S4E5: Gen Z and the Modern Consumer: Shifting the Perspective

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YWYM sits down with two co-founders of NinetyEight, a culturally driven, strategic impact consultancy, to talk about human first branding, the pros and cons of social media, and – of course – Gen Z. Gia Lee and Celine Chai tell us more about how NinetyEight, a Gen Z founded and run agency, helps clients connect more with the Gen Z perspective and about the gap they recognize in the traditional advertising market.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

CELINE CHAI is the Co-Founder/CEO of NinetyEight. Originally from Malaysia, she considers herself a third culture kid and has lived in China, Indonesia and Los Angeles. In 2020, Celine graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a dual degree in Marketing & Dance. Currently, apart from her co-founder duties, Celine takes on multiple roles including account /project manager, influencer manager, and lead researcher and strategist. Her contributions and efforts towards NinetyEight has been recognized by a number of publications including CampaignUS and Fortune Magazine. Even with the serious title of “CEO/entrepreneur” - Celine still feels youthful at heart, planning spontaneous adventures, teaching baby ballet, swooning over cute pug pics on the internet, and constantly being shocked at how much time she spends on TikTok each week. Combining her passion for marketing and dance, Celine hopes to inspire storytelling amongst Gen-Z.

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GIA LEE is the Co-Founder/Chief Strategy Officer of NinetyEight. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she moved to Los Angeles to attend Loyola Marymount University where she received a BBA in Marketing. At NinetyEight, Gia leads the new business department alongside account/project management, strategy, and graphic design roles. Gia is a committed advocate for h.u.g (hygiene you give), NinetyEight’s social initiative to provide menstrual care products to underserved communities in LA, and is often seen curating infographics and partnerships with other period advocacy organizations. Gia wears multiple hats both in-office and out! In her spare time you might find her playing golf, throwing pottery, painting, scuba diving, vegging out watching tv, listening to music, or just straight up vibing. In everything she does, Gia hopes to craft unique and meaningful cultural moments for Gen-Z.

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Download the episode's key takeaways here.

This episode was produced by Global Thinking Foundation USA and Hangar Studios.

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View Transcript

[00:00:00] Mary: Welcome to "Your World Your Money" podcast.  

 

[00:00:06] Nolan: We'll be talking about personal finance issues in a genuine way, exploring how money touches every part of our lives.  

 

[00:00:13] Laquita Ann: We aim to shift perspectives and change up the status quo through conversations, resources and questions, always exploring the intersection of financial wellbeing, life and timely issues that impact us every day. 

 

[00:00:27] Mary: "Your World Your Money" is brought to you by Hangar Studios, a New York City based recording studio and Global Thinking Foundation USA, a global nonprofit striving to create a world free from economic abuses, and where financial empowerment and equality are realities to all. 

 

[00:00:55] Nolan: So welcome back to "Your World, Your Money." This is your host, Nolan, and I'm so happy to be with you here today. So, a common theme we come back to in this podcast is generational change. It is really important for like 1000 different reasons to understand the perspective of Gen Z. And to help me explore that angle today, I'm here with Celine Chai and Gia Lee. 

 

[00:01:16] Nolan: They are both co-founders of a culturally driven strategic impact consultancy called NinetyEight, which is built by and for gen Z. NinetyEight helps clients with services like branding, social media, gen Z consulting, and influencer marketing, and I am really excited to have a conversation with both of them today to jump into all this. 

 

[00:01:36] Nolan: So, Celine and Gia, thank you so much for joining. It is so nice to have you here today.  

 

[00:01:41] Gia: Thanks for having us.  

 

[00:01:43] Celine: Thanks for having us.  

 

[00:01:44] Nolan: So, let's jump into it. Tell me about NinetyEight. What NinetyEight does and how both of you got involved in this kind of work. 

 

[00:01:52] Nolan: So, as you mentioned in the intro, NinetyEight is a creative consultancy agency. We sort of use them interchangeably currently. And the reason we sort of started this was because we saw a really big gap in the way brands were messaging towards Gen Z and just youth in general. We felt like a lot of the messaging and POV's were very unauthentic... People who are coming up with these strategies, weren't on the ground experiencing Gen Z life and lingo and all things Gen Z related. 

 

[00:02:23] Nolan: And so, as a team of Gen Z's, we founded NinetyEight in hopes to bridge the gap between Gen Z and brands. A little fun fact for everyone, we named the agency NinetyEight because all the co-founders were born in the year, 1998. So, the naming part for us was not hard.  

