Connecting with Teens: Innovation, Inclusion and Insights

Listen in as our guests explore changing consumer behaviors, connecting with GenZ teens (and their parents), and unique ways to uncover and use insights.

The author(s)
  • Janelle James SVP, Qualitative
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SMS, social media, and streaming… oh my! There’s no doubt that technology advancements are shaping the way teens connect with everyone and everything, including brands. As new platforms and communities emerge and the rules of engagement change (on what seems like a daily basis), brands must become more creative and more responsible as they determine the content, experiences, and products that resonate with teens and the adults that care for them. 

Listen in as Ipsos’ Janelle James hosts a virtual roundtable discussion with some of the most talented leaders in media, marketing, and technology today. During this session, Janelle is joined by guest panelists for a candid conversation exploring changing consumer behaviors, connecting with GenZ teens (and their parents), unique ways these leaders uncover and use insights, and diversity & inclusion as a source of innovation.

Hear what our guest experts have to say:

  • Aziel Rivers, Senior Director, North America Marketing, Pepsi
  • Garry Thaniel, General Manager, eBay Sneakers
  • Kristina Dechter, Director of Partnership Strategy & Collaborations, Urban Outfitters
  • Sara Wilson, Digital Brand, Content, & Community Strategist, SW Projects 

AI-generated audio transcript is offered below. Apologies in advance for inconsistencies that have been included. 


Thank you for joining us for today's Ipsos Virtual Roundtable, exploring changing consumer behaviors, connecting with teens and their parents, plus Diversity and Inclusion as a source of innovation.


Today's Roundtable guests are among the most talented leaders in media, marketing, and technology, and you can read more about them in the slides in front of you.


Throughout today's session, you will remain in listen only mode, however, throughout the webinar, you may submit questions online using the Q and A feature.


Time permitting, we'll answer your questions at the end of today's session, however, and timeline short, then your question will be answered by e-mail.


Today's webinar is also being recorded and will be directly e-mailed to you.


So now without further ado it is my pleasure to introduce today's moderator, Jenelle James Senior Vice President with Ipsos UU Janell. You have the floor.


Thank you so much Alex. And thank you to all the members of our audience for joining us today for this exciting conversation about connecting with teens with our amazing group of speakers who are joining us from e-bay, Urban Outfitters, PepsiCo, and SW projects. So let's dig in. The first question I'd love for our panelists to answer, really just introduce themselves by telling us about a recent project that they've worked on, that focused on connecting with teens as well.


Do you want to start?


Sure, hey, everyone, Amazon, Rivers, I'm excited to be here and thanks for the intro.


So, a recent project that I've worked on in my current responsibility, and role is, leading marketing for the Pepsi Lift in Partnership, is the release of some, a campaign that we did in partnership with T pain.


And so T pain worked with limped into to reveal cousin T, who was basically paying an homage to the Black Family sitcom and encourage folks to spend time with the ones that they love. So, today, I'll be talking a lot about how we work with families and sort of like teens through them with a lot of our beverage brands.


Thank you. As our ..., Gary, you want to go next?


Hey, everyone. I'm Gary Daniel, the GM, per se, because at e-bay, one of the things we just recently did was we wrote a new campaign on social media. Primarily, you'd call X will give people an opportunity to kind of like test air sneaker knowledge through game shows. And it goes from everything from, you, know, you know, putting together collections of sneakers when they were released. But, really, and also, like setting up like, the fit is, as we like to call it. So the whole outfit, so one of the things that we tried to do with that is really lean into content generation. So amazing content. So how can we make something unique and really authentic to e-bay? And that's something that we've been leveraging as of late. So Love the Love Cakes, campaign, one! Episode two!


Right now, really excited about it.


Wonderful Krystina, do you wanna go next?


Hi, I'm Christina. I am the Director of Partnerships at Urban Outfitters and probably very classic example of our most recent partnership was with juicy Couture a very recognizable Y two K brand. That is back in the trend mix. And so within our partnership, we partnered also with Tiktok influencers and a very diverse cast of influencers that cover and gender, body, diversity, et cetera, and host, and what we call it a juicy land experience. And our flagship store, we serve drinks that match the color ways of the track suit. We did customizing old school, you know, hair extensions now, and just created a lot of shareable experiences that created UGC that we were able to use on our channels.


So something I'll also talk about later is bringing, you know, a heritage brand and putting a modern twist to it, and very much how we connect with teens.


Love that, last but not least, CERA.


Hi everyone. I'm so happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me, John L. So I'm Sarah Wilson. I'm a Content Community and Brand strategist. I found in SW projects by worked with lots of different clients. So I do a lot of research as part of my working with clients.


I would say the most fascinating deep dive I took lately was in the run-up to the launch of the product at Nike rolled out called ..., which was an app for teen girls. And as part of that, I am myself in the wellness landscape for Gen Z, kind of how are they thinking about wellness? What does that mean? And really went deep on all platforms. It was totally fascinating and I've since looked at, what's the conversation just on one platform just on Tiktok? In kind of the few months that have passed since.


and just, it has grown exponentially, that sort of wellness, mindfulness, and self care is such a big topic for them, so I, you know, getting to know it was fascinating, love that My next question for you guys is kind of creative or weird, depending how you want to think of it. I want you to come up with a nickname for yourself but not any old nickname. I'm interested in your connecting with teens, nickname That helps me understand what's most important for you or your brand partners when you're thinking about connecting with this audience.


Christina, you wanna go first?


Yes, so I guess I'll have my nickname as the middle child. My role as creating partnerships, as I was saying, between brands, between customers and then also internally, finding that buy in and having sort of like a connective tissue between departments and a pipeline of information. And even though I'm an only child, I know, you know, through my in-laws for both mental children that those traits are, you know, being social. Being a peacekeeper are really, they are. So, having that, sort of even flow between parties.


