For every brand, generational change is a big challenge. Who is this new generation? What motivates them? How are they different from the rest of the population? Right now, we have to get ready for Gen Z, a generation of young people born after 1996 who are now joining the global workforce and have become an important group of consumers.
Most people I speak to are surprised when I tell them that Gen Z already numbers nearly two-and-a-half billion people. That’s more than the much-discussed Millennials. For us at Samsung, generational change is nothing new. We are in our 50th year as a company, and truly understanding consumers – their wants, needs and aspirations – has always been at the heart of our innovation. The way I see it, Samsung is not so much about the technology we create; rather, it’s about giving people the tools they need to do what they can’t.
Still, with every generation, we have to rethink how we can make that happen. After all, the relationship between brands and consumers is constantly changing, so we have to ask ourselves: what do we need to do to remain relevant?
A Generation of Dreamers
Every generation is unique in its own way, and Gen Z is no different. But I thought it would be useful to share some of our insights into this new generation, because I believe that their values and their motivations are very close to what Samsung stands for.
We started our research by asking who Gen Z are. Yes, they are highly diverse and unique, but what have they got in common that drives them? What do they value the most? We did surveys, and we spoke to many of them directly, really listening to what they had to say.
What we learned is that Gen Z is a very resilient generation. They’ve grown up during an economic downturn and global crises – but they haven’t given up hope. In fact, they are determined to change the world for the better.
So, they are dreamers, but they are dreamers with purpose. They know what they want and are passionate in what they stand for, and they expect the same from brands. They dream big, and we must dream with them.
The Era of ‘Storyliving’
For this new generation of change-makers, it isn’t enough for brands to simply have great products or services. Gen Z cares about a brand’s values and how they measure up against their own. Seventy-seven percent of them believe that ‘doing good’ should be an integral part of running a business. This means that brands can no longer just focus on storytelling, for this is the era of ‘storyliving.’
Here at Samsung, we’ve had to really consider how our own values match up.
Gen Z is a generation that dreams of defying barriers – and so do we. “Do What You Can’t” is our rallying cry. It embodies what we stand for as a brand, and I think that resonates perfectly with the Gen Z outlook.
With a mindset of relentless innovation, we continue to seek out new opportunities to create experiences that can change people’s lives.
This is about so much more than just technology. It’s about the value we deliver. Whether that’s with the Be Fearless virtual reality app, which helps people tackle their deepest fears, such as a fear of public speaking or height anxiety, to the Samsung Blind Cap, which enables Paralympic swimmers to receive cues from their trainers indicating when to flip at the end of their lane.
Gen Z are mankind’s first true digital natives. They don’t know a life without the internet, and using technology is completely natural to them. I find that very exciting, because I really do believe that they are going to unlock the potential of our technology like no generation before.
They are going to use technology to reach new heights, and we are going to be right there with them on that journey.
We connect with them by helping them succeed. And that starts with what we do best: listening and understanding. We want to help them achieve their potential with whatever tool, skill or lifehack they need.
But Gen Z is about as diverse as can be, and Samsung is a global brand that must cater to the individual on an international scale. In every region, country and even community, we take our core values and apply them on a local level to address specific needs.
In Kings Cross, London, an exciting project is underway that really showcases what this looks like.
Samsung is creating a new space in an area that has already undergone big changes, leaving some locals feeling disconnected. We want to help – not by prescribing solutions, but by listening and helping where there’s a need. That’s why I don’t see Samsung Kings Cross as a store, but as a hub of culture, innovation and learning. We’re even recruiting staff that can speak all the different languages found in the local community – including British Sign Language, because there is a large school for the deaf nearby.
We will listen to this new generation, and we will help them drive positive change, achieve their potential, be responsible citizens, and dream… with purpose.
Our goal is to be an authentic, relevant brand that resonates with Gen Z. I’m confident that we can do that, because social purpose has always been a part of Samsung’s DNA.
* This editorial is based on YH Lee’s address at Cannes Lions 2019.