consumers, these tech companies will need to ‘walk the talk’ across all dimensions of brand citizenship – from taking resolute steps to solve social issues such as inequality, to creating impactful initiatives to resolve climate change, and to charting a course towards a world that takes data privacy seriously.

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