They’re the future. In many important ways, they’re also very much the present.
In June 2022, a prominent national communications firm launched the “Z Suite,” an exclusive network of “Generation Z” students — those born from the mid- to late-1990s to the early 2010s — from universities across the United States. The goal: provide prominent industry leaders with Gen Z insight so that they can better understand this generation of consumers, influencers, and leaders.
“Brands and retailers are trying to truly understand consumer habits and behaviors, and what drives these behaviors,” says Felicia Kane, Emory University Goizueta Business School alumna, co-chair of the Z Suite, and account supervisor for the communications firm, Berns Communications Group. “We created the Z Suite as a research collective where Gen Z can act as reverse mentors for retailers and brands who want to better understand this generation.”
Z SUITE: DEMYSTIFYING A GENERATION OF YOUNG LEADERS
The Z Suite sits alongside two other networks: The Retail Influencer Network and The DealmakeHers — both of which were co-founded by Berns president and founder, Stacy Berns. Kane says Z Suite membership will continue to grow this fall as the group, currently numbering around 30, welcomes more Gen Zers who are passionate about the retail, consumer, and technology sectors.
“There’s a lot of contradictory data about Gen Z out there,” Kane says. “That’s why Z Suite adds so much value to brands.”
Andrea Hershatter, senior associate dean and director of Goizueta’s BBA program, says Gen Z differs greatly from millennials, having been born into an Internet-dominated world. Understanding this generation will help businesses make more effective decisions, she says.
“Millennials are organizational builders and tend to operate inside the infrastructure,” Hershatter says. “But I think Gen Z will reshape that infrastructure completely.”
Poets&Quants spoke with three Goizueta Business School BBA students and Z Suite members — Sash Shaban, Tenzin Gonshar, and Simran Hussain — to learn more about what insight this generation offers and how businesses can best reach them.
‘OUR VALUES ARE BENEFICIAL TO EVERYONE’
For 21-year-old Shaban, Gonshar, and Hussain, joining the Z Suite was an opportunity to offer their opinions — opinions which could help brands make better business decisions. “A lot of us are studying something related to fashion or marketing,” says Hussain. “We understand what actually makes sense to these retail executives, and we have the information that they need to move forward.”
But the Z Suite offers brands more than professional and academic expertise in these industries; it also offers genuine, lived experience of being a Gen Zer in this rapidly changing world. “People are a little scared of Gen Z,” says Hussain. “We know what we want. If there’s something that bothers us, we won’t accept it and we’re going to make sure that we change it in some way.”
This ability to drive change is a result of this generation’s aligning values. Upon speaking with these three students, Poets&Quants learned that Gen Z shares three common principles: sustainability, authenticity, and inclusivity.
But these values can’t just be buzzwords thrown around in brands’ marketing campaigns, according to Shaban; Gen Z wants to see a company’s actions match their values. “We might be stubborn, but nothing will run past us,” Shaban laughs. “At the end of the day, though, our values are beneficial to everyone.”