That's our nickname.


Sure. I think, for us, because I work at PepsiCo, it's really about, you know, starting with the family and, you know, and also a lot of ways that we also don't market directly to those who are not adults. So, I'm gonna go with family ties that are Alex Keaton. But I thought family ties as Polymorphous. Because, you know, the way that we approach things is really just sort of focused on, you know, how teens interact within the family. And also, you know, how do we work with some of, you know, the traditional gatekeepers to reach them?


Makes sense, makes sense, love it, Gary.


Sure, so, so much of what we do it with e-bay sneakers is making sure that people feel comfortable with the, but they were making sure. As a generation calls and we also, you know take. That's an extra B, where we try to make sure our fit within you know the Sikh community and how we connect with our buyers. And sellers and make sure we drive home, you know what our value proposition and how that connectivity fits in a, in a really authentic way is important, so what I was gonna go with is the right fit.


All right.


Got it, Sarah, I'll call myself the demystify here. And my background is as a journalist, And that's how I started my career before I went to Facebook. And, you know, I bring that sense of kind of connecting the dots and helping to illuminate a space that maybe isn't obvious or isn't clear. You know, I'm obviously not Gen Z myself. So I rely on the people around me. The network that I've created, two really helped me understand. And, then, my job is to connect the dots and sort of show you the patterns, and so, I, I would say, the fire.


Something I've been thinking about quite a bit recently, Virtual Ablow passed away. He's Louisville Times, Men's creative director and founder and CEO of the Off White Brand. And, one of his, sort of, quote that really stuck in my mind, That's popped up a few times, particularly recently, is, everything I do is for the 17 year old version of myself.


And, I'm really curious about that. I mean, he was so successful.


Why do you think that focusing on, you know, his own teen mindset or a teen mindset in general, um, was helpful for innovation or helped to drive innovation? Can? Can any of you weigh in on that?


It's out.


Sure. I mean, if, I think back to how I was, when I was 17.


I mean, there's a lot of stories there, but I think the thing that kind of, that resonates with, inverse with respect to this story is just hunger, right? It was like 100 approved oneself, a hunger to go out and commit yourself in the world. I feel like, you know, as we all sort of like progress in our careers. like can you achieve things, Right? It's a lot easier to like focus on those laurels and rest on them. But if you kind of maintain that 70 year old mindset, you're always gonna be pushing it to the next level. And I feel like, you know, that's something that, you know, is always gonna be resonant with, like the greatest thinkers, right, not to stay complacent, but always kinda keep pushing forward.


You know, that 17 year old self, you know, definitely wasn't making the salary that I made today. So I think that something that definitely motivated me, and it keeps me progressing forward.


I jump in. Yeah, I agree with that. Hopefully I think hunger is great, and then other adjectives that come to mind are, you know, being really fearless, right? And just blazing with creativity, and passion, and opinions.


And I think that is really also where this generation, these teens, Gen Z, is right now, too, and it's so important.


You know, their opinions are really shaping how we, as marketers, are talking to them and, you know, they're really changing how companies communicates. So like with Virgil's saying that, I just, it's so much also about inspiration. And I don't know about you guys, but I have a little bit of a case of Arrested Development, right? I think that's part of why I work in youth culture.


And so, you know, I think that that hunger and it's really visceral, just attaches to how one would create product and talk to that to that customer.


Do you guys think that Gen Z teens are different from Millennial teens or genex teens?


Sorry, you want to weigh in on the, I do think that there's a sense of, I'm more of a sense of jadedness honestly, a sense of, like, well, we're all screwed, like in a way that sort of self reflective and funny, As self deprecating quality that I observe them, I'd love to know what other panelists think. But at least, if you spend any time on, on tiktok, For example, you start to get that sort of flavor of humor. And it's sort of a way of living. And I think, millennials are just a lot more like, no, it's not, it doesn't manifest that way. And there's much more of a sense of, like, we can own this, we can do this. Whereas, there is, I think, a sense of Nihilism in Gen Z, even though there's this also a sense of, I can re-invent and reshape. So, it actually IC both. I'd love to hear what other panelists think they'll, because you know the shifts daily.


And I also think there's a lot of contradiction and Gen Z You know, we hear a lot of there's a huge emphasis on sustainability, for example. But, you know, Sheila, I never pronounce that correctly is one of the most explosive, like, brands of our time, for seeing that every day and there anything but sustainable and they, you know, are completely ham fisted with marketing often. We saw that on MLK Day, for example, so like there's just a huge, there's contradictions at play, and I really am reluctant to say, sort of paint with a broad brush. This is one way that Gen Z is because I think it is multi-faceted, like any generation.


I'll go ahead. I see I see some nods. Yeah, I think I think that's just a very multi-faceted generation. I agree with modular.


Sarah was saying But you also see, you know, in the secret space we go to, you know, like arsenic or cognitive dimensions. In the way in which this generation is just kinda like embrace. Like a passion for the culture but also the business side of the culture which is the sneaker had grown up with something I never really looked at. Always did it just for passion. The reason I got my first job was because I wanted to buy a pair of sneakers. No! This is the young people.


Like, they know, they, they're not waiting to go get their first job to, by their parents, think, as they're trying to figure out how they can make money off of the stages that are in their closet, which is something different than we would have looked at. So like the way in which I see, you know, 13 year olds and understanding or 12 year olds understanding of Marketplace and being able to convey that into what a profit margin is, you know, at that age, that was stuff I probably didn't learn to high school. You know? So yeah, I Definitely think multi-faceted probably Wanted a way that I see you see this generation and also their Embrace of Technology, But also you know, not only just technology, but social media specifically. In the way in which they use it to you, know, not follow a trend, but start. A trend is something that I do look to look in and want to see how that's gonna translate in the future. because I also feel like you could see people who, you know.


