Carol Wong-Li
Carol Wong-Li is Associate Director, Lifestyles and Leisure for Mintel. Carol researches and writes reports on the Canadian lifestyle and leisure industries.

Think you know Gen Z? Societal and cultural nuances have influenced Gen Z in such a way that they are not simply Millennials 2.0, and they greatly differ in their core values from older generations. Gen Z’s more personal relationship with brands and mission mindfulness means they will hold brands to higher standards. While they are not currently primary household shoppers, they will be in just five-to-10 years and will bring their orientation to the world with them.

Gen Z are the most diverse generation to date

Gen Z are the most diverse generation to date in terms of ethnic background as well as lifestyle. They are the least likely to identify as being white/Caucasian and the most likely to identify as being members of the LGBT+ community.

Gen Z are the least likely to feel like they are a part of mainstream Canada, highlighting that the issue of inclusivity needs to be more closely examined by brands. While this opens up opportunities to embrace a wider range of ethnic celebrations, such as Chinese New Year, it also means that retailers must reassess long-standing notions such as the ‘ethnic aisle’ at grocery stores to ensure positioning aligns with the generation’s experience of diversity.

Gen Z’s core values differ from Millennials

The values that Gen Z hold differ significantly from older generations – even Millennials. More so than any generation, Gen Z rate generosity, sense of community and willingness to change as a top-five most important value Canadians should have.

More so than any generation, Gen Z rate generosity, sense of community and willingness to change as a top-five most important value Canadians should have.

Today’s cultural environment is rife with political references leading all demographics to have a heightened social awareness. What is unique to Gen Z is that they’ve had access to platforms that allow them to have a voice before they can vote. Knowing they can act on social issues makes them more critical thinkers at an early age and hungrier for change than older generations. Accustomed to discerning ‘truths’ and being mission-minded, Gen Z takes a critical eye toward actions taken by brands – both advertising and marketing campaigns and corporate social responsibility initiatives and company policies.

Gen Z use brands to represent who they are

Gen Z are more inclined than older generations to say the brands they use reinforce the image they want to portray.

Unlike older generations, using brands is an emotional choice that extends beyond simply appreciating product quality or good customer service. While brands are seen as an outward portrayal of who they are, Gen Z will have a heightened sensitivity to brand ethics. Brands have to be prepared to fully ‘walk the walk’ in their commitment to values, ethics, social/environmental causes, and across all levels of the organization.

What we think

Like every generation, Gen Z are a product of their times. However, the pace of change has never been faster, influencing the mindset and core values of Gen Z to a degree that has never been seen before. Knowing that they can act on matters makes them critical thinkers at an early age and hungrier for change. Greta Thunberg, leader of the current #climatestrike movement, is one of the most notable examples of Gen Z in action. While Gen Z are still young and haven’t earned the coveted title of ‘the primary household shopper’, their knowledge of how to use their voice to incite change should not be written off. A quick look at the number of brands who participated in the #climatestrike movement is a clear indication that brands are taking the opinions and attitudes of this generation seriously. For brands, the time to act is now.