Radical innovation can harness the power of Gen Z – The Media Online

Radical innovation can harness the power of Gen Z - The Media Online

Radical innovation is a buzzword among marketers and brand managers who are constantly looking for new ways to reach their markets – especially the sought after Gen Z audience – with new innovations that make waves while grabbing the attention of their audiences. So what is ‘radical innovation’? Simply put, it is the process of bringing about new ideas, methods, products, services, or solutions in a way that disrupts the current norm and nature of something, promoting a new norm. Radical innovation doesn’t just disrupt markets – it creates entirely new ones. It can impact entire industries. If it is done right it drives brand and product relevance. It could very well be the differentiator that cuts through the noise in the brand space this year, impacting its market share and bottom line. I think that we can all agree that, much like the artist or musician who distinguishes himself or herself through his or her own unique perspective, approaching innovation differently and in a way that reflects the ‘individualism’ of your brand, is the way to go. A great example of radical innovation in the fashion space is the resurgence in popularity of Crocs footwear, which were originally created for water-based activities such as boating, until 2016, when fashion designer Christopher Kane requested multiple pairs for his SS17 runway show. Soon after that, Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia came knocking, and recreated the now-iconic Croc, to work within his Balenciaga vision, elevating the perforated clog by adding a 5-inch platform midsole and adorning them in Balenciaga Jibbitz*. This then led to more brands filtering into the clog space and unveiling their own version of a clog shoe, sowing the seeds of a footwear range what would eventually blossom within the history books of high fashion – all due to the marketing savvy of Crocs. The team seized the opportunity to become a collaborative powerhouse, working with streetwear legends like Alife, graphic-heavy brand PLEASURES and megastar Post Malone, among others, making Crocs the perfect example of creating a new norm in marketing, with brands trying to capitalise on the clog hype by creating their own clogs. The marketing mix included authentic celebrity endorsements and brand collaborations, while maintaining prices that make Crocs available to all. This led to a resurgence in popularity of the brand. Crocs revenue has seen consistent year-on-year increases with the most impressive figures showing a 66.92% increase for 2021 and a 53.67% increase for 2022. [*Decorative accessories that snap into the holes of foam shoes such as Crocs.] Talk about innovating to impact an entire industry, not to mention increasing the brand’s market share! Appealing innovation This is exactly the kind of innovation that appeals to the Gen Z audience, the incredibly tech-savvy, socially aware, and fashion-conscious demographic – with an ever-growing buying power. That said, it is becoming evident that Gen Z is currently being overwhelmed by ‘brand noise’ on the very channels they frequent to escape the noise. In fact, the latest report released by digital consumer research firm Bulbshare shows this to be true. “The best advertising has always been disruptive,” says Bulbshare founder and CEO Matt Hay. “It should be difficult to ignore. But today’s brands face the very real danger of being part of an indistinct but annoying wall of noise”. The next frontier So, what is the next frontier in achieving radical innovation in the brand space? I believe it lies in a new take – a completely unique approach – to the matrix of communication that defines your brand. It also, importantly, relies on your own in-depth understanding of what drives your consumer. Radical Innovation need not land with a big bang. Creating a silent space where your message can land quietly, may very well be the framework for radical innovation in 2024. As a marketer or brand manager, perhaps it’s simply a matter of saying: right now, Gen Zs are letting us know that they are battling to cut through the noise. Especially in this new era where AI-driven technology tools have changed the game, how can I craft messages that can cut through the digital noise without adding to it? Gen Z’s respond to brands who invite them to be part of the conversation instead of trying to drive it themselves. Why not create a digi-series that parallels the escape they already seek in their favourite mini-series or tele-novella or reality TV show? A campaign that whisks them away into a world that is familiar, with a captivating narrative where they are the main characters – and the brand is the supporting cast. The point I want to make here is that the most effective route to achieving radical innovation lies in a new approach to brand and product communications. The Brand needs to be the enabler of their pursuits, not the hero. This is where the skill of an expert marketer comes in, one who can marry a new – even radically extreme – approach to communication with consumer insight, data, empathy, creativity, and new perspectives. Operational support is key Delivering a great communications campaign with the potential of achieving radical innovation, relies heavily on a superb operational machine to bring it to fruition. This is where AI can be invaluable. A good example of this is the application of AI to social media management tools to schedule, create and analyse social media content – freeing up the team to spend more time engaging with their community and keeping their finger on the pulse. In the end, great innovation relies on seamless operations to take incredible ideation to execution. As the vice-chairman of the MMA SA’s Youth Development Board, we strive to drive radical innovation among our peers that, in the end, delivers tangible business results. While it’s all well and good to create engaging and authentic content, we must ask, how is it moving the financial needle? For Gen Z’s to buy into and purchase your brand, they want to be part of the process, not just be the end purchaser. They won’t be marketed at, they want to be marketed with, creating content that matters where the brands they choose to use paint a subtle picture of their lives, values and aspirations. It’s not an easy task and requires a radical change in perspective. Those brands that can take that leap of thought will benefit in the end, while building a community of consumers who buy the brand, not just the product. Also known as The Blck Sparrow, Anesu Malisa (Samsung Africa’s Gen Z marketing lead) and the newly elected vice-chair of the MMA SA Youth Development Board, is a multi-hyphenate creative, who loves to express himself through music, TikTok comedy, scriptwriting and more. W ith prior experience as a youth mentor, content creator and a tech start-up founder, this cultivated Anesu’s deep love and passion for technology, storytelling, connecting brands to Gen Z, and most importantly, raising the next generation of creative innovators.  Instagram/TikTok: @TheBlckSparrow.  LinkedIn: Anesu Malisa *Members of the MMA SA’s Youth Development Board supply a monthly column to The Media Online with a strong focus on all things Gen Z.