We talked about being Fearless earlier, Virgil, who are kind of like Embrace and Fearlessness at an earlier age. And also, you know, you know, you hope that carries over into adulthood.


Yeah, it's so fascinating.


I had thought pleasure and honor of doing quite a bit of research in the sneaker space and was really fascinated about by some of the teen entrepreneurs who are literally 50, $60,000 a year buying, reselling sneakers. It's amazing. But I'm also, you know, I think about my nephew who's 19, an incredibly into thrift thing.


And it's something that I personally, have never been into but it's fascinating to see how that unfolds.


I have a friend who's daughter makes custom jeans, like she literally five gets patches and then sell them for $300 to her friends.


And so, um, it's really interesting what you're saying, Gary, about the entrepreneurship incorporating technology into all of this.


Tell me a little bit more about customization.


Is that something that you're seeing, the individuality tell me a little bit more.


Absolutely. And I think so much of it, you know, you talk about, you know, you mentioned earlier him, you know, Donna for a 17 year old self, like that's what Virgil didn't Like. What he did was he took these amazing Silhouettes and Nike and say, Hey, how do I customize this? This Jordan one, which is a classic silhouette and make it my own and make it something that I think is just like, really?


And that's what you see so many people doing.


And, you know, the smartest brains are actually giving people Elaine to do that in a really easy and clean way by adding, you know, additional things that, you know, ways that you can, you know, update and customize your own kicks just just within the Box or online. I know, two of my last three purchases have been customized kicks off of all the different platforms. So I think, ... is just this generation's way of saying, hey, I really loved the silhouette. But this is what this, this is what it means. To me this, I want to interpret it. And now, they're also seeing is, other people want them to interpret that vision of that product, and create and turn it into a business.


So, when you look at some of the top, you know, personalities or influencers in the secret game, a lot of them are people who can customize, but, also, you know, kind of restore and innovate on product, and think, that's something that we're going to continue to see grow. Because I don't, I don't see that level of creativity or, you know, individualization, changing anytime soon.


Yeah, I sort of build off of that, I think, the point that gave me earlier, too, about technology is, What is enabling folks to be able to express that creativity, right?


Because if I think about, like, I'm pretty sure, at some point, I've purchased some sneakers from some teenager. Would I ever do that in real life? Probably not. But it's all virtual, right?


And so, like, from the standpoint of access and removing barriers to entry, for folks who are just trying to get started, You know, definitely has changed the game in terms of how teams can both, you know, build a business, but also, like, express themselves creatively, and be rewarded for that.


I feel like that's a pretty big difference, in terms of how you think about what's possible in the world. If you're already starting from that as your, as your starting point, to then think about, OK, well, how do I continue to build off of that, even as I get older and access to more and more resources? So, it's technologies, definitely changing the game.


I'm curious. Who do you think is doing it well outside of your own organizations? Is there a brand that you might go to for inspiration, or something that you've noticed recently, where someone's capitalize on a trend where you're like, oh, that's what they've done for this target, is really interesting?


Yeah. I went unfilled jump in. I mean, I think there's so many brands right now that are smaller, or, let's say, small to medium, that are coming up. And having active conversations. Let's call it with their audiences and really helping sort of our positioning themselves at the center of a conversation in a way that really, we haven't seen. So we're talking about street where, I think of the hundreds is a great example of a street where brand that has even even sort of among a really cool, you know, forward thinking category is innovating in super interesting ways. And, you know, they're not, you know, they're not massive. They're not an achy but they're, you know, they're coming up and making a name for themselves in it. Be on street where in a way that is so, so interesting to watch. I think of brands like Matt Happy.


I think the fact Matt Happy has attached itself to mental health as a kind of core mission from the start and really express that and so many interesting ways. The way that that that brand is showing up across all channels is extremely kind of meaningful to its community, and I would say, you know, for a big brand, Chipotle, I'm obsessed with watching their moves across the spectrum, you know from a sort of avocado drop on D Pop, I think they did, which was sort of ridiculous marketing move to a job fair.


They ran on discord to kind of their daily posting and sort of how they converse with their community. It's super smart and I think helps to foster audience of extremely loyal audience who are there for more than like the burritos. You know they're there for the conversation and the fun and sort of being part of something.


Those are three. They're always on my radar, but I'm curious to know you guys. Because I tend to be also in a bubble, so I'd love to know.


I think those are great. I mean, I was gonna just say, also, collaborations really, you know, create this compressed hype. I feel like last week or this week, I don't even know. It was the Gucci North Face Collaboration. And it's sort of this idea that instead of the trickle down, trickle up, right? It's like using an influencer from tick tock as the face of it's like the democratization of fashion and then they released it through a content platform, through height beast.


You know and I think if that kind of formula is something that's been really successful in that people are are doing such a good job of and kind of that like pressure to make creators and collaborators get the credit.


I think so many brands are doing that, and Sarah is the expert here, but, you know, sort of rolling into what so many brands are doing with, with an experimentation, I think to now we'll get to that probably later about disruption and innovation.


But, so many brands that are really quickly attaching to tech trends like, Gary Roselle, what you were speaking to earlier, an FTE to it Now, I'm very curious like what your use of fans?


What I'm also the sneaker space. I think you're, I think it's an example of a sector that force, and even like the Giants to kinda keep their fingers, Apple, you know, like, I look at, I don't look at, anyone is in the space is really, like, kinda, like rest on their laurels Light.


