London Tube Girl explained: A GenZ Perspective on Relevance

Belonging to GenZ and being a strategist at Fitzgerald, I’m often confronted with the challenges of my generation’s position: bridging structures established in the past with the future’s needs, on a planet marked by polycrisis. Giving space to our voices inside and outside of brands is not just a personal mission – it’s relevant for collective progress.  

GenZ – a buzzword dominating headlines, keynotes and LinkedIn feeds. Treated as a monolithic mass to decode, in reality the demographic is as fragmented as ever. Cultural and economic gatekeepers analyzing Gen Z’s preferences are often far removed – talking about the generation rather than to them. As Gen Z continues to shape the cultural landscape, companies struggle to resonate with this next generation of empowered consumers and colleagues – both externally and internally. Beyond demographic details, what drives Gen Z choices? How do we tune into their ever-evolving cultural reality?

As the most diverse generation in history, Gen Z faces unprecedented economic challenges. Gen Z’s salaries have 86% less purchasing power than those of baby boomers when they were in their 20s. While salaries have risen, the cost of living has exceeded those increases by far – with especially housing prices breaking the bank. In a 2023 Deloitte survey, nearly half of Gen Zs say they feel stressed all or most of the time. Interconnected globally through being digital natives, they feel the pinch of crises worldwide. From climate, to social and economic emergencies, both locally and globally, no crisis is too distant to ignore anymore. Though their wallets are stretched thin, their sense for social and environmental justice is at an all time high. As we look beyond stereotypes into their core values, we can take steps to close the generational gap present in today’s communications landscape. 

Externally, this begins with ceding control of the narrative. Corporate marketing once relied on centralized, one-way messaging. Today, popular culture emerges through decentralized, participatory storytelling. Consumers help shape brand stories and creators facilitate what makes its way organically into culture. So too, internally. Gen Z demands active co-creation of company cultures. They are driven by equity, impact and flexibility baked into their work lives. Leaders are called to include their voices to guide practices and policies. 

External Communications

In the digital age, micro-communities and creators, not mainstream gatekeepers, are the new architects of culture. Great examples are the immensely popular #booktok or street food flavors that make their way to Michelin-starred plates.. GenZ identifies more with fluid interests and values than traditional demographic categories. These psychographic pockets are connected by algorithms and can be centered around aesthetics, hobbies, social impact, humor – they are as fragmented as the generation itself. As the lines between online and offline are diffusing, the importance of digital communications is growing. We are seeing a surge of trends born from social media, some made in our backyards and others coming from across the globe. Digital is no longer an extension of the physical or any less real but takes center stage, as the London tube girl trend demonstrates. While this generation can feel disempowered by  current social and economic realities, they are creating alternative worlds online. For brands this means the power is shifting away from their controlled narratives to users of the web. The trending hashtag #Tiktokmademebuyit with its 7.4 billion views is proof, as customers increasingly purchase based on community recommendations and discover brands only afterwards. For GenZ especially, the story of tech is the story of their generation. The shift towards personalised & algorithm centric platforms (think TikTok, Reels & Netflix) is replacing static & user profile centric platforms (think Facebook, national media & traditional TV) as prime time.The strategic understanding and direction of communication teams becomes a cornerstone in the whole business model, with social listening gaining importance. 

Leverage Cultural Opinion Leaders: As trust in institutions declines, (micro)-influencers and culturally credible voices shape Gen Z’s worldview. Partner with voices that authentically embody your brand’s purpose.

Co-Create Through Communities: Resist centralizing narrative control. One-way brand messaging doesn’t signal authenticity. Instead, provide consumers and creators with tools for participatory storytelling and create reciprocal relationships with longer term brand ambassadors.

Champion Impact: Purpose is non-negotiable for Gen Z, this can be both big and small. Elevate your brand’s societal, cultural or sustainable impact through cause-based campaigns and messaging. 

Target Psychographics: Broad demographic segmentation is no longer enough. Instead, use social listening to identify psychographic niches aligned with your brand’s purpose. Develop tailored content and partnerships for the increasingly fragmented target audience. Ideally, let creativity take center stage to increase resonance. A great example is the Jacquemus campaign that launched in spring 2023. 

Internal Communications

The influences of the changing cultural landscape also trickle into corporate environments. While external comms have to resonate with GenZ, internal practices have to engage them. Companies that do not meet them where they are disengage young talent, missing out on gaining a competitive edge in recruitment and retention. Communications benefit from  highlighting quests over jobs, journeys over offices, and fluidity over conformity. The findings of a recent study by MediaTest in collaboration with YoungCapital on Dutch GenZ work motivation and job happiness reveal once more how structures built for past generations now transform under the pressure of GenZ’s worldview. The outcome is the push for an ecosystem that gives everyone space, older generations involved.

Champion Purpose: Purpose is non-negotiable for GenZ. 68% want employers to have ESG policies. 45% would take lower salaries if a company prioritized ESG. Clearly communicate how every role ladders up to making a positive societal impact and involve talent in shaping it. 

Foster Belonging: With 61% of GenZ experiencing harassment at work, safety and inclusion are imperative. Start with training managers on bias prevention, setting up confidential feedback channels and resources for marginalized groups. Provide work options catering to neurodiverse workers. 

Offer Flexibility: 79% of GenZ wants to be able to determine their own work hours. Flexibility fuels and performance, with options ranging from hybrid office options to encouraging passion projects. 

Develop Their Skills: 67% want ‘new learning’ and 65% seek ‘personal growth’ for job happiness. An example can be training in the latest tech tools and platforms, as development engages GenZ talent.

Listen to Their Voices: 69% would voice concerns to managers about career growth. Ensure frequent check-ins between leadership and Gen Z for two way learning.

Crafting narratives for Gen Z invites us to create human centric and sustainable ecosystems. By embracing participatory storytelling, social impact, and decentralized communities, brands earn relevance. PR has the power to shape narratives that speak to the values of young generations, bridging generational gaps through communication that resonates authentically. At Fitzgerald for instance, we help bridge the gap between external and internal messaging through working bottom-up: listening to & gathering insights from all layers of the organization in order to create relevance for companies both as an employer and as a consumer-brand.  Closing this gap requires replacing assumptions with true understanding – our opportunity is to listen closely and craft messaging worthy of amplification. The reward is an engaged Gen Z workforce and consumer base powering the future together.

Copyright / Inspiration

*This article is based on the whitepaper Culture + Chaos + Community that Jasemen co-authored during her time by AMARU.