How brands target the younger generation during a time of economic turbulence?

Q&A with Dèja Pocahontas Mays, Art Director, Atlanta, Momentum Worldwide

As it’s the first time Gen Z is experiencing the impact of the economic downturn, what advice would you give brands when targeting the younger generation to navigate further, a new kind, an era of uncertainty?

Brands should start thinking of themselves as the bridge between Gen Z and the avenue of their aspirations. Many companies have all the tools and resources to make dreams a reality. In an era of uncertainty, brands can provide stability and guidance. For example, some establishments have created programs to help Gen Zers get careers after college, while others invest in their small businesses. By doing that, they are shining a pathway to a brighter future by investing in them.

How can we encourage or create something that people never thought was possible? For example, if a person has never been on an airplane or outside of their state, how can we make it possible for them to see the world? If someone is passionate about a cause in their community, how can we show up for them? If someone has talent, how can we nurture and connect them to the resources they need to develop? We may not be able to change where we are at this exact moment, but we can change our trajectory. In the long run, this creates a relationship with brands much greater than just retail. Gen Z is going places, and when they get to where they’re going, they will remember those who supported them along the way. Wouldn’t it be nice to say you invested in the next president, the next Nobel Peace Prize winner or the next Olympic champion before anyone even knew who they were?

With inflation and the cost of living rising, how can retailers help consumers “shop smarter”?

Being able to shop smarter is crucial. One way is to show how a product can be an investment. Asking questions like “can I use this product in many ways?” or “is it saving people time and energy?” Another way is by establishing trust in a product before trying it. People don't want to risk wasting their money in this economic climate. This can be combated by using genuine human reviews to support the product. Brands and products are constantly being discovered through UGC (user-generated content). There is trust in seeing someone relatable advocating for a product or service and sharing that experience with the world. Retailers should think about how they can integrate SEO (search engine optimization) data/content from social and their in-store shopper experiences to drive consumers to retail.

Value is an important message to build into marketing campaigns during a downturn – especially with the younger generations who resonate with brands that align with morals. So how do you shape your brand campaigns to provide value and maintain customer loyalty?

Gen Z craves authenticity. Brands are being called out for doing the "bare minimum." People do not want to see a Heritage/Pride/Awareness Month logo change and be celebrated ONLY during designated months. Marginalized communities live their unique experiences 365 days of the year, so companies should find more than 30 days out of the year to celebrate and support them. People support brands that support them. The messages and ideologies that brands choose to identify with represent more than just a retail item and can represent a movement and way of life. Create a symbiotic relationship with your target audiences. Invest in the influence. If that community influences your brand, invest back in them. If you are not investing, you are infesting.

Gen Z wants campaigns rooted in insights and ideas from lived human experiences. Those human truths and slight nods make them feel seen and celebrated. Diversity and inclusion are more extensive than just monoliths of race. We must remember to celebrate groups that often get left out, such as people with disabilities, people who do not fit conventional beauty standards and people from lesser-known cultures. Reciprocate the love and stand behind the customers that stood behind you. Brands have the power to change narratives, raise awareness and create change. What we do with that power is up to us, and Gen Z will surely be watching.



Dèja is an Art Director at Momentum Worldwide, working across key clients such as Coca-Cola, Walmart and Disney. Her work includes the Disney on the Yard experience, which she generated over 1 million impressions on TikTok when amplifying the content, resulting in her being featured in Adweek’s Profiles in Black Creativity series.

Dèja attended Miami Ad School, where she was interviewed for the M.A.S. Cannes Lions Festival talk on DE&I. Passionate about raising awareness of the experiential marketing industry within the BIPOC community, Dèja creates educational and cultural social media content.

Most recently, Dèja was shortlisted in Creativepool’s Annual Awards 2022, Next Gen Talent of the Year.