The way in which, you know, Nike and Adidas continue to innovate as well as Puma is pretty amazing, one of the biggest, I would say, brands that I've seen grow over the last I would say, 12 to 18 months is actually new balance, which you talk, you talk about taking class excuse, a warrant probably viewed history culture outside of certain pockets and then re-inventing them.


So now that there, some of their silhouettes and collaborations, are some of the hottest on the market, has been pretty impressive.


Then, I look at other people who are just saying, Hey, I'm going to create my own lane, like, super heroic, when they're like, how they're, like, targeting, just like dance and getting, you know, you know, taking all the lessons that you can learn from, you know, the giants like Nike and Adidas. And then target of a younger audience and get penetration.


There has just been pretty amazing.


So, it's interesting in this space, how, like, is much, as the brands set, the market, I think that these, at least in a stinker space, the brands that we really in tune with what the customer is, expecting, or else the customer demands something else, or it will show the builders creator on their own.


What trends, technology, advancement, or phenomenon has been most influential or disruptive when you think about your role in connecting with teens today.


Christine, do you want to take a stab at that?


Yeah, I mean, I think for us, of course, social and having that 1 to 1 in true dialog of being able to respond directly to customers, but right now, it's tick talking to the fast-paced content and scroll, but already it's churning. And to ...


and Web three and the metaverse like today I got an e-mail saying Sarah, I feel like I could have come from YouTube but I didn't know going from scrolling to strolling, right? Like, already, so fast, we're there, I love that expression and, you know, there is just like a $65 billion acquisition yesterday by Microsoft and the gaming community, and our three brands that are in robots. And so, I think, you know, there's so much innovation coming really quickly.


For me where I work, and as a marketer, I, I really fascinated are happy with this idea.


Within a company culture of being able to, like, embrace the disruption, do it quickly, test and pilot ideas, and having sort of that freedom to experiment, right, And like, sometimes with teens, it's like, it's not all high stakes, I think, with value marketing and making sure you're, you're, you know, really talking to the customer values. Yes. But with some of the trend, you can be as fast paced and as reactive as the customer.


Totally. Any other trends, as well?


Yeah, as I think about, you know, what's been going on for like the last year, right, is everyone is sort of like Hunkered down at home.


You know, one of the things that sort of struck me is just like, no content is not just from the usual places, right? It's, you know, very much, you know, continuing to expand exponentially in terms of like global reach and no consumption of content, right? Like, I think about, especially. As it relates to teams like, thinking about, like, the popularity of, like, NMA, like, way more than it has been, like, over the last, you know, many, many years. Like, influences.


are changing right now, even as they think about, like, the fact that we're having a conversation on teens or teens? Teens are not a monolith, right?


There's so many different passion points, that, some, sort of, like, break down everyone's experiences into silos. And that's very different, right? Than even 20 years ago, when everyone was still sort of watching this.


Couple of shows on a big Network TVs. And, you know, like, I don't know.


I feel like the change of pace as it relates to that is, is helping teens close to discover who they are, right. Because that's on some level, whether teenagers are like finding your place in the world. But the access to information is helping helping, helping to sort of like.


Brought in what that potential landscape looks like that they pull from in order to self identify And that's both interesting from a marketing perspective. Right? Because you have so many options to choose from in terms of connection. But it's also just, sort of like on the other end of the spectrum, Demining, because there's so much to keep up with. And, and really being clear about who you want to target, within even the sphere of teens. This is very important in order to drive efficiency.


So, how do you, How do you think about that? Like, how do you think about where to focus? When?


It's so interesting, because just last week, I was part of a, a workshop where I've learned that human beings are Americans make 35,000 decisions a day to go.


So it's like, overwhelming the amount of choices that we haven't, given that teams aren't a monolith. How do you focus?


Where do you, how do you draw a line in the sand when you have to figure out what you're doing with a particular brand?


Mean, I can jump in here. I think it has to do with figuring out what your core value prop is, not only from a product point of view, what are your features of your product, but what do you stand for, and then who is that actually going to have value for? That will define who your audience is, This is like, very well one. But I think a lot of marketers lose sight of it. At least the ones I work with often do. And I see that. And so it's like, OK, you find your people. Where are those people? And part of the reason I started writing and thinking talking about this idea of digital Campfires, Which is a trend that I've observed.


You know, sort of a word that I came up with. The term that I came up with to kind of encapsulate this move of audiences from open expansive social platforms to smaller more intimate online spaces like roadblocks and like discord were example.


Part of the reason I started writing about that and talk about it is to help brands understand, OK, where your audiences are where are they hanging out? Where are they showing up now? And so, if you don't know who you're looking for than it, is that much harder to find them, especially in these small spaces, it's because you can't just simply target them with ads. You have to be careful, and sort of curate your content, and figure out where you're gonna go and show up. So I would say that that's sort of the biggest shift that I've observed. And sort of, like, if you don't, if you really don't know who you are for, that's even that much more of a problem now. And so, really figuring that out. And that's why I think that honestly, sneaker culture has thrived online. Because it's very specific where you can go into places and spaces where that's the thing that's being discussed. And that's the passion point. And so if you're interested in that, you go to those places and deep interests, communities thrive online. I think we've seen that.


Yeah. And just, you know, for me, like, the point about knowing who you are, so important to figure out, like, who you, who you want to target, but also, like, the other side of it. It's almost like how people will perceive you. Right?


Because the bowl meter is at an all-time high, especially, you know, even though, like, maybe our parents can tell what fake news is really, like. Definitely like teams on how to figure it out really quickly. So if you are seeing all of a sudden that you're doing something where like, doing something else, like, people are going to be able to call you out pretty quickly.