 

[00:02:38] Nolan: Yeah, I love that. Can I ask this? Do you have any employees that aren't born in 1998, or currently it is still 98 to the moon. 

 

[00:02:45] Gia: Like we do have one - 

 

[00:02:48] Celine: No, we have a 2001 baby right now.  

 

[00:02:50] Nolan: Nice. Okay, good. It's good to bring in diversity like that.  

 

[00:02:54] Gia: Absolutely.  

 

[00:02:55] Nolan: Okay. Well, tell me a little bit more, how did you both get into this world of creative consultancy and branding work and things like that? What led you to that industry? 

 

[00:03:04] Gia: So, Celine and I were actually best friends from college. We met in freshman year. We ended up joining this same program at LMU, our alma mater, and it was called the M school. And the M school was an advertising, two year program, really geared at setting up the next generation of strategists and creatives for the advertising world. And that's also where we met our other co-founders in that same program.  

 

[00:03:34] Gia: And we were classmates for two whole years... and so, when the pandemic hit and people's jobs were furloughed and the world was just looking batshit crazy, we thought this looks like a great time to start a company.  

 

[00:03:50] Nolan: Yeah. I mean, that's an area I'm really excited to like, hear your experience about. It is a tough time to start a company during the pandemic. Things are chaos and starting a company, especially in this industry, is chaos. So, yeah. What was that like? Tell me about your experience.  

 

[00:04:09] Celine: For sure. I think a lot of the reasons, like when we first started it, it was like, 'oh, let's pass some time. Like nobody's hiring.' Um, none of us really have a job. We have great skills from the program we were in. So, let's start an agency. We had a professor who was like, 'Hey, I'll mentor you guys. I'll share my coworking space with you.' So, there was a lot of support from our professors and just like community in general. And I think a lot of us went into it like, 'Hey, this will be a thing we do until the pandemic's over.' 

 

[00:04:39] Celine: But two years later, the pandemic's not really over and business grew, clients grew... A lot of hard work went into it obviously. We decided to keep it going because of some of the successes we saw in the early stage and just, we saw a niche and like passion for Gen Z marketing.  

 

[00:04:56] Nolan: Yeah. So, you mentioned one of the main motivations that starting this, is because you didn't feel like current advertising, current branding was really focused in an authentic way towards Gen Z. 

 

[00:05:08] Nolan: Tell me a little bit about what you saw as being the major flaws, I guess, the advertising and the marketing world up until now.  

 

[00:05:16] Gia: Lots of flaws, both in like work culture and in the way that advertisements are made. Mainly, first is that it's a consumer first business, not a human first business. So, it's all about meeting business objectives, sales objectives, getting people to purchase something instead of actually solving a human need. 

 

[00:05:40] Gia: So, that's really what we sought to fix and to fill in this marketplace. And secondly, it was that Gen Z back in the day was kind of... had a really bad connotation in branding. Like people thought Gen Z's were entitled and spoiled and all they did was hang out on their phones and they never did anything of true value. But as Gen Z's ourselves, we were like... we didn't understand why people thought that of Gen Z and where that connotation came from. And so that's also another gap that we wanted to fill.  

 

[00:06:16] Celine: And to add to Gia's point a little bit, we grew up on - or most of us grew up with digital technology. So, ads are being served to us left and right. And people are just tired of being sold to, and I think that's something like an older generation doesn't quite understand. 

 

[00:06:32] Celine: They're like, ' in order to reach a consumer, we gotta be like, here's 50% off. ' When in reality, it's like, 'we just want you guys to either leave us alone or just be normal.' And that's definitely a gap that, you know, it's probably the hardest persuasion part for a lot of our business.  

 

[00:06:47] Nolan: I know. It shouldn't be that hard to just be like, 'just be normal, stop being so fake.' 

 

[00:06:52] Nolan: But I imagine it is, and I imagine that's a daily battle. So, what have some of the reactions been when you come in and say, 'it's not so much about' - well, I don't wanna speak for you. But I, I'm, I'm envisioning you coming in and saying 'it's not so much about the ads. It's not so much about the discounts. It's about just how you brand in like an authentic human first way.' Do people respond to that? 

 

[00:07:15] Celine: There's mixed reviews.  

