Generation Z is often swiftly and arbitrarily categorised as wannabe Instagram influencers, apostles for the problem-solving power of tech, and titans of cancel-culture. Misconceptions such as these are strongly held within society, yet a recent study of 9,600 GenZers from across the globe show this is far from the reality. For example, only 12 per cent of Gen Z aspire to be influencers and 45 per cent believe that technology is not the answer to most problems.

This study – the latest in Edelman’s body of research on Trust - demonstrates that there is more to Gen Z than meets the eye. In fact, GenZers have constructed an entirely different narrative when it comes to consumerism, one based not on the self but on the authenticity and integrity of the brand. It is imperative that brands understand this if they wish to earn Gen Z’s trust.

This generation, who by 2030 will make up a quarter of the world’s population, wields immense influence over global consumer spending habits (holding an estimated $360 billion in spending power) – vastly disproportionate to both their age and earnings. On top of this, in a few short years they will make up one quarter of the workforce. Therefore, engaging in a meaningful and lasting way with Gen Z will be fundamental to the potential future of a business.

Gen Z’s respect and trust isn’t built on catchy phrases, TikTok dances and the hearsay of the latest paid influencer. They are looking for realism in a brand’s actions, both internally and externally.

9 in 10 GenZers want the brands they buy to be part of the solution and to be involved in causes that will improve the world. They look to businesses to leverage their size, reach and capabilities to help better social and political issues. But this isn’t to say they expect a single brand to solve world poverty or the climate crisis; they are looking to brands to make a meaningful impact within their industry and stand by causes relevant to them. They see true value in authenticity.

In this same regard, virtue signalling, and greenwashing will not be tolerated. With 70 per cent of Gen Z fact checking messages, videos and campaigns, any attempts to hop on the latest social trend band wagon will be quickly outed and remain damaging to a brand in the long term.

This cross-examination doesn’t just stop at external content but will scrutinise a business’s internal workings as well. 8 in 10 consider how a brand treats its employees as a critical purchase factor. Unlike previous generations, Gen Z think less in terms of ‘me’ and more in terms of ‘we’. If a brand fails to support its employees properly and effectively, GenZers will not hesitate to disregard them first as a consumer, but then also as a future employer.

Proving that a brand lives by its principles both internally and externally requires communication that achieves cut through – a particular challenge given Gen Z are swamped with information and data across all platforms. The skill lies in a brand finding its own authentic voice and acting with genuine intention while utilising its already established strengths, rather than playing to the societal generalisations of Gen Z.