So knowing who you are, in order to stay true to it, and create that authenticity by which you can then reach out to teens is clearly important.


Fill in the blank for me.


For us, doing blank or with teens is the hardest because of blank.


For us, doing blank, for or with teens is the hardest because of blank.


Anyone want to take a stab at that?


Yeah, OK.


Just tell me what's the hardest thing to do.


Yeah, I mean, I don't think I'm only gonna get out of town.


I just think, No.


In general, I think everyone's trying to understand how to connect with this, you know, with teens in this generation more, and I think part of that is because there's so many different areas in which you can engage with them.


And I'd like to the last question, it's really about, one, how do you, you know, really, pick which lane you want to own.


I'm sure that you're doing everything you can.


You know, again, we mentioned earlier, but Tina, on a monolith, and, you know, you also had the benefit of probably having more information, in terms of, like segmenting and everything else that we've ever had in terms of data, and how you can slice it.


So, you know, making sure that you are super targeted, but also making sure that you, kind of going back to how we started, it, aren't sort of like hamstringing yourself and saying, this is the only way I can approach, like, people like test and measure.


No, I think is super important with this generation light.


See what works. Be really diligent about what KPIs, what measurements, what, what does success look like.


And then, and then judge it. And then see if that's something you want to add, you know, continue to build on.


But like with this generation, I think connecting is super difficult because there's so many ways in which you can engage with them. But there's also so many ways in which you can come off is inauthentic or it can come off as forced. So how do you authentic way But also how do you do it in a way to kind of make sense for whatever your your business or your venture is?




I'm just gonna jump in and say that the best way to prevent some of those mistakes is having Z's on the payroll. like I try to bring in Gen Z writers and thinkers whenever.


I'm working on projects as part of the mix because there is just so much room to you know go wrong in some of these projects and and having their voices in the room is super important and knowing like Who are the people who are going to resonate with this community? It's really, It can be really hard, especially if you're not, like sitting on these platforms every day. And so, involving them in that conversation, I think, is super, super important.


I always try to That's such a good call out. I, I have the same.


I think, I don't think anybody who works for me is over 28, and, you know, there's so much closer to who our customer is just, like, we're getting influence and inspiration from the fleet of field employees in the store, and really having that two-way conversation.


Yeah, I think that that's, that's a great call out. And then sort of on the other side of that.


Is having your community that you've developed, and Gary like that authenticity that you're talking about, and what we've been saying on social, is giving them a platform to speak by on your own social channels. So, you know, being able to work with the micro influencers, and letting them speak to their own audiences, and having a place for them to tell their story, or, you know, their beliefs as well.


Tell me a little bit about parents and the people that care for teens today. How do you connect with them?


They're really, I think, a fascinating group of gatekeepers, and in many ways can really control, um, the decision making.


Tell me a little bit about that.




I can jump in here. I mean we spend a lot of time thinking about families and sort of like interconnectedness of different roles. I will say, you know, as we think about the role of parents over the years, right?


Like, their role as, in their power, as Gatekeepers is diminishing.


I would say right, because there's now so many more direct ways to to have a conversation with a team, right, Everyone has their phones and as such, they have all the accompanying communication channels that come with it.


I think, you know, especially is now, you see, you, know, teams start to have a bit more financial freedom, either, because they have their own businesses that, like we talked about earlier.


Or for some reason, they're able to also just, like, buy stuff directly online, You know, Maybe they took somebody's credit card or something, or they had their own.


I feel like that's changing the game, and so it really becomes about, how do you find common ground, right, which I know, is always a challenge for, for parents with teens. But I think that's where, you know, you've seen a lot of brands start to shift beyond just sort of the common marketing practices of the past.


Where it's, like, big partnerships, or, you know, sort of, like, really, into a space where it's more purpose driven, right?


And so, thinking about, no, what can sort of, like, serve as a common ground for conversation, right?


If I think about, like, no brand that, I work on, right purely if it's really about, you know, the power of no, right? And I think that's something that can started an early age, and it's, you know, seeing, though, is beautiful, so that you can say yes to the things that actually do matter to you, right? Like, that's a, that's a, that's a powerful, sort of, like, truth, that I think, you know, kind of, goes across ages.


And that's a much easier thing to sort of, build a platform around, an idea off, of, then, you know, picking, an influencer that might have, like, a specific narrow appeal, right?


Where, you know, unless you're really going for, like, spend the big bucks. But I feel like that's something that's definitely changing over the years in terms of just the diminishing power of the gatekeepers.


Yes, I wanted to comment.


Whoops, sorry, I was going to say, I think the common ground piece is so important, and unfortunately, because I deal in the space that, you know, you have enthusiasm, or people who love your product at 15, at 15.


So, I think, you know, finding that common ground in a sneaker space is a little bit easier because now all of a sudden, you have, you know, mothers and daughters of daughters and fathers of fathers and sons, or what have you that, you know, You know, have that common ground around?


Like, you know this footwear and this product, and you know, know, it's funny because I was talking to one of my buddies from business school the other day, and he was just like, Oh. So?




literally, um, Need you to help me out with the decision. I need to make sure that come with this issue with this. Or what about, like, you know, as much as he wants his, you know, his daughter to be, you know, fresh for our little League basketball game. He is a coach, he also wants to look super cooled on the sideline, while he's doing his best film, jet, Phil Jackson. And they are bonded over, you know, that, let love for sneakers because, like, she wants to keep them fresh, and he wants to be fresh and he wants to keep refreshing bulb line. You know, you, you have to find common ground. And I think so much of that comes back to, like, you think about how we connect with people. Naturally, we connect through authentic connection.