 

[00:07:17] Gia: You know, that's definitely something that they buy into, you know, that sentiment. They definitely will never say that they don't agree with that. But in reality, when we're actually doing the work... at the end of the day, they're going to veer towards the more salesy posts and, you know... at the end of the day, they're our client and we deliver on what they want. We push back as much as we need to and want to, but at the end of the day, it's their call, their shot, their brand. And we fulfill that for them. So, yeah, I would say that they buy into it. 

 

[00:07:53] Gia: They say they buy into it, but in terms of action, they don't really follow through.  

 

[00:07:58] Nolan: Yeah. So, you mentioned about people being confused about what gen Z is, and oftentimes having these assumptions or stereotypes about it, right? This is something I want to tackle from a few different directions in this podcast, and I'm excited to chat with you about it. But one is, I mean, yeah, people have stereotypes definitely about gen Z. We see it play out any number of different ways in media and culture. Do you have to like go in and coach business executives and like, 'this is Gen Z. This is how to understand it.' Do you have to have conversations like that?  

 

[00:08:32] Gia: Yeah, I think it's less about explicitly saying like, 'hey, like don't use the word 'bet' on an ad to Gen Z.'  

[00:08:41] Gia: 'Like, yeah, it's a Gen Z term. But it sounds fake coming from you on an ad.' And more about them understanding like how we interact with brands and that relationship, and what we're hoping to see from them. So, yeah, I think it's... the stereotypes exist and people do like latch onto those easily, but we try to get them to go deeper and help them understand like the why's behind everything that we do. So, on the surface level, it looks like a stereotype. But there's a lot of things to unpack there that are much more valuable to note.  

 

[00:09:22] Nolan: So, I mean, I'll put my cards on the table early in this conversation here in that I'm a millennial. And I think this is probably true of generational change for a long time now, where generations change, the culture changes, but it doesn't - you don't realize in the moment that it is or how it's changing. And then just one day you wake up and you're like, 'oh, there's been a vibe shift. It's like, it's different now.' So I'm going through that now. It's a whole wake up call thing, which I'm cool with. Sometimes it's nice to just be able to sit back and be like, 'cool, things are changing.' 

 

[00:09:53] Nolan: 'That's good.' But it means that now I feel like this kind of clueless millennial sometimes and, I just don't... Totally always understand the ways in which it's changed or maybe sometimes the depth of it and in the context of it. So, I may ask some just like, beginner 101 questions of like how to understand gen Z, which is nuts because I don't feel that detached age-wise from Gen Z but... 

 

[00:10:16] Nolan: Culture shift has happened and that's normal and it's worth understanding from like an authentic, empathetic way. So, anyway, that's where my head's at. So let me just ask you this. Would you say there's a describable difference between millennials and gen Z? And how would you describe that to maybe like business executives who have to think about marketing and might have some assumptions about it and how would you break those assumptions? 

 

[00:10:43] Celine: I think that's a really great question. And I just want to put on the record that, of the NinetyEight team, I probably lean the most millennial. So, I'm right with you on that. That being said, like we are Zillennials. So, I think us as a team in general, we really battle like the nuances from both spectrums. There's I think, for all of us, there's areas about our own personalities that's like very Gen Z and then there's areas of us that are like, 'well, we didn't actually grow up with iPads. Like we're not an iPad kid. We still understand how to play in the backyard with a stick.' So, you know, there's like those two, like nuances, I would say. But I think something that, especially in the workplace, with teams in general, just having people across all generations now, Gen Z through boomer, the process I think one of the biggest change in workplace culture is that Gen Z's don't necessarily think linearly.  

 

[00:11:34] Celine: We're not thinking like, 'hey, I've come to Deloitte and I'm going to have my junior career, my mid career, my senior career. And I'm going to become a director at Deloitte.' It's very hoppy. Like you could hop different agencies within the marketing world. Change careers... who knows you could end up being an influencer without realizing it and then drop everything else and do that full-time.  

 

[00:11:55] Celine: So, I think that's probably one of the biggest things is that we plan ahead, but not that far ahead. And I think previous generations plan much further ahead and like actually keep to that plan in comparison to Gen Z. 

 

[00:12:07] Gia: I just wanted to put this on the record. People don't give millennials enough credit. Personally, I feel like they've paved the way for Gen Z to be who Gen Z is today. Like, I think millennials and Gen Z share similar values in terms of like innovation and sustainability and work-life balance. Gen Z's didn't make that up. 

