“Generation Disrupted”: In a country divided, new study issues a wake-up call for leaders & brands

by | Dec 3, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

New research of Generation Z and younger Millennials—dubbed “Generation Disrupted”—finds these most-influential young Americans have had their worldviews dramatically disrupted in 2020, and their fears, hopes and concerns altered in ways previously unseen. The report offers new views that will be critical for companies, brands and leaders to understand if they want to engage them as consumers, citizens and advocates now and in the future.

The new study, The Human Project, from integrated communications agency Zeno Group finds this group citing “equality for all” among their top hopes, “death and losing loved ones” among their top fears, and “better access to mental and emotional health services” as their most important issue in a divided America that’s seen numerous societal, economic and political challenges in 2020.

"Generation Disrupted": In a country divided, new study issues a wake-up call for leaders & brands

Indeed, the study found three-quarters (76 percent) of respondents said the events of 2020 have changed their personal beliefs, values, and character, and 75 percent feel the country is on a wrong or uncertain track.

“[These] findings are a wake-up call for companies and brands and leaders. These young Americans see today’s challenges, understand them, and expect others to join them in creating the change they want for our world,” said Therese Caruso, Zeno’s managing director of global strategy and planning, in a news release. “The brands and leaders who fail to appreciate how different Generation Disrupted is will struggle moving forward because of this generation’s unprecedented influence.”

"Generation Disrupted": In a country divided, new study issues a wake-up call for leaders & brands

As Generation Disrupted has voted more, worked more—and spent more—their influence has grown. To resonate with this group, leaders and brands should adopt a more expansive view of wellbeing, one that better reflects their values and priorities, demonstrate more empathy and compassion, and deliver practical solutions to their problems. They also need to consider Generation Disrupted’s concern for loved ones and local communities.

"Generation Disrupted": In a country divided, new study issues a wake-up call for leaders & brands

They are rethinking status quo and important issues

Generation Disrupted also appears united in wanting to change the status quo to bring about societal changes that would address the hardships and issues they see and care about in today’s world.

Among the study’s participants, 73 percent said they believe society and socioeconomic equality is on a wrong or uncertain track. Nearly 58 percent said their day-to-day life is more stressful and uncertain than ever before. Many said the biggest driver of increased stress in their lives is the health and wellbeing of their family and loved ones, completing school/higher education, job stability and the current political and social climate.

When asked about the top and rising issues of importance to them they said:

  • Improved access to mental and emotional health services (80 percent)
  • Directly addressing racism and inequality (78 percent)
  • Social justice/protests (74 percent)
  • Community policing/police violence (74 percent)
  • Misinformation in the media (70 percent)
  • Election security (69 percent)

"Generation Disrupted": In a country divided, new study issues a wake-up call for leaders & brands

They remain aware, positive and grateful

Despite a tumultuous 2020, many remain alert, grateful, and optimistic, albeit with some feeling less patriotic and confident.

When asked which character traits most described them they said:

  • They are more aware of the world around them (76 percent)
  • They are grateful (71 percent)
  • They are more independent and empathetic (68 percent)
  • They feel they have become less patriotic (22 percent)
  • They are less optimistic (16 percent)
  • Feel less confident or romantic (14 percent)

"Generation Disrupted": In a country divided, new study issues a wake-up call for leaders & brands

They hold leaders and brands accountable

Generation Disrupted also believes public and private sectors must play a critical role in developing and implementing solutions to these cultural and societal issues. When Zeno asked who they want more support and accountability from they said:

  • Parents and family (37 percent)
  • Friends (34 percent)
  • Federal government (32 percent)
  • Local government (30 percent)
  • Large companies and brands (21 percent)
  • CEOs and presidents of companies (20 percent)
  • Community and neighbors (19 percent)

"Generation Disrupted": In a country divided, new study issues a wake-up call for leaders & brands

Generation Disrupted expects corporate leadership to help identify and implement purposeful solutions to today’s challenges and will hold companies accountable. Data from Zeno’s prior Global Strength of Purpose Study found when a brand has a strong Purpose, consumers are four to six times more likely to buy, trust, champion and defend those companies over others.

Download the full report here.

Zeno conducted an online survey among n = 1,093 respondents (aged 14 to 28) across the U.S. to gauge how “Generation Disrupted” has been directly impacted by the current public health, economic and social justice crises, as well as their shorter and longer-term outlooks. The survey fielded from August 7, 2020 through August 18, 2020. The margin of error is ± 3 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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