Whether it's mentors, or whether it's a professor, or whether it's a friend, it's like something that is kind of seamless and easy to connect with. And finding that common ground is so important. So I do think with this generation, that is to provide. So fortunate, what recommendations would you give it?


Anyone who knows the secrets as we were battling over?


Know, these are the ones who graze or concord's and they haven't kinda like this gray Black Holloway with the team. So we essentially landed on Earth because it's a great issue ever created, but he also wanted to go Kubernetes because these are the new ones and blah blah, blah, and I was like Yeah, but you have to understand You got it. Got it.


Got it Lovely like everybody's kinda cool ways you need to count the concourse.


Does not everyone's gonna do that So everyone's looking like what the cool gray you to come with it The thing that they may have forgotten about you know the show moves back.


Because I totally agree with advice.




Can, I didn't mean, I totally agree with the common ground, like assessment, but I do have a question about authenticity, I'm just curious to know what the current things, because I, like, we hate, we hear so much as marketers about authenticity and showing up in an authentic way as a brand. But I think that the entire notion of authenticity is being completely turned on its head right now. And I'll give you an example that, that was fascinating to me.


A couple of weeks ago, you guys observe this, there was an artist, a musical artist on tick tock. And she blew up, because somebody in the comments said, Hey, can you write a song based on the alphabet? And she wrote a song based on the alphabet.


It went totally viral, and, then later, it was essentially sleuths on Tiktok, because Everyone is a Sleuth and tiktok determined that this comment was actually left by a marketing person from Atlantic Records, which is her label. And it was this kind of like mini ... controversy.


It kind of blew up in a way that do there, but just not went to number one on the billboard charts. And I noticed this because I looked it up a couple of days ago. While The artist's name is Gail, and she is with Atlantic records.


I just know when we think about the idea of authenticity, right? Like authentic comment, it was sparked. It sparked virality. Wow, that's amazing. Atlantic records took this mechanic of the platform and used it and did it in a super smart way. But it wasn't authentic. So, like, how are we? Like, it's just, it's more like a meta question about what does it mean to be authentic now, And brands are getting in the mix on these conversations, and how do we maintain this idea, or is it even worthy of maintaining? or are we sort of mixing and matching what authentic means? I just think it's all up for debate now, and I'm super interested to hear what the panelists thing.


Big question, I ask. I mean, to me, it's almost like half a glass half empty or half full, right? I think there's always gonna be people who look at something and want to look at, sort of like, and critique it for something that may be wrong with it. Where there's I'm sure there's a lot of people clearly that love the song and celebrate it in the data to, number one, should be appreciated. For what it is, because it is still a great piece of art.


And so I Don't know like it is definitely like an interesting Question, right, because there's I mean we've probably all done sort of like, You know Some something similar to like let's break this news, right? Like how to say yeah, Yeah, Yeah, so I think it's just a how do you see the world? Sort of question mm? hmm?


I think it's also the dichotomy you were talking about with like the $5 dress it shayne.


That's the You know, versus only you know only wanting to support Value brand.


Know, that, same like you, or you're just to craft your own phrase, but the mix and matching.


And, you know, the upstream and downstream, I, you know, what we're talking about with Gen Z versus millennial, there is, there is this sort of fast pace dynamism, and and you're right. Authenticity is key.


But also, if it's not, it's OK. It's about appearing authentic or having that sort of matching the language of the platform. Like, I'm just as a marketer, I'm trying to wrap my head around, like, well, what is it a thing that is still going to appeal and makes sense? But it doesn't come off as wrong, but, you know, but but works in the mechanic. Like, I think that's where, I'm just trying to answer the question almost for myself. Like, how do you play in that space and seek and show up authentically? Is it more about speaking the language of the platform than anything else?


Yeah. I think a couple of things I think we all have the opportunity to see this play out in a lot of different ways. And one of the interesting things, it also comes down to intent, right? Like, is your intent to defraud or is your intent to really have an authentic interaction and engage.


And so, while no someone on her team possibly set the prompt, I think it sounds like an intent was authentic.


And so I think that's what what, you know, intention is important as well, 100% agree with that in life.


Know, if anything, when you're daring greatness, I think that comes in an element of risk, right.


And I think on some level, if you're doing something right, there's always going to be some haters that kind of make comments on it, and service like, if you're not daring to that level of greatness, like, you probably are not daring to have eight hours at some point. Right. So it's, I think it's OK, because, at least are being talked about, and there's some success associated with it versus, you know, just sort of like, you know, moving along at status quo and potentially success.


And I think sometimes it's also the role of a parent, or a mentor, or like, you know, a great sort of advisor to sort of set the prompt. Like, I look at my daughter growing up, and I'm just like, I know what she can do.


So sometimes I'm like, hey, Wave, do this, you know, like, show, show, or like, you ask the right question, or the right probe.


And so, sometimes you just need a catalyst to get you there. And I think that's, that's interesting, as well. I wanna, I wanna shift gears a little bit.


We talked so much about connecting with teens, I wanna talk a little bit about insights, and how, you know, obviously, we've touched on that in some ways, you know, making sure you have someone, you know, Gen Z on the payroll, or, you know, I'm curious.


What's your first priority when it comes to developing a new product, or a new partnership, or taking a new product to market when you think about this audience?


Mean, for us, it always starts with the consumer, right? Like, talk to the people that you want to sell their product to understand. Sort of like, their attitudes, Where are they missing from products, where do they lie? But, then, it's hard, right?


Because even the comment I made earlier, about like, teens are not a monolith, like, even as you talk to people and have one-on-one connections and conversations, you know, one person is super different than the next person, But, as a group, like, you're trying to get to them.