 

[00:12:30] Gia: Like, I think millennials really started that those movements and Gen Z's are just taking it 10, 50, 100 steps further. So, yeah, I think we have similar values, but the way that we behave and carry those out are totally different. Yeah. And don't even get me started on humor. Like that's a whole other spectrum of difference, but yeah... 

 

[00:12:53] Nolan: I mean, I feel like there's a lot of ways in which, for a millennial like myself, sometimes I am caught in these moments and I'm like, 'oh my God. I guess I don't understand gen Z.' Yeah. I mean like humor in the meme game, you all have is just different. It hits different. So everyone's got to go through that process I guess. 

 

[00:13:09] Nolan: We're talking about like generational, cultural change. That's like a big topic... like that, that's complex. It's nuanced. We're talking about entire generations here. What are your mental models you use to like, understand this from a holistic angle, such that when you talk about Gen Z, you can feel confident you're talking about it with a degree of representation, appreciating the full scope of diversity? When you're talking about Gen Z, how do you feel confident personally, that you are talking about all of Gen Z and not just your little bubble of it? I guess.  

 

[00:13:44] Gia: That's a great question.  

 

[00:13:45] Celine: That's a great question. Gia, do you have thoughts? 

 

[00:13:49] Gia: Yeah, I think that was one of the things that we were really grappling with in the beginning stages of NinetyEight. You know, it was like, 'yeah, we're Gen Z experts, because we're Gen Z's ourselves and we're experiencing the culture firsthand and we're on the ground.' But we know, like you said, represent an entire generation. 

 

[00:14:08] Gia: So, one of the biggest things that we asked ourselves in the beginning was - and that we're still asking ourselves today - is how can we really represent the full scope of Gen Z? Because it is so broad and so diverse and so deep. And so what we're doing, what we're building is what we're calling the Koi pond... And it's this Gen Z community that we're using for consumer insights and research beyond our team. 

 

[00:14:38] Gia: So, if we're working on a client and we need Gen Z insights, we do have our own from our agency and from secondary research. But we have this community of like 200 Gen Zs that we go to, to ask for their opinions as well. So, that's how we, as an agency kind of approach this generational shift piece - personally.  

 

[00:15:01] Gia: Approaching it holistically, I think it's always like important to have a personal bias check. So, for me, it's like, 'oh yeah, like Gen Zs are more left leaning and more... like everybody cares about sustainability.' Like things like that, that people think about Gen Z, but it's important to kind of have a reality check and bias check... looking beyond your bubble, like you said.  

 

[00:15:32] Celine: In addition, like I think to add on to the koi pond factor, 200 doesn't seem like a huge number in comparison to like, you know, traditional research agencies that have thousands upon thousands. But within the two, 200, it's like you have people from west coast, mid... central US, and then you have people from Europe, like India, wherever... and each of them have like their own take to things. 

 

[00:15:55] Celine: So, even within 200, you ask the same question, you're going to get a different take or different response for just about everything. And I think that's a really, really nice attribute. And to Gia's point, like we were really positioning ourselves as this gen Z expert when in reality, we're just a representation of gen Z. Like, no one really is an expert on this generation because there's so many niches in it. And I know, I understand that like research and insights, it's about sort of finding the common denominator, which is why we come up with conclusions like 'gen Z cares about sustainability.' But like Gia said, lots of personal bias involved. 

 

[00:16:32] Celine: Do we actually care? Like, do we care because everyone else is caring? So, I think as a company, we always try to dig deeper per client or whoever we work with to like really make sure that they know their niche and how to reach that niche.  

 

[00:16:46] Nolan: Yeah. That makes sense. So one way to delve in to all this is to talk about social media. So, I'd love to have a conversation about social media with you. And there's a few angles I want to hit. Let's just start at the ground level. Do you feel like you're a social media first company, like when you're talking to clients, is the focus of the conversation on social media or is that just one aspect of a larger marketing, branding strategy? 

 

[00:17:10] Celine: I think it's most definitely a larger aspect. Um, I want to say that our bread and butter is social media because everyone needs to be on social media and has social media assets and projects. But as a company, I think us as co-founders and just people who work at NinetyEight, it was just really passionate about the Gen Z marketing aspect. 

 

[00:17:30] Celine: So, really trying to work with the clients who want to target Gen Z, who wants to speak to Gen Z. Who want to have a Gen Z sounding board... and we can fill those needs. Unfortunately, that's not the biggest service that we offer just because social media rules the game, but we're definitely seeing a lot more companies be a little bit more receptive to, 'hey, we should have a Gen Z sounding board before we push out a campaign and it flops.' so, hopefully in the upcoming year, we'll see more of that and we can fill that shoe.  

