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Why Brands Need to Step Back and Let Gen Z be the Main Character



Lucy Donagh explores the relationships brands have with Gen Z's and how they need to facilitate them to become the hero

Why Brands Need to Step Back and Let Gen Z be the Main Character

Lucy Donagh is a Platformer at Cake, Havas' sport and entertainment hub. Platform is Havas’ unique three-month placement experience for people interested in brands, culture and communication.

As a Gen Zer, I’ve grown up obsessing over the coming-of-age movies that we’ve been saturated by. Yet I realise that if all the main characters were jumbled up into one narrative, the plots would still make sense: an underdog learning their purpose with the help of the people and environments around them.

In a world where brands are all trying to stand out and be the most noticeable to appeal to Gen Z, is there something to learn from this cliché movie trope that this generation all know and love? Perhaps instead of trying to be the hero themselves, brands could gain more of Gen Z ‘s respect by facilitating them to become the hero.

The Main Character Tag

There is a mutual fascination amongst Gen Z about being interesting enough to be the focus of a movie, book, or TV show. The 'main character' tag on TikTok had one billion views in the first week of June alone.

Initially, Gen Z used the main character tag to compile highlights of their lives, romanticising moments reminiscent of scenes from those films which they idealised growing up. However, they quickly noticed that the same moments were being romanticised as everyone thinks of themselves as the main character. New videos were made acknowledging the irony of this universally exaggerated feeling of self-importance, and the trend became a parody of itself. One of the first and most popular videos to do this shows a girl singing about how it's time to walk around her neighbourhood to let her neighbours know that she's the main character.

Gen Z know they’re not really 'the main character' but are at pivotal stages of their youth where they feel pressure to decide who they want to be and so relate their thoughts and experiences to narratives of coming-of-age stories. In the search for their own individual truth, Gen Z consciously develop their own unique and authentic 'main character'.

They look to endorse brands that help them manifest their truth. So, brands must understand what it means to be a main character in order properly facilitate their audience in building their own:


Be Figurine-able

The main character's identity is unique enough to be condensed into an easily recognisable figurine.

Gen Z utilise social media platforms to create figurines of themselves, expressing identity through everything from colour palettes to tone of voice to emojis. They borrow from multiple subcultures, combining interests and trends to create their personal brands. Brands can support Gen Z’s character by helping to create unique depictions of themselves that can be identified easily. Focusing on creating a bold, authentic image that runs throughout everything they do, they don’t have to appeal to a specific subculture; Gen Z will use combinations of strong brands to create their identifiable image.

Be a hero

Main characters always have a greater purpose, no matter how small.

Gen Z’s wariness of the world around them has led them to become an age of forward-thinking activists. They alter their lifestyles to suit newfound ways of thinking with brands that are equally aspirational in the world outside their own bubble.

Brands can facilitate Gen Z’s demand for a better world by using business to drive impact and advance progressive social change. This will simultaneously create powerful connections with Gen Z’s desire to be heroes and, by maintaining clear values, brands can listen and respond to conversations in culture in an authentic way.

Be relatable

Main characters must be 'human' to be likeable.

Unlike older generations who see awe in perfection, Gen Z prefer the integrity that comes with realism and so embrace all truths of their identities even if they contradict each other. This is demonstrated by the way they interpret the main character trend itself: romanticising feeling like 'the main character' and simultaneously mocking the arrogance of it. They know they have paradoxical views and it doesn’t bother them in the slightest, allowing their tastes and opinions to contradict each other as they discover their own individual truth. Gen Z don’t require brands to have identical interests and opinions to them, they are most appealing when being truthful to their own values and purpose.

The main character trend may subside, and the tag disappear from the limelight, but by being an influential figure in Gen Z’s character development and encouraging them in their pursuit to find their true identity, brands can form individual connections deeper and much more long-lasting than any internet trend.

view more - @Genz
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Havas UK, Thu, 06 Aug 2020 11:56:24 GMT