So, while it's still super appealing to have those connections, and I think that's probably the best way to really just understand, it's still hard to think about that in aggregate.


And, so, it's a mix of, like, you know, do the qual do the client try to assess it.


And that's where, you know, I think that's what we all get paid paid to kind of like figure it out. And try to walk that balance just as we sort of like locked the balance between sort of art and science, right? And managing through different business challenges, but also trying to put some creativity into the world.


It will say, I think that the next great generation of brands is going to come up from community channels. So what is popping on Reddit that is going to birth the next business, what is popping on tick tock? Like, if you look, and you go deep, and those interests communities, there are businesses in each one, the other day, I was looking, and guess, I've talked a lot about Tiktok. So, that's just, the, you know, I was looking, there's, you know, really rapid community around, dip, talk like for dips, people interested in dips like Game Day dips, everything from super super like, you know, trashy gifts to like very elevated depth. Like, that's a business. Like, I don't know what it is, but it is, And there's a community there who is excited about that. And you could just pick any number of communities, deep interest communities, to build businesses around.


And I do think that going that way first, and then building from the ground up with that community in mind, is going to yeah, like I said, sort of birth the next generation of business for businesses that already exist. I think they have to find those communities who are potentially receptive because everyone is in those narrow lanes. So finding them is super important.


I'd love to hear others. thoughts on this, though.


For me, for partnerships, that means that I cannot wait to check that out by the way there. But, you know? Like, I was literally, You know, finding that balance Beam familiarity and then the unexpected. I think also, with teens, as we're all talking about, there's really a hunger for discovery. You kind of want to be first. Just as we, as marketers, we want to be first to plot former first idea.


So having that, know, as you were saying, is now, you know, it's kind of like art and science, but content and commerce and, you know, relevancy reward, discovery were some, you know, some kind of terms that I was thinking about.


That's important to how we market, you know?


Like we have music as a huge arm of our business.


I mean, I have a Global music curator on my team like what retailer you know would have that like how is at a position, but I didn't know who's actually so vital to our team.


So, just ensuring that we have that there's cultural relevancy and that there's that, there is discovery, Let's say, it's, you know, an emerging artist, and then there's the reward. And let's say it's like opportunity to have a meet and greet with said person.


So, theme is when I'm putting together partnerships, those are no really sort of the entry points that I'm looking at as coming from as a first priority.


Curious, how, if at all, do you feel like being a woman or a person of color has made you better at connecting with teens or with Gen Z, or any non sort of mainstream audience?


It goes back to the comments I made on, like, having sees on the payroll, right? Like, in this case, I'm on, I'm on payroll. And, you know, I think coming from being a person of color, like an understanding.


So, there are those experiences having lived them myself. It definitely helps.


Just started to build that connection in at least, no, especially as we think about, like, interpreting cultural cues and just sort of like subtle communication signs that like, hey, this is really about you, right. And this is for you. This is content that, you know, we're creating, or this product is for you, or the service for you. Like being able to communicate that, and having that knowledge sort of, like within me or within the team is clearly, really important to kind of also signal that authenticity that we were talking about earlier because they know that it's not just coming from a brand. It's coming from, like, some people behind the brand, or at least the brand has personality given to it, by the people that understand their situation.


I think for me, you know, being a person of color and in this communities is better than important. Because the community is extremely diverse ethnic, community isn't, it's hard to put it.


Race, ethnicity, gender, age know, it's hard to put it on the state community because so many people love sneaker, so much. So, like, you know, making sure that is something, You know, Diversity. And inclusion are things that you really embrace and understand that. Everybody has, sort of, like, a role in this community. And everyone has a different experience, and just kind of going into it open that way is something that, you know, of, you know, I think it's, it's, it's been great to really embrace. So, you know, obviously, when you think about the way in which sneaker culture feeds over an urban culture and that feeds over into, you know, Black culture and everything else. There's definitely connectivity there, but, you know, Even beyond the way in which the community is.


Like continue to evolve. And everyone embraces.


So, know, the kid in the suburbs, the young lady who grew up in, you know, Amsterdam, the person in Asia like, you know, the, you know, whoever the I talked about before, the 50 year old had in the, you know, 14 year old daughter Like, all those stories that you hear every day.


It's a really diverse community, and I think for, for me, personally, like, my ability to embrace that diversity, and also want everyone to feel like we are, you know, is, is e-bay or being as inclusive as possible, and how we, you know, show up for the community, is super important. So, those are always a thing.


You know, you know, my role as a person of color versus Vermont, I won't say role, but me, as a person of color. It's impact that we'll be doing on a daily basis.


I'm curious, naturally or organically, as part of this conversation, we've talked about how multi-faceted Gen Z or teens are today, and just how they're not a monolith. I'm hearing you say that so much of this comes naturally, but do you ever have to explain the business case for inclusion with your work with Gen Z? Is it something that you ever have to advocate for?


Or is it No, just given the this particular demographic, it's natural in your organizations.


Can you, can you guys weigh in on that a little bit?


I think the natural tension is between the short term and the long term, right.


I think, you know, depending on sort of, like, the role that you play on the team, like, you know, are you focused on delivering the short term, or not, like, clearly, working in a publicly traded company. There's a lot of pressure on the short-term, but, you know, always kinda keeping the division right in mind.


And staying true to sort of like how you want your brand to show up and culture and what sort of ultimate goal you're kind of striving to, helps to keep in mind.


The fact that like, other groups that may not necessarily be the core today are needed to get there. And how do you sort of like create the pathway to make sure that, you know, there's lots of options in the world that they don't sort of like stray away from your brands.


