There are 74 million Gen Zers (those born between 1995 and 2010) in the United States. That’s 74 million new people entering our workforce, shaping purchasing decisions and changing laws.
We know they fight for what they believe in. In fact, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, is credited for being a voice for the entire movement. We know Gen Z expects full transparency from corporations, whether that’s a pharmaceutical company, a food-and-beverage brand or a retailer. And we know they’re incredibly tuned in and plugged in, citing social media as their top influence channel.
But what we really don’t know (yet) is their take on health and healthcare. I believe their motives, truths and actions will make a huge impact on the future of health. There still isn’t a lot of research about this generation and their views on health. To better prepare the industry, my team hit the streets. With the first phase of our study finished, we talked to Gen Zers across the country — from New York City to Los Angeles — to really get to the heart of the question: What does health mean to you?
When millennials entered the workforce, put money into the economy and flipped the paradigm on everything we understood about our culture, healthcare, B2B and technical marketers weren’t ready. And, as an industry, we’re still trying to catch up digitally. Let’s not let this happen again. Here are three themes we’ve heard that I believe will not only impact healthcare in general but also how we talk about it, market it and sell it to this change-making generation.
They’re a generation of self-discovery.
Gen Zers have unprecedented access to information at their fingertips. According to our research, 85% of Gen Zers get their information from social media, and they’re doing it quickly — whether that’s a scroll through Snapchat before bed, a Twitter check-in between classes or watching Instagram stories at the bus stop. They’re constantly consuming and are always hungry for more information. This is a generation of self-discovery, and one that tends to be “advertising resistant.”
What can marketers learn from this? Don’t force-feed them marketing promotions. Educate them instead, and compel them to seek out information and draw their own conclusions. Engage them with content focused on their needs and passions, but more importantly, do it in a manner they’re familiar with. For example, Everlane, a retailer that hangs its hat on transparency, holds weekly Instagram Q&As for its audience.
Create the right content, and let people make their own hypotheses with questions. At the end of the day, we as marketers have a responsibility to this generation to add to the conversation, not the noise.
There’s a (gigantic) trust gap.
When we asked Gen Zers if they trust what companies are telling them about health, only 35% said that they do. Yet when we asked them if they trust what healthcare professionals, like doctors or nurses, are telling them about health, a staggering 89% said yes. It’s no secret that today’s society is one rife with misinformation. That’s why Gen Zers are reluctant to believe what’s coming out of a PR department — whether from an insurance provider, journalist or pharmaceutical company.
What can marketers learn from this? As obvious as it sounds, we need to trust them if we expect them to trust us. Something as simple as listening or engaging an ongoing VOC panel could close that gap. Find ways to break down that barrier of trust. One company we’ve worked with in the past, New England Biolabs, is a great example — it doesn’t have a dedicated tech support team; its researchers answer the phone.
Their health is more than just a vital sign.
Gen Zers are more than just the numbers on a medical report and expect to be recognized as such. This generation is acutely aware of their mental health, and they’re deploying their own coping techniques for anxiety and stress without their doctors. In fact, almost every time we asked Gen Zers to discuss their health, mental health was a part of the conversation. We found that 77% of Gen Zers we spoke with are comfortable talking about their mental health with their peers. Not only do they embrace conversations around it — they expect companies to step up and do the same.
When asked if they’d use an app to treat their anxiety, most Gen Zers were hesitant to turn to the main device (their screen) they see as the culprit. Gen Zers are stuck in a vicious cycle of tech and anxiety. Instead, they’re looking for blended offline-online experiences. So what does this mean for health? About 85% of Gen Zers said they are open to alternative healthcare options like telemedicine, dispatch services and membership-based services. Gone are the days when a visit to the doctor actually meant going to the doctor.
What can marketers learn from this? Gen Zers are looking for blended offline/online experiences, even in their health experience. On World Mental Health Day, Google announced wellbeing.google, a site that both teaches and nudges its users to make smarter tech decisions and spend less time on their phones. Google — arguably one of the biggest purveyors of screen time — is talking about understanding relationships with technology and helping people achieve their personal sense of digital well-being. Marketers can take a page out of Google’s book by seeing their company through the eyes of a Gen Zer. How are you improving their lives for the better?
I’m excited for Gen Zers to disrupt the healthcare system — let’s make sure we’re on their side with the knowledge, trust and experience they deserve.