3 Lessons Digital Marketers Can Learn from Greta Thunberg and Other Gen Z Activists

December 16, 2019Sparxoo

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Greta Thunberg and the other heroes of Generation Z have been shaped by three things.

● They never have known a world without the internet.
● They have risen to public prominence through adversity.
● They understand how to inspire cultural change by delivering a compelling message to a big audience.

Digital marketers can learn a lot from the experiences and achievements of these accomplished, young activists.

Sparxoo’s 2020 Trends Guide for Digital Marketing focuses on the emergence of Generation Z as a consumer force. It also emphasizes the importance of finding a voice that will register with these new consumers and, just as important, reaching consumers who are influenced by them.

Young people as activists – this is not new. What’s new is how the wonderful, authentic communicators of this century express their messages, and the digital channels they use to reach, influence and expand their audiences.

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One well-known Gen Z leader is Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate evangelist, who spoke with such fierce passion at the United Nations General Assembly about the importance of taking action in response to climate change. She was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019 last week.

Another Gen Z role model is 22-year-old Malala Yousafzai, outspoken champion of education for all, who overcame an assassination attempt in her home country of Pakistan to become the youngest Nobel laureate in history.

And then there are the survivors of the February 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and their classmates quickly galvanized a large, diverse segment of the U.S. population with their nationwide gun violence awareness campaign, March for Our Lives.

They all have made their mark early in their lives because they saw a need and acted on it. Here are three lessons digital marketers can learn about visibility and effective messaging from these young activists:

Lesson 1: Turn adversity into advocacy.

Malala grew up in a culture dominated by the Taliban. Her family owned a chain of schools in her home region, and her parents instilled a sense of duty toward education and human rights.

As a child, she embraced humanitarian causes, earning recognition as a human rights advocate under oppressive Taliban rule. She was targeted for assassination in 2012, but she survived and gained international notoriety as a fighter and a symbol of resilience.

The takeaway for digital marketers: Setbacks happen. Rather than become discouraged, build new momentum by seeking and committing to creative solutions.

Setbacks happen. Rather than become discouraged, build new momentum by seeking and committing to creative solutions. Click To Tweet

Lesson 2: Support words with action.

At age 15, Greta Thunberg spent two weeks sitting alone “on strike” outside the Swedish parliament. Within a year, she had become a catalyst for thousands of Climate Strike participants around the world.

She also became a focal point for ridicule, criticism and threats from climate change deniers.

When invited to speak at the UN, she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, rather than flying or taking a cruise ship. Her passionate speech was punctuated by the new rallying cry of young climate activists: “How dare you?”

She then set out on a tour of the United States and Canada to support Climate Strikes throughout North America. And when it was time to attend a climate conference in Spain, she hitched a ride across the Atlantic on another sailboat.

The takeaway: Amplify your message with meaningful action in support of your vision. Commit to act and honor your commitments.

Amplify your message with meaningful action in support of your vision. Commit to act and honor your commitments. Click To Tweet

Lesson 3: Be persistent.

In the immediate aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, young survivors like Hogg and Gonzalez turned their anger into action by bringing a message of gun violence prevention to TV, social media and in-person protests at the state capital in Tallahassee. Within three weeks, the Florida legislature had passed a law increasing the age requirement to purchase semiautomatic rifles to 21.

Meanwhile, the students built on that momentum by organizing March for Our Lives events in cities throughout the U.S. In Washington, D.C., Gonzalez spoke poignantly about how all of their lives changed forever during the 6 minutes, 20 seconds it took for the shooter to complete his deadly rampage.

She was at her most eloquent during an extended period of silence, a moment that became emblematic of the pain and emptiness left behind by the shooter’s action – but also came to represent the resilience and resolve of Gonzalez and her classmates to work tirelessly to end gun violence.

The takeaway: Once you’ve taken action, ask yourself, “What’s next?” The answer will determine how your organization can maintain the momentum you created.

Once you’ve taken action, ask yourself, “What’s next?” The answer will determine how your organization can maintain the momentum you created. Click To Tweet

Read about the ripple effect of Gen Z’s arrival as a major consumer block in our 2020 Guide to Trends in Digital Marketing.