Last week I attended the Hashtag Sports conference at The Times Center.
While the event was primarily dedicated to uncovering the New Sports Economy for the new generation, hearing industry leaders share insights regarding their personal journeys helped refine my understanding of my own current generation.
This current era is comprised of both millennials and Gen-Z; we are the immediate by-products of the technological era we grew up in.
As our smartphones, computers, and other technological sources of information root themselves deeper within our daily lives, we become more callous to the bombardment of information we call “content.”
And yet as we grow less-receptive to all this random clutter, we simultaneously become more selective in the type of news we consume.
Our respective social media platforms have flourished in becoming a reflection of our values and interests, in simpler terms our “culture.” And as a millennial myself, what I’ve come to realize is that our generation is most appreciative of authenticity.
In the opening panel of the 2018 Hashtag Sports Conference, Translation’s CEO Steve Stoute, reaffirmed this very sentiment that I’ve wholeheartedly believed from the very beginning.
— Hashtag Sports (@HashtagSports) June 25, 2018
Mr. Stoute told the audience, for brands to engage with the largest growing untapped consumer segment of millennials and Gen-Z, “you must lead with ethnic insight,” which in other words, “is synonymous to popular culture.”
I don’t know if you’ve realized, but this generation is quick to call bullshit when they see it. That’s why so many companies are scrambling to interact with us now.
By the early 2020s, Gen Z will be 40% of the market, so if companies don’t engage right now, they won’t be able to get us at all. Our generation is crucial for the survival of a majority of media outlets today, some of which are in the midst of experimenting with a variety of platforms and content, as they pray for one of them to stick.
Nevertheless, Stoute offered a logical and practical solution:
“Have the people that work in your company, look like the people you’re trying to sell your products to.”
If a company is targeting an older segment of grandparents, then hire an older figure to share and offer insights internally.
Likewise, if a brand is targeting the millennials and Gen-Z group, they must bring in someone from that very segmentation to understand how we perceive, consume, and think as a collective.
Companies and brands must first understand who they’re reaching and how the message will resonate only if they are able to find true and authentic cultural insights.
Before he concluded, Stoute emphasized, “empathy allows you to see various perspectives.”
In today’s day and age, it seems like empathy is a trait that well-established companies are unfamiliar with.
Their attempts seem rather forced and inauthentic, like a middle-aged father sharing stale and worn-out “dad-jokes” to his confused and unamused children.
Empathy begins with a willingness to understand, and if brands are truly willing to hear us out, I think it begins with companies trusting our lived experiences growing up in the technological era we did.
I believe millennials and Gen-Z are the key to our future. What do you think?