[US] 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

  • Adoption of the latest technology

  • A focus on making products more accessible

  • Brands that make people’s lives easier

  • Brands that make people happier

The first two responses are 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 expands to include emotional as well as practical utility.

Nonetheless, brands must be encouraged that they don’t need to rewrite the laws of physics to innovate. Focusing on customer happiness, expanding access to goods and services, and making life easier are good places to start.

Don’t Forget About Price and Performance

While innovations that drive convenience and accessibility are important to Gen Zs, so are improvements in price and performance, especially in brands they currently use. 2

When asked about important qualities in brands they don’t currently buy from, 3 Gen Z responded in similar fashion—good news for brands trying to get in their good graces. If you can compete and improve on these qualities, you can compete for Gen Z’s loyalty.

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 to stay ahead of the curve 4 (makes sense, as the public defines demand). They’re also more likely to support a company if they feel their feedback makes a difference (80%) 5 and if the company actually makes changes based on customer feedback (82%). 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. 64% think companies have a responsibility to innovate, 4 and 62% 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 86% support companies that stay true to their message. 4 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 (78%). 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.

Julia Berk and Ariana Battle from Team Snapchat
Preview