Youth marketing

Gen Z's role in future political change

voting sticker USA
Published on
July 4, 2024
Last updated
July 4, 2024

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According to Pion data, 74% of Gen Z would describe themselves as an activist.

That’s a big number – but it shouldn’t be surprising. Gen Z has paved the way for a new era in activism. From Greta Thunberg to Malala, today’s youth have been leading the charge; calling for real, affirmative action on everything from climate change to wealth inequalities.

2024 is arguably the most important political year that young people will have known.

In the UK, the general election is poised to see a record number of Gen Z voters. In the US, politics has been one of the biggest talking points across current affairs and pop culture (ICYMI, Taylor Swift had her endorsement dubbed the “deciding factor” in a Democrat over Republican victory).

Read on to learn more about Gen Z’s role in future political change, and how you can leverage these insights for success.

Technology has given young people a louder voice than ever before

It’s a common myth that today’s young people are disengaged.

University campuses have always been fertile grounds for protests – but whilst older generations will recall protesting in person, the reality for young consumers is more nuanced.

‘Clicktivism’ is a popular route for today’s young consumers.

This is essentially online activism – signing petitions, engaging with hashtags, re-posting information. Whilst derided by some, this form of activism is a powerful example of how political messaging moves through the modern ecosystem. Movements such as Occupy Wall Street, #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo gained momentum from social media.

Technology allows Gen Z to communicate in real-time with their peers and participate in movements all around the world from a smartphone.

News consumption is no longer active vs passive

Technology also comes with new challenges. Gen Z are constantly exposed to news and current affairs.

They can’t turn away from this kind of discourse when it exists everywhere in the online world; whether via the form of a push notification, a TikTok appearing on their For You page, a suggested Instagram carousel, or a Snapchat Story from a friend.

According to Ofcom, social media is fast overtaking traditional news channels among young people. Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are now the top three most used sources for news for British teens.

Young people want action, not words

"Young people are articulate enough and passionate enough to talk about the issues affecting them”, says Rhammel Afflick. And whilst young people are often thought of as the future, they are still actively contributing to society – and we’re “richer for it”, Rhammel continues.

When we reflect on young people’s engagement with political and social change, we must reflect on the fact they don’t want their opinions sought after: they want action.

So what does this mean for brands? How can you empower young people?

Support Their Causes

Identify the causes that matter most to Gen Z and align your brand’s values with these issues. Data from Pion’s 2024 Youth Trends Report found that the most pressing issues to Gen Z are as follows:

  • 43% said the cost-of-living crisis
  • 41% said the mental health crisis
  • 35% said racism and injustice

Showing genuine support through donations, sponsorships, or advocacy can build trust and demonstrate your commitment to fighting these issues.

In the UK, supermarket chain Iceland has frozen the prices of hundreds of their £1 Iceland value lines. They’ve launched an ethical credit scheme to provide low-cost, short-term microloans to help families with their household budgets, providing reassurance to the many customers who rely on these as a cornerstone of their family food shop.

In the US, MTV has collaborated with the Biden administration and mental health non-profits for the first-ever Mental Health Youth Action forum.

Selena Gomez Taking Part in Mental Health Action Forum to 'Empower Young  People': 'It's a Personal Mission'

Encourage Participation

Young people are engaged – however, youth turnout has historically been lower than that of other demographics. Saatchi & Saatchi worked with YouGov to release a non-partisan campaign, aimed to mobilize young voters in the lead-up to the UK election.

"Finding the right message at the right moment to influence real behaviour change is when advertising is at its most powerful," says Franki Goodwin, chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi.

In the US, where Biden and Trump are in a tight race ahead of the election in November, the Democrats are rolling out some big-name supporters – urging celebrities to maximize their impact on participation.

“You still have a lot of young voters, in particular, who have not yet tuned in to the presidential election. And so that’s why this campaign is relentlessly focused on reaching voters where they are right now, not waiting until September or October,” says Biden’s campaign communications director Michael Tyler.

Leverage creator partnerships

Most Gen Zers in the UK will be familiar with GK Barry.

The 24-year-old creator and presenter is inescapable on our social media feeds. Her podcast 'Saving Grace' and TikTok presence (where she reaches over 3.5 million followers), means she’s a very powerful brand ambassador.

In June 2024, she created a special election-based podcast (aptly titled The Turnout). Interviewing political figures on the show, she asked them to “simplify” politics – breaking down the jargon so that young people can actually understand their values and what they’re saying.

GK Barry's New Podcast Takes on the General Election: Engaging Young Voters  | Listen - Hits Radio

“So many people my age are just downright confused by politics, particularly if they weren’t raised in political families like I was. When you catch a TV debate live, it can feel overwhelming – or, just plain boring – if you don’t know what they’re talking about.” she shared in an interview with Grazia.

GK Barry is just one example – for brands, it’s important to partner with creators that have built authentic communities. Creators can help bridge the gap between brands and young audiences, making your initiatives more relatable and impactful.

The UK election might be over, but we’re sitting tight for November in the US...

For more insights into Gen Z, download our 2024 Youth Trends Report, available now.

You can also catch Rhammel's full session at Youth Marketing Strategy here.

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