 

[00:17:59] Nolan: Yeah, my hunch is like the roller coaster of social media trends and the actual platforms themselves, is one of the things that really divides generational understanding of what's going on here. To ground the conversation, and I'll explain it from my dated millennial perspective, which is, you know, we, we didn't grow up with social media. But it was when I was in high school is when Facebook became a thing, became popular at least. And we went through this trend where it - literally everyone was on Facebook and then that lasted maybe, maybe 10 years. 

 

[00:18:32] Nolan: And then we kind of realized like, 'oh, Facebook sucks'. And we, again, I'm self-aware that I cannot speak for all millennials, but from my perspective, after there was this wave in which people kind of abandoned Facebook or at least abandoned using it for like everything. And then millennials just cycled through lots of different apps and platforms trying to figure out which one. 

 

[00:18:53] Nolan: And we kind of settled into different camps, whether it's Instagram, Snapchat, some are on TikTok. And that's our view of things. I have a hunch Gen Z sees things from a broader angle, more comfortable using different platforms. Meanwhile, I think older generations just can't make sense of it at all.  

 

[00:19:13] Nolan: So, okay. From a platform diversity perspective, how do you think Gen Z makes sense of social media? Why do things stick? Do you think it's going to continue to be a rollercoaster in different apps and platforms that people are using? Or do you think things will settle down?  

 

[00:19:27] Gia: I don't think social media will ever settle down. I think it's always going to be in flux and there's always going to be something new. So, TikTok is a new thing right now, but there's going to be a new TikTok in a few years, and we're definitely gonna have to get on that. But I think it's because we have used social media since we were, since we were in middle school. 

 

[00:19:49] Gia: Some people since they were like little kids, but for us, it was middle school. It's just like the norm. We're not really tied to the specific platform. So, if TikTok disappears, we know that there's going to be another thing to replace it. And we're fine with the learning that new thing. And yeah, we learn and adapt so easily, digitally, and can navigate that space so well that it's like, whatever comes, we kind of adapt with it. 

 

[00:20:22] Nolan: How, how aware do you think Gen Z is of, I'm just going to use this term very broadly, the algorithm? You know, just how self-aware, how self aware has anyone, anybody right about the culture they see as being dominant... kind of being fed to them in a way. And it's, it's always unclear. It's always this uncanny valley, like obviously individual creators are creating things and spreading things and that's what goes viral, but like there's a corporate element to what's behind all that and what's going viral and it's hard to sometimes to read between the lines. What's the Gen Z attitude on that, I guess? 

 

[00:20:59] Gia: Definitely very mixed. So, I know a lot of Gen Zs who are embracing it, they're like, 'yes, I want this personalization. I'm going to use the algorithm to my benefit. I'm going to curate it. So, it's everything that I want.' Similar to like personalization of ads. And then there's the other side who are like, 'I don't trust corporations. I trust Facebook the least. I am not giving them my data and I don't want them to know who I am, what I like... and I will suffer with a lesser, personalized user experience and that's fine. That's my choice.' So, I think, I don't think Gen Z as a generation there - I don't think there's a consensus yet. Just because, like you said, it's still pretty ambiguous and people are still trying to figure it out. But I think there is a good level of awareness there. I think no one is not unaware of it. You, you fall on either end of the spectrum. 

 

[00:22:03] Nolan: So, another tough topic that sometimes gets brought up in the context of social media, I think fairly, is mental health. So, mental health issues for many have cropped up more so than ever before during the pandemic, it was a tough time. There was a lot of isolation, you know, a lot of change. And I think just looking at the numbers, I think Gen Z teens today are experiencing higher levels of mental health challenges than ever before. And that's really worrying. If you feel comfortable talking about it, what, what do you think is going on there? What do you, what do you think is driving some of these trends? 

 

[00:22:38] Nolan: To what extent is social media responsible or is that just at tangential element to all this?  

 

[00:22:45] Celine: I don't think social media as a, like, as platforms are necessarily responsible. I think it's just the visibility of things. I think before, like if I let's say was part of a talent show and I wanted to share it, you know, like I had to either email it to people or just like people came to my house and watched it for example. 

