Where were you when you first realised Friends and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had gone from nineties throwbacks to today’s iconic youth classics? For me, it was when I heard my eldest asking “how you doin’?” and her sister doing ‘the Carlton’ dance in response. In marketing, we’ve talked about gen Z for years, and now all of a sudden, they’re here – all 2.5 billion of them.

If gen Z isn’t ruling your home – as they are in mine – then they’re working in your office, they’re on your TV or perhaps they’re covering your industry in The Grocer. They’re becoming a force at the tills too, accounting for 25% or £125bn of UK retail sales each year. That figure is expected to increase to 39% by 2030.

Importantly for us as businesspeople, we need to ask ourselves: are we ready for gen Z? Uniquely impacted by conflict, credit crises, Covid and climate change, this nuanced and extraordinary generation is influencing and reshaping the conventional notions of what marketing can and should be – and in more ways than we perhaps realise.

They are, of course, the most progressive and responsible generation yet. Diversity isn’t a bonus, it’s an expectation. Three-quarters expect better representation for persons with disabilities, who make up a fifth of the UK’s population. Yet, only 4% of ads feature persons with disabilities,  according to Channel 4.

Meanwhile, sustainability is not a choice – it’s a genuine intent to uncover the synergy between people and planet, and how we can all collectively profit. As such, supply chains, including advertising sustainability, fall under their microscope too.

This matters to the brands we build. Why? Gen Z’s tenacity and self-awareness to drive change is refreshingly infectious, but unlike previous generations, they have the psychological and physiological tools to make things happen.

Their smartphone is like a fifth limb for discovery, knowledge, communication and activism to support the pursuit of what matters to them. When we don’t make things happen, they can and will. Paying lip service to XYZ won’t do.

Equally, their increased financial clout is bending out of shape the contour of conventional fmcg marketing wisdom, and we too need to change in order to communicate with them on their terms. Plugged into culture and purpose, their playground to cultivate change is everywhere and anywhere that media exists.

This means looking beyond the legacy power of building brands and driving retail awareness on linear TV, to discovering the interdependency of a marketing toolkit that fulfils everything from gamification and education to inspiration and action.

Hybrid experiences of physical (the point of sale, its products, etc.) and digital components (touchscreens, connected mirrors, NFC cards, etc.) appeal too. As we are dealing with a more ‘fluid consumer’, combining physical and digital experiences in a connected communications space will win gen Z’s mental and physical availability and ultimately their hearts, minds and collective influence.

Understanding the right way to connect with gen Z – from their digital journey to IRL experiences – in the right context, with the right content is fundamental for brands to create meaningful experiences that matter for effective engagement.

Gen Z is, ultimately, a cohort with which we can collaborate and co-create authentically. Which is why, in my forties, I’m learning a hybrid way to do ‘the Carlton’ – in the office and at home.

            The Grocer’s Generation Z conference is taking place on Tuesday 14 March at Kings Place in London

Grocer Conference Gen Z

                For more information on the programme, speaker opportunities and to purchase tickets (including discounts for subscribers), please visit