Cause-related Marketing is the future of Gen-Z Engagement



Gen-Z care deeply about what causes brands stand for and retailers need to ensure that the socially conscious Gen-Z consumer understands your values in order to engage with them through cause-related marketing.

Generation Z are young, savvy and social-extroverts, drawn to brands that share the same values as they do including values like LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality and environmental sustainability.

When it comes to marketing towards Gen-Z, it requires a more nuanced approach because now, you're not just selling a product.

Engaging with the Gen-Z market in 2023 will need a tailored marketing strategy, and before you even start marketing to Gen-Z, it's crucial to first establish your brand's values and mission to successfully connect with a generation of digital maestros.

The Kid-Z Are Alright

Gen-Z are the driving force behind the largest behavioural and cultural shifts in today's society, imprinting their values on industries across the world, including the retail sector.

Raised on the internet, schooled in social media and with their smartphones in hand, these digital natives connect with brands with an established set of clear values and mission statements, promote inclusivity, and have a healthy online community.

Gen-Zers firmly believe a brand’s values should reflect their own, and should actively promote and communicate these values to the masses, regardless of a brand's scale.

They believe that everyone brand should play an active role in improving today's society. Whether it's LGBTQ+ rights, diversity in the workplace, economical sustainability or body positivity, research suggests Gen-Z engages with the brands that highlight awareness of societal and economic pressures.

Retailers have to focus on establishing meaningful relationships between themselves and Gen-Z consumers. If they're approaching them on their favoured social platforms, then they have to talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to actionable solutions with regards to the causes this audience dedicates their time (and money) to - advertising a product alone isn't going to cut it.

They like a cause to get behind. Other generational characteristics make Gen Z distinctive, their experiences and data show. It is a confident and informed generation.

Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Community Engagement, Salt Lake Tribune, Danyelle White

Gen-Z consumer behaviour is influencing Sustainability in Retail

Gen-Z have harnessed their inner-Greta and realised their influence can be used to kickstart a dialogue on fundamental social and political causes, particularly that of environmental sustainability.

Born amidst the climate crisis, they're especially devoted to saving the planet, subsequently endorsing eco-friendly options and holding brands who disregard those ethics to account, and rightly so.

Gen-Z make consumer choices in the name of climate activism: a report by Kings College London found that 70% of Gen-Zs were willing to make significant lifestyle changes to fight climate change, whilst the World Economic Forum reported that three-quarters of the age group prioritise purchasing sustainably over brand names.

Additionally, a report from sustainable packaging manufacturer DUO confirmed that the majority of Gen-Z consumers would look for a different retailer in the future if packaging wasn’t sustainable or resourceful.

Gen-Z are quickly overtaking Millennials & Boomers as the world's largest consumer group (worth approx $150 billion in the US alone), so retailers must adapt their approach to sustainability respectively.

Retailers have realised the need to prove themselves as credibly eco-friendly brands. This has become a foundation for retailers adopting strategies such as significantly reducing plastic usage and increasing recycling efforts. There are also retailers who utilise large-scale wood materials that have committed to reforestation efforts, i.e. re-planting trees for every item bought by a consumer.

Gen-Z are demanding substance behind retailers’ sustainability goals – alignment with values alone is not enough. To be sustainable in the eyes of Gen-Z consumers requires tangible, authentic, demonstrable environmental action. Consumers are more informed than ever before: they can verify sustainability credentials at the click of a mouse, and they’re not afraid to act accordingly.

Is Cause-Related Marketing the future of sustainable retail?

To engage with the values of a Gen-Z audience, brands will have to 'Market & Mean It' and effectively hop off the fence when it comes to addressing societal and economic issues. Brands must define their main cause and decide on a clear mission to ensure their brand is actively committed to that cause. 

At the beginning of any sustainability revolution, brands should analyse the impact of their carbon footprints and identify the priority target areas where sustainable action is required. Defining these areas may prove difficult, and retailers should be under no illusion; becoming sustainable might require major surgery and upheaval within their product line and supply chains, especially if they have suffered losses from the fallout of Brexit and the cost-of-living crisis.

60% [of Gen-Zers] are attracted to brands who speak about reducing their carbon footprint, while 45% are influenced by eco-friendly materials.

Depop x Bain & Company

However, brands must find the value in investing in a sustainable future. It's important not to solely prioritise sustainability in response to consumer trends, it goes far beyond that.

Whilst Gen-Z are defining what it means to be ‘sustainable’, economic issues like climate change will ultimately shape the future of consumerism, the retail sector and beyond.

Prioritise Gen-Z consumer values

When engaging with a new brand on social media, research suggests that Gen-Z audiences will judge the brand before they purchase a product or service. Brands that appear trustworthy, transparent and sustainably-sound are the largest motivational factors for Gen-Z engagement.

Amid the backlash against fast-fashion, clothing retailers have made concerted efforts to be transparent about what materials their clothes are made of, where they’re made, and the working conditions of their employees.

Shein flagrantly broke local labour laws by imposing 75-hour weeks, whilst Boohoo were accused of 'modern slavery' after it was discovered that its Leicester factory employees were receiving a paltry £3.50 an hour.

Sherwen Studios, How Gen-Z shoppers are changing the world of Retail

Don’t focus your social marketing efforts solely around selling, instead, create content that’s abundantly clear what your values are, and share as much of your brand’s mission as you can.

Gen-Z will see right through insincere activism

Retail activism has to go further than simply utilising it to fuel campaigns or for engagement during landmark charitable days of the year. Retailers must embrace sustainability as the foundation of their wider business strategy, and demonstrate quantitative environmental goals.

Falsely claiming to be passionate about activism is a perilous endeavour. Gen-Z can suss brands that rainbow-wash campaigns or deceitfully claim a product is sourced or made sustainably. If they can see a brand's activism efforts aren't genuine, then it can alienate them altogether, or worse, Gen-Zers can publicly shame brands and cause irreparable damage to its reputation.

Gen-Zers don’t hesitate to cancel brands when they sense a shallow veneer.

Forrester’s Technographics

Donating profits, elevating marginalised voices, volunteering in the community and attending marches and protests are genuine actions that prove to Generation-Z that brands truly align themselves with their values and back their beliefs.

Read more on how Gen-Z is the emerging cultural and economic powerhouse in today’s retail landscape how they will continue to fuel cultural change and retail spending habits over the next two decades in our How Gen-Z shoppers are changing the world of Retail article.