Focus on getting digital right, and care about the community

IT’S just a matter of time before the Millennials and Gen Z take over. Early this year, according to the 5W Public Relations’ 2020 Consumer Culture Report, the Millennial demographic had been projected to spend $1.4 trillion in 2020. It is then vital to tap these markets, keeping in consideration the changes that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has brought.

BusinessWorld’s Virtual Economic Forum ran a Breakout Session on Nov. 25 with the topic “The Youth Market: Marketing to Gen Z and Millenials Post-COVID,” featuring speakers Gary de Ocampo, CEO of Insights Division, Kantar Philippines; Pauline Fermin, Managing Director, Acumen Strategic Consulting, Inc.; and Elly Puyat, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Philippines. The talk was moderated by Day 3 Innovations COO Santiago Arnaiz.

For starters, Mr. De Ocampo places markers where Millennials end and Gen Z begins. Millennials are those born from 1981 to 1996. This sets their age at 24-40 years old, and they are thus beginning to slip from the perception of being the youth market. Gen Zs, meanwhile, are those born after 1996, setting their ages at 23 and below. “Gen Zs are not like Millennials. They are probably the most down-to-earth and sober youth generation ever,” said Mr. De Ocampo. Other factors that differentiate Gen Zs personalities from Millennials, he said, are the fact that they are mobile, and not just digital natives; as well as have a belief in creating change and leading by example. He uses climate activist Greta Thunberg as an example. “As personified by Greta, this generation does not just expect someone else to take action,” he said. They are also meticulous planners, “Which is not a surprise, given the uncertainty around them.” He then outlines the disasters Gen Z has seen: the Great Recession of 2008, the Climate Crisis, and now COVID-19. “The journey of every generational cohort begins amidst an amalgamation of economic, demographic, and  cultural realities that shape expectations, and open or close avenues of opportunity.”

In a COVID-19 Cultural Barometer launched in 60 countries before the March lockdowns, Mr. De Ocampo said that the report noted that Filipino Gen Zs are more worried than Millennials, and are the most worried of all current generations. “They have expectedly become more price-smart than their older counterparts,” he said, noting that more go out of their way to shop around for the best price.

“They are the generation that will dictate the cultural zeitgeist in our post-COVID future,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Fermin reported that her firm coordinated a deep-dive research study into the psyche of Filipinos during the pandemic by talking to anthropologists and conducting focus group discussions. According to that research, four key values emerged that cut across different generations, but how they responded to those values can be different. These values are: faith, perseverance, family, and maximization. The youth market responded to faith by trusting in God, and focused on getting through each day, while believing in God’s grander plan for the future. For perseverance, they adjusted their lifestyles, both learning and work, to help support the family in new ways. They also used digital platforms to advocate for causes and people in need. “They see themselves as champions and activators of change,” said Ms. Fermin. For maximization, they discovered new ways to connect, increase productivity, and shop.

Ms. Puyat then discussed various strategies for tapping into this market. “If anything, the pandemic has strengthened their resolve to improve society,” said Ms. Puyat. Thus, there is an expectation for businesses and governments to mirror that commitment. A way to become relevant to this market is to create experiential campaigns on digital, taking a vocal stance, tapping the right partners for small businesses and communities, and leveraging on purpose. “These tried and tested brand values still apply, with or without the pandemic. What’s important is that we stay true to our own voice in any situation,” she said.

“I guess the key theme I would highlight for companies right now is that if these generations adapted, we also need to adapt and transform,” Ms. Fermin said. Businesses must be digital-first, and “do that very, very well.” According to her, the youth are digital-savvy, and not very forgiving when the end-to-end process is not as seamless. She also highlights the value of financial flexibility for business transactions.  

The talk also predicted the world’s landscape when these generations begin to be decision-makers themselves, both in the workplace and in the market (a position currently held by their seniors).

When they are decision-makers, they will expect a digital-first; very well-executed digital omnichannel. They will expect to engage with brands one-on-one, so conversation commerce is going to be very important. Loyalty will be shaped by how excellent their digital experience has been,” said Ms. Fermin.

As for their future roles as leaders in the workplace, she says that they will be prime movers in digital acceleration within companies. She also says that they will be champions of agility as a culture within organizations, and will place greater focus on the impact of their own brands on communities and entrepreneurs on society, as well as providing a voice on social issues. The future workplace will also place a premium on holistic wellness for its organization.

Ms. Puyat meanwhile, says, “Overall, what this pandemic has brought to us is to really question the values of capitalism. Will we choose between profits and people?

“Are we in a recession because of this pandemic, or are we already led to this even before the pandemic?” she says. “How can we run a business, that is doing well, in terms of shareholders and owners and the like; but also how we are in terms of being able to give back to communities?

“They expect us to be very participative in this area.” — Joseph L. Garcia