 

[00:23:07] Celine: And now you can simply just post anything online. And people can watch it, your followers, people who just randomly stumble upon it because the algorithm served it to them. And maybe the reactions and responses aren't so great and vice versa when it comes to like body dysmorphia and whatnot. So, I think it's just the sheer reach, which is so powerful and so detrimental at the same time. 

 

[00:23:32] Celine: But I don't necessarily think it's social media's fault because social media has united so many people and giving people ways to have careers... that's a whole other conversation, whether that's a good or a bad thing, but I think it is so powerful in terms of just getting things in message out in which in the past, we would've never been able to do. 

 

[00:23:51] Celine: But I think also like being on social media too young has its' effect. I think like zillennials, young millennials are like, 'oh my gosh, I would never let my kids have a phone.' Like we're in that age. Like 'I didn't grow up with one. My children, aren't going to have one.' And, and then I see like, you know, eight year olds with iPhones who can take great Snapchat selfies and whatnot. 

 

[00:24:11] Celine: And I think that is just like being exposed to filters and, and like public posting and, or like parents who have accounts for their like young toddlers. Like that in itself is a little bit on the edge where I'm, uh, I, I fear it, which causes, you know, just insecurity in general, but I wouldn't say I blame it on social media altogether. 

 

[00:24:34] Gia: Yeah, and I think in general, culture has shifted in terms of like growing up, like kids grow up much faster now. I think teens no longer have that awkward phase, everyone, all of a sudden just glows up. And I, I definitely had a brace as acne phase back in the day. But if you look on social media now, like teens look like they're in their twenties. But also, you know, when it comes to mental health and social media, like Celine said, it's all like exposure - ignorance is bliss, right?  

 

[00:25:10] Gia: So, before social media, you never really knew what was going on. And now that all this awareness is happening, nobody really knows what to do about it and how to act upon it because self awareness and awareness is just the first step. But you know, what are you going to do after that? And I think social media does a great job in the awareness aspect, but we're not really prepared for after... what comes after.  

 

[00:25:42] Nolan: Yeah. I mean, with trends that are going on now there's no counterfactual, right? Like what kind of isolation would people be going through during the pandemic if we didn't have social media? So it's kind of - presumably a lot more, right. So it's kind of unfair, I think, when I hear people talking about social media as like a causal factor in all this. But on the flip side, there's just a lot, we don't know. And I kind of, I don't know - and you push back on me if this is a horrible way to think - but sometimes I feel just like really unnerved thinking about your generation, gen Z, being like this Guinea pig generation in that like you are the first, especially the younger Gen Z crew now, the first to grow up, surrounded by technology on social media at the age that they want or allowed to like potentially a very early age.  

 

[00:26:33] Nolan: Yeah. We just don't know what kind of impacts are long-term trends that will lead to, and I don't want to assume it's going to be bad, but there's a lot of - it's unnerving not knowing I think. 

 

[00:26:44] Celine: Totally for sure. I think like changes to something we have to embrace, like for the good or the bad we'll figure it out. Um, and I think this is just a really big change that no one is yet unleashed how to deal with. 

 

[00:26:56] Nolan: I mean, like there's this model of thinking about generational change in terms of like each new generation it's almost like evolutionary, like each new . Generation is faced with unprecedented challenges, but by the nature of like growing up with it, approaches challenges with creativity and a style of problem solving that prior generations just like, could not identify with. Like new generations, bring entirely new things to the table in terms of solving problems. 

 

[00:27:27] Nolan: And gen Z is very values driven, I think is my impression. Let's talk about that. What's your impression in your line of work, talking about the values of gen Z and how young people approach solving like serious problems. Like whether it's climate change, social justice, anything, how prominent is that in, in branding and marketing work? 

 

[00:27:50] Gia: I think it's definitely the leading driver for brands right now. So, like, Gen Z will sniff you out if you're a brand that cares about nothing, right? So, every brand needs to have that deeper 'why', you know, that value, like, what problem are you solving? What cause do you care about? And if you're a brand in 2022 that doesn't have that, we probably won't be seeing much of you in 2023. 

 

[00:28:21] Gia: So, Gen Z is definitely... like you're right to assume that Gen Zs are value-driven, we've had like personal experience with a Gen Z'er on our team who didn't connect. So, she quit... like Gen Zers aren't afraid to speak out or quit or do what is needed to be done if it doesn't align with who they are and their personal values and what they believe in. So, we've definitely seen that shift. 

