Words by Louise Rogers
For marketers, generation change represents a time of mixed emotions: old certainties disappear as new windows of opportunity open. As the kids of Generation Z start to come of age, loosely termed as those born after the mid 90’s, a question is posed to pharma: who are this new generation and what is important to them? Defined by technology, cultural aggregation, and fluidity when it comes to identity and beliefs, it may prove difficult for marketers to categorise Gen Z into homogenised groups. How do pharma future proof themselves against a strong cohort of 2 billion who are expected to account for 40% of all consumers by 2020?
While millennials have been defined as the generation that consumes experiences, the search for authenticity is at the root of Gen Z’s behaviour. As digital natives, Gen Z have experienced information overload since day one, and whereas earlier generations lap up information from every news watering hole, whether true or false, Gen Z are reading with a more critical eye. “The trust of Gen Z in pharma and healthcare is rapidly on the decline”, says Andrea Bell, Director, WGSN Insight. This, alongside the current record levels of distrust in authority figures like the government and medical establishments, demands attention from the industry to up the ante in order to align their strategies with the priorities of Gen Z, so they can be heard and can establish trust.
Speaking for healthcare marketers at this year’s Cannes Lions is Andrea Palmer, President, Publicis Health Media: “As brands we need to figure out how we get information out in a credible, meaningful, authentic way. We have an onus to be out there, telling the right stories, and making sure the right people are influencing the conversations.”
Gen Z want their brands to be story living
Although Gen Z are typically more cognizant of digital privacy compared to their predecessors, they are avid users of social media, using the platforms as their go-to source of ‘infotainment’. 98% of Gen Z learn about new products via social media and when it comes to brands, they are looking for compelling content not directly related to the product they are selling – quintessential for pharma with its strict product advertising laws. Finding methods to advocate medicines, without the pushy intentions of selling, will establish a company’s altruism and is likely to resonate with the new generation. One company utilising these methods is LEO Pharma: the company published a series of videos featuring key opinion leaders on their YouTube channel to raise awareness and educate patients on diseases and treatments. 95% of Gen Z report using YouTube and 71% report watching >3 hours of online video per day, highlighting the huge opportunity that video presents.
Like a toddler before bedtime, Gen Z are demanding more than just storytelling. “Gen Z want their brands to be story living”, YoungHee Lee, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Samsung Electronics, tells the audience at Cannes Lions. “They are dreamers with a purpose; they want the world to be a better place and they are ready to act. The most important thing to know is that this generation has high expectations of your brand. They want more than just words and they want us to help them live their life and live their dreams.”
The most important thing to know is that this generation has high expectations of your brand
Another result of the generational distrust in the health system is a changed mindset, from healthcare to selfcare; Gen Z represents the ultimate wellness consumer and take a holistic view to their health and wellbeing. “Wellness, convenience, and transparency represent a very new age of healthcare.” In a world riddled with anxiety, work burnout, and constant connectivity, it is not surprising that people are swapping medication for meditation. As the wellness industry reaches over $4 billion in worth, the message is clear: good health is good business. We heard it: Gen Z want industries to help them live their lives. If pharma can provide digital wellness solutions either to complement their medications or as stand alone, and show they are living their patient centred values, then they may have a chance with the generation who seem to be playing hard to get. Johnson & Johnson fully embraced wellness in 2015 when the company formed a whole new health and wellness division. Programmes focussing on wellness and prevention, behavioural health, and chronic disease support, show the company’s commitment to improving quality and vitality of life.
“Gen Z are very different from the others”, concludes Lee. “They are driven by values, they want the world to be authentic in real time, and they want a direct relationship with the brand and for their values and beliefs to be shared.”
An industry class in mindfulness would not go amiss, to align with the new wellness lifestyle, which seems to come as second nature to the new age. Pharma need to meet Gen Z with genuine, real-time content, which speaks directly to this digitally entrenched generation.