The Roundtable
by Karen Alberg Grossman
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After a brief hiatus, The Roundtable, a talented group of visual merchandising professionals, met again last Thursday at Goldsmith’s magnificent rooftop penthouse with breathtaking views of Manhattan. These semi-monthly meetings of our industry’s most artistic minds (modeled after Dorothy Parker’s literary discussion groups at The Algonquin in the 1920s) first began in 2011 with the purpose of exchanging ideas on industry issues, listening to experts on various relevant topics, and keeping those creative juices flowing.

The topic of the evening was “Marketing to Gen Z”, as presented by Lucie Green (futurist at marketing communications company J. Walter Thompson) and School of Doodle founder Molly Logan. (School of Doodle is a creative digital platform powered by teenagers.)

Among the evening’s fascinating insights into this young demographic that generates $44 billion in annual purchasing power: Teenagers see themselves as brands, with influence beyond their own worlds. They are ethnically diverse but globally similar. They are ambitious and entrepreneurial, hard-working and intent on saving. They don’t let anything stop them: they see the obstacles and problems ahead of them, but these are not viewed as insurmountable. They are a lot like Gen X but more optimistic: they don’t just talk about changing the world, they get out there and do it!

Suggestions for brands on connecting with this generation: Don’t be preachy or pretentious. Don’t claim to have it all figured out. Don’t shout about being sustainable, charitable, ethnically diverse or authentic; let your young customers discover these attributes on their own. Make sure your authenticity is genuine and not just for show. Remember, this is the generation that called out Marc Jacobs for featuring white runway models in dreadlocks (calling it “cultural appropriation”).

A special thank you to the speakers, and to hosts Tom Beebe, Dan Evans and Eric Feigenbaum for an enlightening evening (and for the visually enticing small plates and cocktails!)