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January 28, 2020

Innovation Generation: What Makes a Brand Innovative? Gen Z Weighs In

Think how different the world looked just ten years ago. Self-driving cars were the stuff of science fiction. Movie buffs still got DVDs in the mail. Shooting a movie on a phone would’ve been unthinkable. 
Innovation in today’s world happens at warp speed. No sooner does the latest and greatest hit the market, and we’re already onto the next big thing. The most popular, relevant brands seem to find a way to stay ahead of the curve and innovate time and again. How do they do it? What’s their secret?
According to Gen Z, the answer isn’t as daunting as you may think.
We partnered with CASSANDRA to explore how the new generation thinks of innovation and its role in their relationship to brands. Here’s a glimpse of what happened when we asked, “What makes a brand innovative?”
OK, How Do I Innovate?
Gen Z’s criteria for brand innovation varies somewhat by industry, but their responses include:1
  • Continuously evolving
  • Responding well to customer feedback
  • Brands that make people’s lives easier
The first response is in line with what you might expect from a study about innovation. The rest may be a bit more surprising, as Gen Z’s definition is tied more closely to practical utility for customers.
Brands don’t need to rewrite the laws of physics to innovate. Focusing on evolving, responding to customer feedback, and making life easier are good places to start.
It’s All About the Product
When it comes to brands they already buy from2, Gen Zs place a premium on innovations that drive convenience, accessibility, affordability, and performance. 
Their stance on brands they don’t buy from is similar,3 with one notable exception. 74% think innovations that make a product more appealing is an important quality in such brands.3 If you’re trying to woo young consumers, there’s hope yet. With the right improvements, you could still win them over.
Want to Innovate? Listen
Listening to customer feedback and ideas is another mark of innovation. Gen Z feels strongly that brands should source ideas from the public (75%) to stay ahead of the curve.4 They’re also more likely to support a company if they feel their feedback makes a difference (76%)5 and if the company actually makes changes based on customer feedback (80%).5
These young consumers see themselves, not as passive consumers, but as stakeholders and partners in the brand’s future.
You Can Take Risks While Staying True to Your Brand
It’s true, innovation is risky business, but when it comes to Gen Z they expect nothing less. 60% think companies have a responsibility to innovate,4 and 61% think companies have to do so to stay relevant.4
Again, they’re not asking brands to do anything crazy, like change their identity. In fact 81% support companies that stay true to their message.5 They would, however, like to see companies take risks in the form of expanding their offerings, redesigning their products, or growing beyond their basic products/services (71%).5
In a fast-paced world, keeping up is hard enough, let alone staying ahead of the curve. The good news for brands is that the roadmap for success with younger consumers is getting clearer. Take steps to listen to their feedback, make their lives easier, and think of ways to make your products and services more affordable and accessible. Do that, and you may surprise yourself with the best that’s yet to come.

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12019 Cassandra Study commissioned by Snap Inc. Question: I consider a company like (BRAND) to be innovative when it…
22019 Cassandra Study commissioned by Snap Inc. Question: Let's say a company or brand you already use is improving its product. How important is each of the following improvements to you? (Top 2 Box)
32019 Cassandra Study commissioned by Snap Inc. Question: Let's say a company you DO NOT already buy from is improving its product. How important is each of the following improvements to you? (Top 2 Box)
42019 Cassandra Study commissioned by Snap Inc. Question: How much do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements? (Top 2 Box)
52019 Cassandra Study commissioned by Snap Inc. Question: Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements. (Top 2 Box)