The concept of purpose-driven marketing is one of the most frequently discussed topics at our YMS events and brands often ask us which issues Gen Z care most about. Our research has made it very clear that mental health is an issue every brand needs to be taking action on. Below, we explain why this is so crucial and the range of ways that the marketing industry can make a genuine difference.
1. This is the no.1 issue Gen Z are passionate about
Gen Z are known for their passion for a number of issues, including gender and racial equality and sustainability, but you may be surprised to learn that none of these are their no.1 priority when it comes to driving social change. Instead, we consistently find in our research that mental health is the issue they’re most likely to campaign on, and the type of charity they most like to donate to. While there are segments of the generation who feel very strongly about the other issues, this is one area that unites them. This is because it has affected every one of them personally, either suffering from mental health issues themselves or seeing the impact on their friends or family.
2. Now is the time to take action on mental health
It has never been more important for youth brands and organisations to actively support young people’s mental health. A recent Youth Trends Report revealed the shocking stat that 84% of UK 16-24s have experienced mental health issues during the pandemic. At a time in life when they are supposed to be experiencing new things and discovering their identities, instead they’re isolated from their friends with limited opportunities to meet new people and experience the world. We have also found that, despite being less likely to get seriously ill from COVID, they have been just as fearful of catching it, worrying about the risk of passing it onto their family and the community as a whole.
3. Mental health intersects with many other key Gen Z issues
One reason that this issue unites so many members of the younger generation is that it interconnects with other topics they feel strongly about. For example, mental health connects to body image issues, which affect the wellbeing and self-worth of young men and women in a variety of ways. There are also worrying trends that demonstrate young people from minority groups are not getting access to mental health support or are faced with greater stigma around speaking out about mental health concerns. This means that improving mental health services and widening access also helps to tackle disparities in opportunity for different identity groups.
4. Conscious marketing makes your customers feel good
As a brand, tackling mental health doesn’t just mean donating money to relevant charities or raising awareness about how to get help. The most important thing for youth marketers to do is to actively ensure that the content, campaigns and products they target to young people make them feel valued and supported, and don’t contribute to existing mental health issues. For example, the ‘Free to be me’ trend in our Youth Trends Report outlines how important it is for young people to feel comfortable being themselves, and how they feel more positively toward brands that encourage and celebrate this. This consideration should be part of every youth brand’s campaign planning process.
5. Gen Z loves brands who do the right thing
While a brand’s ethics may not be the no.1 issue impacting their spending (that’ll be price or quality, depending on the product), they love the idea of shopping from brands that share their own values. Young consumers want to see brands not only clearly stating what they stand for as a business, but also demonstrating their commitment to making change on those issues. Showing solidarity with mental health sufferers on social media is great, but Gen Z expect more. From Hollister’s Confidence Project to Starface’s donations to charities that support the mental health of marginalised groups, brands are upping their game and a half-hearted campaign will not be enough.
Keep up to date about the youth mental health crisis and how you can make an impact, alongside other topics that are impacting this generation, on Voxburner+.