 

[00:28:52] Celine: On the flip side, though, you can't be a brand with a value of like, with the core value like social issue that you care about that has like absolutely nothing to do with who you are as a company. So, like Gia said, we'll sniff out if it just feels like a transactional thing, like, 'hey, we're plastering this social justice issue because people say we need to have one.'  

 

[00:29:13] Celine: But it really comes from the top level of 'how do we embed and incorporate this issue or thing that we care about into our mission?' And I think that's something that Gen Zs definitely care about. So it's a very fine line. You have to have something, but you can't have something that isn't like a value... it's a whole lot. But I think all agencies have some form of core values, whether that's taken from family, friends, society in general. And like Gia said, they won't stray away from it. Like they're, they're able to make decisions based on what their values are.  

 

[00:29:48] Nolan: Yeah, and I think that probably plays out in work culture in interesting ways. So, we talked earlier about how there are like stereotypes, right, of Gen Z. And I, I don't want to like play into those stereotypes, but the flip, the flip side is there's a tension between Gen Z being very values driven and broadly speaking people want to work at companies that share those values. And I think that's like a pretty fair motivation and pretty fair, like line to draw. But then there's this stereotype of like Gen Z is a generation that's like difficult to hire and they don't have loyalty to companies and they quit easily. 

 

[00:30:22] Nolan: And I don't know. How do you make sense of all that? Like what's unfair. What is genuinely a trend what's your take? 

 

[00:30:30] Celine: I think I'll speak from an employer standpoint first. It's definitely very true. Like, you know, when you hire someone from an employer, you definitely want someone who's grounded in the mission, someone who values what the work is, and you want all those things, but you can't always get them, I would say. Like, it's definitely a battle you pick and you choose. So I definitely understand that, especially at a big corporation, you're like, 'well, I want someone who's willing to give in like five years, because I don't want to train or like switch around.' So that definitely makes sense.  

 

[00:31:01] Celine: But from a Gen Z point of view, like I definitely, I see the urge and need to work in a place that actually inspires you. I think, like you said, there's a lot of hardship in the world. There's a lot of things going on. It's it's turbulent, especially the last two years. Like it hasn't gone well or in many Gen Zs favor. So, at least work in a place that inspires you or gives you the benefits that you want or provides you the values that you need. 

 

[00:31:27] Celine: So, I think there's companies out there who will be better fitted for certain people here and there. So, I think that's why Gen Zs are really unafraid to explore that. And I think that's a good thing. Like the last thing you want is someone who works for you that is miserable every day... for you as an employer and them as an employee. I think the non-linear approach to careers is a very exciting factor for this generation. And I think it could be beneficial too, because if a Gen Z comes from a startup to a bigger corporation, they could incorporate more ideas or different lines of thought that big corporations may be stuck in their way. So, I think change allows for flux and flux allows for innovation.  

 

[00:32:08] Nolan: I love that. I think that's a great tagline and I hope I hope companies are listening to that.  

 

[00:32:13] Celine: I hope so, too.  

 

[00:32:15] Nolan: Yeah. Tell me about the work culture at NinetyEight. Is that something you try to be cognizant of? Is that something you try to be actively designing and making sure that people are buying into and investing in, I guess?  

 

[00:32:29] Celine: Yeah, for me personally, like I said, more the millennial, more the mom of the group, but we definitely really care about people in general. Like Gia said, it's not a workplace for everyone and that's okay. We're fully cognizant that we will never be able to please everyone and everything out there. That being said, the people who currently work for us and, or will work for us in the future, like, we make sure that it's definitely a place they want to be at.  

 

[00:32:55] Celine: We're a feedback driven company. We do lots of monthly check-ins and evaluations with one another. Co-founder to intern. Like it's a very casual relationship. I think everyone respects everyone. And I think that's really, the key is feeling respected. And I think that's why Gen Zs struggle in big workplaces is they don't often get the respect that they deserve.  

 

[00:33:16] Celine: I think we try to really honor that here. We're very casual. I think you guys might've found us from our TikTok, but our TikTok really unveils a lot of our personality... we're like a pajamas team.... we're a social, like hat, like a channel on slack where there's a social chat and drop memes, whatever you want in there. But we also get stuff done. 

 

[00:33:38] Celine: So, I think there's that understanding like, 'Hey, we're here to work and we're here to make good things happen. But also like show up where you are. Show up if you're dog walking. Show up if you're having a snack, because it's 3:00 PM and you haven't had lunch...' like whatever it is, come as you are, we'll take who you are and just don't forget to do good work. 

