MRS Gen Z Summit: Our Key Takeaways

13th November 2023 13:03

By Research Director, Helen Menzies

I was lucky enough to attend the MRS Gen Z Summit in London last month. Whilst I do appreciate the convenience of virtual conferences, I really enjoyed the experience of an in-person event again and I came away feeling energised by the presentations and the conversations I had on the day.

Brands including Twitch, Channel 4 and Coty were there to share their insights into Generation Z. Loosely defined as those born between around 1995 and 2010, Gen Z can currently be found in high school, college, university or in the workplace. With increasing purchasing power and influence, brands are keen to get this age cohort on side.

The insights shared on the day drew upon a wide variety of methodologies, including semiotics, ethnography (both face-to-face and mobile), co-creation and informal research gathered via social media influencers.

Whenever I or one of my colleagues at DJS attends a conference, we always share what we’ve learnt with the wider team through a Knowledge Share session. This meant I needed to distil a full day of Gen Z insights into just one hour, so I focused on my favourite presentations and highlights. I also involved some Gen Z’ers from our Junior Research Executive training programme to share their thoughts and experiences.

So, what were some of our key takeaways?

1. We need to push past stereotypes:  An inspiring presentation from Channel 4 and Craft summarising their Beyond Z research encouraged us all to question and push past the common narratives about Gen Z. These narratives include the idea that all Gen Z are particularly politically engaged and liberal/'woke', when in fact they found that a significant minority is broadly conservative.  They also found that they are not generally activists or overly conscious consumers. Like all of us, sometimes personal life priorities trump well-meaning attitudes, and in some cases the environmentally/socially responsible choices feel too expensive.  Income and education play a bigger role here than age.

2. Is it a generational difference or a lifestage one? Channel 4 and Craft, as well as a few of the other brands and agencies, discussed the fact that sometimes the differences we see between younger and older generations are simply the result of their lifestage, as opposed to being something unique to that generation.  Some things about being young don’t change much, if at all.

3. Authenticity is key: Authenticity is important for Gen Z, particularly in the context of social media. They want to see real people doing real things, not Insta-ready perfection.  They don’t want to be relentlessly sold to on TikTok and can spot a brand trying too hard or virtue signalling a mile off.

4. Involve Gen Z in the research process: ClearView Research presented alongside their client AICPA & CIMA and described a co-creation approach, which is something we are seeing more and more of lately, particularly in relation to young people, minority or disadvantaged groups.  Co-creation in this sense means including your target audience in the research design and process itself, not just in the interviews or focus groups.  ClearView recruited some Gen Z ‘Advisors’ to participate along the way and inform the type of questions they asked and language they used and helped them to analyse the findings.

5. Sense check your approach (and use of emojis) with Gen Z:  Similar to the point above, but before getting to the stage of formally recruiting Gen Z to help you – start with the Gen Z’ers in your office or family.  A quick question or chat could help to put you on the right track and avoid any embarrassing mistakes.  A highly entertaining and enlightening part of the conference centred on the different interpretation of emojis depending on your age.  A Millennial’s use of the thumbs up emoji to mean ‘I like it’ might be interpreted as being passive aggressive by a Gen Z.   I recreated a little game of ‘guess the emoji’ during the Knowledge Share and interpretations differed widely, even amongst the Gen Z’ers. The moral of the story is always double check.

6. Ryanair’s TikTok account is hilarious.

If you’d like to find out more about research with Gen Z please take a look at our website here or get in touch with Helen for a chat.

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