Vietnam’s Gen Z: Debunking myths and gaining insights

Apr. 15, 2022
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The Vietnam Team from Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living ASEAN (HILL ASEAN) recently presented their latest research on Generation Z (Gen Z). HILL is the acronym for Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living, a special think tank to study and gain understanding of people. The first institute was established in Tokyo in 1981, followed by HILL Shanghai in China and HILL ASEAN in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Vietnam Team came together for an online forum to share their findings on Vietnam’s Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012), along with insights into how brands can better engage with this up-and-coming group.

Ginta Yamaguchi (Hakuhodo Vietnam Group’s General Director/CEO and the head of HILL’s Vietnam Team) prefaced the forum with an overview of Sei-katsu-sha Insight, the core philosophy that defines and informs every aspect of Hakuhodo’s business around the globe. He explained how the three Chinese characters used to write ‘sei-katsu-sha’ in Japanese mean “life-living person,” representing a holistic way of viewing people not merely as consumers but as individuals with rich, diverse lives.

Solving the “mysterieZ” of Gen Z

“Young people today….” Each older generation tends to think that the one coming along behind has it easier, but what do people think about Gen Z and are these assumptions correct? HILL ASEAN’s Vietnam Team explored some of the popular stereotypes about this generation, and the results are both surprising and enlightening. Their findings were organized into four categories: Work, Social Life, Relationships and Decision-making.

Thanh Nguyen (Strategic Planning Director) reminded everyone that although Gen Zers are still very young, they will become the future of Vietnam’s workforce and consumer base. “To understand Gen Z, we believe nothing is better than working with Gen Zers themselves,” he said when introducing the methodology behind the research.

“We used quantitative and qualitative surveys, conducted by our Gen Z researchers, in order to gain a basic understanding, and then combined them with social experiments to delve deeper into these mysteries,” Thanh explained. Partnering with Van Lang University in Ho Chi Minh City, HILL also conducted interviews with students, and engaged in discourse with both Millennials and Gen Zers.

Myth 1—Work: “Gen Z has a low sense of responsibility in terms of work”

The common image is that Gen Zers tend to slack off and are quick to change jobs when things get difficult. They may even seem to devote more energy and time to travel than to their careers!

One of Hakuhodo Vietnam’s Gen Z team members, Khai Luu (Strategic Planner), revealed a very different reality. “In fact, nearly 80% of them think life is all about fulfilling responsibility—both at work and in their personal life,” he said. Personal growth and work growth are intrinsically intertwined for these young people, and they are keen to try out various options to gain self-understanding.

Millennials work hard on the job in the belief that it will eventually contribute to happiness in their personal lives, too. While Gen Zers also have a strong desire to progress, they value work and personal growth equally and seek multiple opportunities from which to eventually pursue their ideal lifestyle.

Takeaway: Khai suggested that brands should aim to support Gen Zers in growing holistically, since personal passions and career progression are of equal importance to these young people.

Myth 2—Social Life: “In today’s diverse society they can live a life of ease and comfort”

Gen Z seems to be all about uniqueness and diversity—perhaps we even might say “weird.” Their personal styles, their pastimes and even their careers may be quite unfamiliar to older generations.

Linh Le (Strategic Planner) explained how being early adapters on social media and living in today’s increasingly open-minded society has helped Gen Z embrace and celebrate diversity. Ironically, however, this can lead to feeling pressure as well: Gen Zers can see that everyone seems to embrace their individuality and uniqueness. In turn, this creates stress in a social system where nobody wants to be seen as “just average.”

As a result, Gen Zers feel vulnerable and seek reconfirmation. Even if their choices regarding work and lifestyles are unconventional, they need to hear, “It’s OK to be you if you like who you really are and what you are doing.” One of the ways they naturally seek this is through likes on social media.

Takeaway: “Understand that, as brands and marketers, we should acknowledge them, support them and reconfirm their choices,” Linh said.

Myth 3—Relationships: “Gen Zers don’t listen to other generations because they don’t trust them”

Khai introduced a Vietnamese proverb to frame the discussion: “Fish without salting will go rotten; children who disregard parental advice will inevitably go astray.” In other words, young people should listen to and learn from their seniors.

It isn’t that Gen Zers don’t value input from parents and other older people—97% of those surveyed say they do! However, the number who actually follow this advice is much lower at 58%. Having grown up in the information age, Gen Zers want to explore various options and consider which really fits them.

As Khai then pointed out, their parents have played a part in this, too. “Most Gen Zers have been raised by late Gen X or early Millennials, who are more progressive and have learned from other countries to encourage independent thinking in their kids,” he said.

Takeaway: “As brands, we should provide them with multifaceted information to support their independent thinking, because we understand that’s what they need,” said Khai.

Myth 4—Decision-making: “Everything is first and foremost a smartphone search, with little deep thinking”

Nobody can deny that young people reply on their smartphones a lot, but Gen Z is using them in a time-efficient and highly effective way to navigate through daily life. In a social experiment comparing the ways Millennials and Gen Zers look up information, the HILL team found that on average the younger people were faster, used more specific keywords, and cross checked among a larger number of platforms.

Takeaway: Gen Z is both careful and highly skilled when it comes to extracting the information they need to inform their decisions. Bearing this in mind, Linh advised content providers to provide information across multiple platforms in formats designed for scan and skim behavior.

Marketing to Vietnam’s “Holistic GaZers”

Based on these findings, the team coined the term “Holistic GaZers” to describe these Gen Zers, who approach their jobs, personal interests, relationships and decision-making from multiple perspectives and a 360-degree view.

Noboru Watanabe (Senior IMC Director) then delivered three key strategies for marketing to Vietnam’s Holistic GaZers:
Engage in heart-to-heart talks: Express your message in an authentic way with no sugarcoating.
Don’t lead them; support them: Don’t try and change them, but support them as they are and for who they are.
Provide multiple information streams across multiple platforms: Supply curated information to suit each platform in order to connect with Gen Z.

How Hakuhodo can help

Finally, Kanto Inada (Communication Designer, Hakuhodo SAC) introduced Hakuhodo’s solutions for supporting brands—The Gen Z Lab. “We have set up an internal organisation of the Gen Z, by the Gen Z, for the Gen Z, in order to understand Gen Z more deeply and to approach them more effectively,” he said. “The Gen Z Lab is made up of Hakuhodo’s Gen Z members and provides one-stop service for strategy development, media strategy planning and creative development.”

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