Redefining Authority: understanding the needs of Gen Z

Gen Z is the first generation of true digital natives; the oldest among them were just 12 when the iPhone was launched. They’re often portrayed as homogenous and superficial: a single unit constantly obsessing over Instagram and their appearance, but there’s more to them than this.

Most notably, their hyper-connectedness has intimately exposed them to numerous scandals, from political to #MeToo, not to mention looming climate catastrophe. All this has led to a breakdown in what had previously been unwavering trust in traditional authority figures. But this same connectedness has also left them more empowered than any previous generation; it has allowed them to critique, debate, and question power, and to organise online to share ideas and solutions. Their needs from brands, organisations and people are evolving and these changes are tightly linked to shifts in society as a whole.

Flamingo recognised the growing need to understand Gen Z beyond the stereotypes, and what the needs of this emerging generation means for brands and businesses. To do this, we needed to understand authority – how can a brand persuade Gen Z consumers to trust and engage with them in an unstable cultural climate?

To answer this, we collaborated with research partners in Mumbai, Seoul, Shanghai and Mexico City to explore the context of shifting authority. We spoke to experts in authority and Gen Z influencers that are actively involved in creating new forms of authority. We combined qualitative insight, semiotics and futures analysis to understand what authority looks, sounds and feels like for Gen Z.

This research allowed us to identify five key needs that Gen Z have from authority and four types of ‘new’ authority, which are all outlined in our Gen Z: Redefining Authority report. In this report, we describe these types of new authority, what underpins them, and which brands and organisations currently best embody them. We also offer guidance for how brands can start to understand the type of authority they hold, and what that means for how they communicate with Gen Z. The report has been presented at events hosted by APG and General Assembly.

To download a full copy, please click here. For more information regarding the report or to request a Gen Z: Redefining Authority presentation tailored to your business, please get in contact at

Milly Liechti