Gen Z boasts combined spending power of R131bn, reveals GenNext research

Sunday Times GenNext is the leading annual brand preference and consumer behaviour research on the youth

24 March 2021 - 07:30
Collaboration plays a big role in terms of brands understanding their consumers.
Collaboration plays a big role in terms of brands understanding their consumers.
Image: Pexels/Anna Shvets

Technology is exposing the youth to so much more than before. As that market becomes more exposed to conspiracy theories, fake news and online propaganda, and measures their self-worth by their reception on social media, it becomes the responsibility of marketers to truly understand what makes this generation tick and how best to serve them well.

A recent online Sunday Times GenNext digitised conversation, in partnership with Yellowwood and Gautrain, discussed how brands can ensure they’re relatable, authentic and trusted by SA’s young people by building marketing campaigns that are engaging, sincere and approachable.

However, to achieve this, marketers need to look deeper — beyond the emojis and acronyms — to understand the youth market so they can better cater to their needs, if for no other reason than their impressive spending power. According to GenNext research, young people between the ages of eight and 24 have a combined spending power of R131bn.

Strategy direct at Yellowwood Ntombizamasala Hlope pointed out the chasm between brands and young people, while trendspotter Khumo Theko said collaboration plays a big role in terms of brands understanding their consumers.

The pandemic has highlighted the role brands play in people’s lives. Brands that stepped up during the pandemic — such as Vodacom which provided data to learners so that they could continue to get an education — resonated with the youth market. Brands that appeal to young people, Theko said, are those with a purpose and that speak to diversity.

There are numerous opportunities for brands to interact with the youth, said songwriter and singer Naye Ayla. While influencers are a popular choice, she said brands should not only consider influencers with a large number of followers but also micro- and nano influencers — particularly those who are tackling topics important to the youth and engage closely with their followers.

Brands are frequently accused of not being authentic by the youth. Sandile Ntuli, a representative from the junior board of directors, said brands need to hire the right people to represent them from a marketing perspective; individuals who represent their target audience.

Is it too much to ask of young people to give back to society? While the youth typically don’t have disposable income to give, they can donate their time, effort and skills to giving back to society, said Ntuli.

While young people recognise the importance of issues such as an environmental focus, this is not their priority as they are grappling with more pressing and immediate issues. However, while it may not be one of their priorities, they do expect brands to give credence to environmental issues.

All the speakers agreed that local purpose-driven brands which stand out in the youth market include Mobicell, Standard Bank and Gautrain.

Watch the full recording from the day below:

To register for the next online webinar on April 15, click here >>>

For partnership opportunities please contact Cortney Hoyland ( on +2711-280-3060.

To advertise in the 2021 GenNext supplement please contact Debbie Montanari ( on +2711-280-3538.

For more on the youth behaviour study contact Kananelo Tlanya ( on +2711-268-5211.

Sunday Times GenNext, now in its 17th year, is the leading annual brand preference and consumer behaviour research on the youth. Fieldwork for the GenNext study is due to be completed by July and the results made available in September. The study ranks the coolest brands as voted by the youth across 69 categories and includes a youth segmentation study, with a focus on various category engagements and associated behaviour drivers.