 

[00:33:57] Celine: So... that's, that's kind of a long answer, but yeah.... 

 

[00:34:01] Nolan: no, it's good. It's sort of related to that is I wanted to get your take on entrepreneurship. That's a topic we like to come back to a lot in this podcast. And I'm curious if you have any lessons you feel like you've learned the big ones about what, what it's like to start a company and what advice you would give to other people, particularly young people who are interested in starting a company, what would you say to them? 

 

[00:34:27] Gia: Honestly... 

 

[00:34:27] Celine: We have a lot of lessons. 

 

[00:34:29] Gia: Yeah, this is chaos that I choose to be a part of every single day. I think there's never going to be the perfect way, the perfect formula, the one right way to be an entrepreneur or to run a business. So, just take the leap, go for it. You're going to fuck up along the way. Pardon my language. We're still learning and it's been two years, but I don't think I've ever grown more in my life. And in the past two years from NinetyEight. 

 

[00:35:01] Celine: My big piece of advice or not necessarily advice, but takeaway is that startup and entrepreneurship isn't for everyone. I know that's like a, like a trend and a fad, and everyone's like, I want to own my own thing, but it's really not for everyone... that being said, I don't discourage you from trying. 

 

[00:35:18] Celine: I think you'll never know until you try. But I think we live in a world where we always strive for perfection or getting it on the first try. If it's not for you, it's not for you and you don't have to push yourself in that direction because five of the people you went to college with, like all have their own business. That like, that's totally okay if you want to work for someone. Fantastic choice as well.  

 

[00:35:39] Celine: And like Gia said, you mess up along the way. That's totally normal, but I would also encourage people not to skip steps. I think we're a generation with really bold and big ideas, but sometimes we forget processes in the way and that's something every now and then to just reel yourself back in and be like, there are things that must be done in order for me to achieve that big idea. 

 

[00:36:03] Nolan: So, whether you are an entrepreneur or somebody just entering the workforce, maybe a big company, small company, let's end on this. Do you have any advice for just how to live out your values, how to stay true to your values and feel like you can do good things while making the world a better place? 

 

[00:36:21] Celine: Yeah, I guess my parting words here would be - people always ask like, 'what's your life motto?' and my personal one is 'let life take you where it wants to take you.' I think there's a really important factor of planning your life in perspective. I went to college for dance and now I own my own business. So, life takes you where it's going to take you. And I think it's just being unafraid of embracing change, which this generation has a really great way embodying. Know your values, but it's also fine that if your values shift or change over time, like life is constantly moving. So, if your values move with it, that's also okay. And then lastly, just, I hate the word authentic, but yeah, like be you, there are so many opportunities in the world that you'll find the one for you. So, that's my parting words. 

 

[00:37:14] Gia: On that note, to echo off of the 'be you' sentiments, I always struggled every time someone told me that, cause I was never like fully sure of what that meant. And I think a lot of gen Zs are in a very like influx, like confused state, just kind of figuring life out by the day. Like, I don't really know where I'm going to be a year from now much less five years from now. So, I would say to give yourself room to just be. It's okay to try one thing and fail, try another thing and succeed. Like, you're going to do so many things and it's okay to just be. You don't have to define your values right now. They, like Celine said, they always change. And yeah, just give yourself room to just like exist in who you are in that moment. And if something's not serving you, don't be afraid to just speak out your truth.  

 

[00:38:13] Nolan: I love that. And I think those are good messages to end on. I hope people take them to heart. So, Gia and Celine, thank you so much for coming on the show.  

 

[00:38:21] Celine: Thank you. Thanks for having us.  

 

[00:38:23] Gia: Thanks for having us. This was so fun. 

 

[00:38:28] Nolan: You've been listening in with 'Your World, Your Money.' You can find us at ywympodcast.com and stay updated on Instagram @GlobalThinkingFoundationUSA.  

 

00:38:39] Mary: Our podcast is produced by Amber Yang and Hangar Studios, and fact checked by Tb Bui.  

 

[00:38:45] Laquita Ann: Be sure to rate and review us, and you can reach us with questions, feedback, and topics, suggestions at hi@ywympodcast.com

 

[00:38:55] Mary: Many thanks again, to Hangar Studios and Global Thinking Foundation USA.  

 

[00:39:00] Nolan: And thank you for joining us. We'll talk to you soon.