I think that's always been, like, I wouldn't say like crude use fear is like a tactic, but, you know, really trying to understand. You know? And like, the, the role and the contribution that that specific demographic has to the greater whole. and also projecting out what that looks like in the future.


Like, it is a powerful way to sort of like, keep people focused on, hey, this isn't just about, no, the fact that we want to connect with teens, but there's also like a true business motive at the end of the day. That's, that's motivating it.


I do think that, the difference between like, growing up, when we were 17 and now, is, like, if businesses don't pay attention to this generation, there is a huge, like, business risk. So, paying attention to how they're showing up, What they're doing, the moves that are making the business that they're building as creators is super important. I mean, I was struck by the, the sort of quickness with which Nike bought artifact, the, you know, digital goods company. That's a signal that you know that a very young new nascent brand has caught the attention of that big company is is it's it's just it's telling. And I think it's something to pay attention to. And sort of a template for, what's to come, I think.




Yeah, I was just gonna say, you know, to, for us, like to have sort of D&I work, become business as usual.


And part of everything we do, you know, from casting intent behind the scenes photography to just having it weave through all efforts, both internally and externally.


Whether it's like we just worked on an HBCU internship program that was like mentor ship as well as ultimately sellable goods and really created, you know, start to finish project.


But having the conversations, you know, within the organization. And then for us, it's everything we do. It's having that value prop and standing for it.


Just because that is the customer, that is who they are. So, it's a true representation.


I think, General, it's like something you had said earlier, where it's kind of, you're looking at it as software, right?


Yeah, no, I was, I was so funny, because I was going there, in my mind, as well, I might be dating myself a little bit.


But I feel like inclusion is today. What digital was in marketing, Like, 15, 20 years, right? So, I know everyone's, you know, big have a chief digital officer, and they're trying to figure out how to integrate it into all of their operations, but it's really the software that we need to, to operate on today.


It, related to that, do you see a connection between inclusion or diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and innovation? Can we talk a little bit about that as we wrap up?


So I'll say that, you know, just like the parallel, you made around, like, you know, 15 years ago, digital was like, oh my God, We need to know digital person, and someone needs to be in control of it, but now, like everyone has some element of digital, right?


Like, the goal of the future is everyone is now their Chief Inclusion Officer, right? Because you cannot ignore where the demographics are taking us, as well as just the general goal of a marketer to connect with your audience, Right?


And as I think, as it relates to innovation, hopefully your innovation person is not living in the now, they're living in that future.


So like, they need to be thinking about all of the things that we just talked about, because inclusion is basically part of their mandate. So they shouldn't necessarily need to be a separation of the two, like the one, in my mind.


Yeah. I agree. I think those diverse perspectives, and really create an environment where people feel welcome to share their perspective, and it will help lead to a more innovative workplace, Some more innovative solutions.


I think, you know, one of the things we look at is, you know, making sure that are our messaging, and what we're doing really reflects who our customer bases, And, I think, oftentimes, kinda, like, she was talking about earlier with having, you know, haven't sees in the room, like, we also have to have representation an institute. Or, that, you know, it's something that I talk with, you know? Well, how can we, better representation a room, and make sure that, you know, the people who we want to know, that are on our site and that are supporting our community, is reflected within the company? And, and, you know, I think that'll help us for ways to recruit. You know, connect with people irrespective of gender, ethnicity, race, all. So, I think the, more in which we have, you know, the right representation of women, more, which we can also drive better innovation and ultimately serve our customer base better.


I love that.


I'm just scrolling through looking at some of the questions we've gotten from the audience. And one of them that I'd like to throw out to you guys is, how do you approach CSR corporate social responsibility from a Gen Z mindset?


So it comes across as authentic. And I know some of the things that we've talked about touched on this a little bit. But I'd love to specifically, sort of throw the CSR.


Um, question out there, any takers?


Are you with NCS arginine?


Or, you know, or it's the the question asker sort of including, sort of all all value marketing.


So LGBTQ mental health, you know, sort of total donations, I think similar to like to the D&I work that has become part of the organization. All efforts. It's the same with CSR. it's a little tougher as our, you know, and all of us as being in a publicly traded company to have to be a bit, you know, careful where we're donating, what organizations were affiliating affiliating with. And there is that BS Barometer. Also with customers, right? Like, it's all of the things. It's like. Get trolled for who you donate to. You can never donate enough, like, even if you're giving X amount, like, well, that's still like that wasn't enough, You're like, it was a million dollars, you know.


So, it's like CSR has gotten trickier.


And, you know, for us, we, we actual, we donate or we participate in CSR, as it attaches to our brand values, so it's creativity, entrepreneurial is, um, you know, LGBTQ rights. But what we're also doing, I feel like a real broken record here, is making sure that we are also donating and having corporate social responsibility to actually our community.


So for example, like Latin Heritage Month, we worked with, again, micro influencer and helped her to donate to the organization that she was most passionate about, that we's, our company, could not have, but in helping her to. It sort of was also, you know, flipping a CSR on a tablet on that.


So, amplifying other voices really being support and a platform. I love that. We are at our, I didn't even realize how quickly this conversation. When you guys are phenomenal, I have. So enjoyed speaking with you and having this important conversation. So thank you, and I hope we stay connected, and I look forward to keeping the conversation going. So thank you. Alan, I'll pass it back to you.


Wow. I just wanna thank our wonderful wonderful guests for today's really candid discussion.


And thank you to all our attendees for joining us. We did just start receiving even more questions and so those will be responded to by e-mail as well. You should be on the lookout for a direct link to today's recording presentation.


Please do reach out to us at any time. That now concludes today's webinar. Have a Wonderful day, everyone!


Thank you so much. Thanks, everyone!

The author(s)
  • Janelle James SVP, Qualitative

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