Navigating Brand Longevity in the Age of Gen Z
Broke. Unemployed. Trophies of the participation variety. These are just a few of the terms people use to describe Gen Z. At the 2023 Summer Insights Conference, keynote speaker Jeff Fromm addressed how the Gen Z mindset is impacting marketing and how to effectively distinguish what Gen Z consumers say versus where they put their money.
Fromm, an accomplished author and consultant on consumer trends, marketing and innovation, explained how entering into a conversation with what you think you know about generational trends will do nothing to establish a relationship with Gen Z and insurance brands. In fact, he argued that mindset may be one of the most important determining factors of whether any consumer — regardless of age — will choose to do business with any given brand, and we’re talking about either party.
The Crucial Link Between Brand Actions and Gen Z Consumer Behavior
During the keynote, Fromm pointed out that coming into a potential relationship with Gen Z consumers often requires that you abandon any preconceived ideas about what they want. To be sure, this generation has many aspirations, some of which may never come to fruition, but it’s not about making sure they achieve a goal. Instead, it’s more important for a brand to understand its role in Gen Z life. Insurance brands, in the eyes of Gen Z, are simply there to “de-risk” a potential problem. That’s it.
And Gen Z consumers are much more interested in de-risking their lives than previous generations of young people, especially once they start to have children of their own. They've seen the impacts of crippling debt and had other life experiences that have shaped this priority of risk mitigation. Believe it or not, Gen Z is more financially savvy than many expect. Lean into that knowledge.
Where the challenge comes into play for many insurance companies is the intersection of value and values. Like any age group, Gen Z consumer behavior clearly illustrates that price matters. Convenience is also something of value. Make something easy to purchase and it increases the chances of conversion. But then there’s the additional layer of values. How do Gen Z consumers feel about your brand? How do Gen Z employees feel about your brand? Younger generations talk, and they’ll gladly spill the beans about what your insurance company is doing — and not doing.
In other words, Fromm suggested that brands should look at the affordability and convenience of their products in line with the actions and behaviors of the overall brand. Ultimately, he explained that what your brand does is just as important as what your brand offers consumers. It’s as simple as that.
Differentiating Your Brand for Others in the Marketplace
Because affordability and convenience are things that almost any insurance company can offer, the question you should be asking yourself is: What makes your brand stand out? What does your organization do differently than others? Could you be taking steps to make the world a better place? The move has worked for many other brands, with those focusing on societal impact experiencing 12.4% higher margins.
It's become more important than ever for insurance brands to choose one issue that they may be able to make a positive impact on, and that issue shouldn’t be out of left field. An alignment is necessary for it to seem more than lip service, and that same alignment can help establish what’s called the purpose-profit loop. That’s where the purpose (i.e., its brand values) bolsters the profits of an organization. If you’re wondering why are brand values important, that’s the reason — at least on a self-serving level.
The question then is, how do you prepare your organization for the next generation of consumers? The following are Fromm's suggestions from his keynote presentation on the best places to start:
- Say thank you.
Very few people, if any, are successful on their own. More often than not, it’s owing to the contributions of a remarkable team. Never forget to acknowledge employee contributions to your organization. It’s not just the right thing to do, but if you think about the purpose-profit loop, that recognition can contribute to brand longevity. Gen Z will respect your organization for respecting those who’ve made your brand successful.
- Address the elephant in the room.
Every organization has an elephant or two in the room, and the problem is often obvious. Don’t be afraid to broach the topic. To resolve any issue, discuss what needs to change. This is especially true when the issue involves brand values. Fortunately, you need only look at Gen Z consumer behavior to find a solution. Their buying habits are generally a reflection of their beliefs and values. If your actions don’t align with your values, talk about it and come to an agreement around a way forward that takes Gen Z habits into consideration.
- Walk the talk.
One of the biggest missteps brands make is spending most of their time talking about their plans rather than putting their plans into action. If you’re touting what you’re doing before actually doing it, your organization will get hung out for “purpose washing.” Your mission will likely be seen as nothing more than a marketing tool, which won’t do much to build brand loyalty, let alone brand longevity. Instead, focus your attention on what makes the most sense to the industry and then see that through before shouting it from the rooftops.
- Reevaluate your KPIs.
If your KPIs look the same as they did five years ago, the time has come to reconsider how your organization defines success. Profit will always matter. That won’t change, but your organization’s profitability is now tied to social and environmental responsibilities. Take another look at your key performance indicators and determine whether any of the metrics you’re tracking are associated with the beliefs and values of younger generations.
Making a connection between Gen Z and insurance brands isn’t always easy. It takes more than offering convenience, and it takes more than acknowledging your accomplishments. Start your efforts internally, take up a cause, and follow through with your promises. Get those right, and you’ve established a nice start to what can be a very fruitful relationship.
If you’d like to learn more about the Gen Z mindset, attend a PIMA conference and learn from industry thought leaders like Jeff Fromm.
Published on Oct. 13, 2023.
PIMA® (Professional Insurance Marketing Association®) is a member-driven trade association focused exclusively on the affinity market.