Changing the Game

Time for Brands to Change the Game

The intrinsic values of Millennials and Generation Z have been debated by brands and media alike for as long as anyone of those age groups can remember. They’ve been described as sensitive, demanding, entitled and most recently, deprived – of happiness, of satisfaction and of financial opportunity.

Hence the surge in ‘Freelance’ before most job titles on LinkedIn and the increased popularity of the term ‘side hustle’ within Gen Z media. These generational cohorts are redefining the norm in all sense of the phrase, from their tangible rejection of the traditional 9-5 to their demand for authenticity and their newfound expectation of diversity in everything they do and consume. Naturally, it then makes sense that they don’t believe going against the grain should stop there.

We already know that millennials and Gen Z like brands who aren’t afraid to take sides and have an opinion, but it’s become so much more than that. It’s less about what brands are saying and more about what brands are DOING. There’s less room for mistakes, as brand loyalty becomes ever harder to achieve, so if you’re going to take a stand you need to get it right the first time. With this, come three main areas of responsibility:


In terms of diversity, the same rule applies, it’s no longer just about LOOKING diverse but more about empowering the diversity once it’s in your room. These generations are no stranger to a person of colour making an appearance in an advertising campaign, but what else is really going on here? What else is being offered?

Arguably, this ‘what else have you got’ attitude is beginning to infiltrate other generations and spark debate in terms of representation.

Take Refinery29’s recent stand against ageism for example, as easy as it is to utilise older models in campaigns, we’re done with that now. Their ‘site takeover’ campaign went one step further as Refinery29 sacrificed their namesake, allowing the newly coined Refinery59 to flourish.

Elle’s Stormzy cover took the publishing world by storm – highlighting the collective power of today’s black British creatives, utilising the platform to create so much more than just a glossy campaign film.


No longer is it about single panel discussions or one-off workshops, it’s about experiences and what they actively do to provide. Google’s Curiosity Rooms were a great example of a brand bringing benefits to life through digestible formats. Whilst their visuals were hugely impactful it was their carefully curated range of events spanning live versions of well-known podcasts, business advice and tech talks that put the rooms on our radar and for once, provided so much more than just an Instagrammable location.


In terms of brand offerings, campaigns need to be functional and duality is key. It’s no longer just about aesthetics, bold life-enriching claims or collaborating just to leverage clout. It’s about practical, purposeful partnerships and campaigns providing evidence that the content we consume, and are pressured to buy into, actually work.

TheCalmZone’s recent #MoreThanABarber campaign with MurdockLondon was a stellar partnership, with CALM training Murdock’s barbers in Mental Health First Aid—enabling them to recognise the signs, listen and talk to a client that may be struggling with their mental health.

Functionality has quite naturally infiltrated the app space too, as expected, with the addition of convenience based Cleo (to help with budgeting and finance) and innovative beauty treatment finder BeautyStack by WAHnails founder Sharmadean Reid.

And what does that look like in terms of product? Take Virgil Abloh’s latest venture, his partnership with Evian to curate their most sustainable offering yet. Taking that extra step to ensure it’s more than just the unquestionably meta Ikea x Virgil rug, this partnership is one that genuinely aims to “pave a better future for generations globally”, in Abloh’s own words.

Essentially, these generations sacrifice everything, be it sleep, be it their health or be it their social lives, to achieve their goals and to ensure they’re actively contributing to a progressive future, so they expect the same thing from the brands they buy into and the content they consume.

In an age where taking a stand has officially been dubbed ‘not enough’, brands can no longer put out words they aren’t able to back up… So how can they ensure they’re providing more purpose than ever before?

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