“OK, Boomer” is a phrase gaining traction amongst Gen Zers, who generally constitute the age range of 14 to 22, on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, even resulting in cash flow for some teenagers designing and selling merchandise with the phrase.
But the meme fervor transcends a single T-shirt or hoodie into that of a deeper misalignment with generations and a country in divide. In a report released this week, the communications firm Porter Novelli, under its company Cone, which helps organizations shape their viewpoint on social and environmental issues, found that 90 percent of Gen Zers in the U.S. are tired of national divides on “important issues,” with 94 percent believing the country needs to come together to make progress on important issues. The research is gathered from a random sample of more than 1,000 American Gen Z consumers.
Ranked in order, the priorities of Gen Z (and apparently not their Baby Boomer elders, if social media is the sole indication) are: the environment, poverty and hunger, human rights, economic development, health and disease and education.
Companies have a responsibility to engage their consumers in this dialogue today, as a majority of Gen Z respondents, or 90 percent, believe. Topping their list is corporate accountability on social and environmental issues with 75 percent of these consumers doing the research on whether a company is being “honest when it takes a stand on issues.”
“Hot-button” or headline issues also have premier moments with Gen Zers. A majority of Gen Z survey respondents said events such as the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have prompted them to care more about the issues at hand, with most feeling inspired by young activists such as Emma Gonzalez and Greta Thunberg. This, along with job creation, climate change, religious freedom, immigration and LGBTQ rights, among others, are crucial to address as Gen Z commands.
“The events of the past year show the steadfast determination of Generation Z to make their mark,” said Brad MacAfee, chief executive officer of Porter Novelli, in a statement.
This determination can warrant more spending and engagement. Around three-quarters of Gen Zers are vocal in supporting the companies doing good, by sharing positive word-of-mouth, buying a product with a social or environmental benefit and learning what they can do to make a difference.
As for the “OK, Boomer” shirts — or any kind of related social media activism — the report found that most of the Gen Zers believe “they can have an impact on issues by using social media.”
“Generation Z has seen the effectiveness of social media to amplify one single voice into a movement, and they’re using it as a powerful lever to make their demands heard,” reiterated MacAfee.
When WWD attended the Global Youth Climate Strike in September in New York City’s Battery Park, Gen Z’s focus on the issues was palpable.
At the event, 20-year-old New York University journalism student Melanie Pineda voiced her frustration and exhaustion at the leaders (who fall into the Baby Boomer cohort) “treating climate change like it’s expendable, when it’s not.” She was wearing a pink graphic T-shirt from “Little Miss Flint,” a 10-year-old water activist whose given name is Mari Copeny.
Probing further, WWD also asked three high-schoolers if they cared whether brands are doing something sustainable. All hit back with — “definitely.”
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