Want to feel old? Millennials, that emerging generation who are going to change everything, are now entering their 40s. Their moment is passing, and we now turn our attention to Gen Z. The oldest members of Gen Z have graduated college, are starting families, and most relevant to us, have disposable income to spend on luxury goods. Gen Z now comprise 40% of consumers worldwide, with $30 billion in disposable income. How, then, do we make sure Gen Z are spending that disposable income with us? One way to reach this socially conscious generation is through lab-grown diamonds, provided that you can demonstrate the sustainability and ethics of the product.
Before you can get your message across to Gen Z, you have to know where to find them. Though there is a growing dissatisfaction with social media among young people, Gen Z still spend more time in front of screens than any other generation. They are dissatisfied with the effect social media has had on society and on older generations, but despite this awareness, Gen Z are still an “extremely online” generation. They were the first generation to hold a smartphone as children and to live their whole lives with the internet as ubiquitous as television was for everyone else. The typical Millennial probably didn’t have an internet-connected computer until high school, and even then, it was most likely a family computer with a dial-up connection. Millennials may have grown up online, but Gen Z were born there.
While Millennials might be on Instagram or Twitter and Gen X and Boomers are on Facebook, Gen Z are mostly on TikTok and that social media platform that we don’t think of as a social media platform, YouTube. Between TikTok, YouTube, and to a lesser extent Instagram, Gen Z consume 7.2 hours of video content per day. That’s not 7 hours of total screen time—that’s 7 hours on video alone.
Gen Z turn to video for everything. Where a Millennial might use Google to find a relevant article, Gen Z will turn to TikTok, YouTube, or Instagram and search for a video, whether they want to learn how to cook salmon, learn how get a glossy lip look, buy the best microphone for their streaming setup, or find ethical, sustainable jewelry. The videos they connect with are delivered in a conversational, humorous style that entertains as it educates.
Video content is the way to reach them, but Gen Z are particular about who they will listen to. A Google search will bring up articles with the best SEO, not necessarily the most relevant articles, and right now, chatbots are not at the point in their development where they can be relied upon to give factual, accurate answers to questions. It remains to be seen whether changes in search engine algorithms will privilege human-written, human-centered, helpful articles, or whether the internet will be drowned under a tsunami of machine-generated text spam. So Gen Z turn to their social networks, customer reviews, and influencers who can speak their language for answers.
Grabbing the attention and the trust of Gen Z consumers means not overselling or overstating claims about lab-grown diamonds. Gen Z are inquisitive, values-driven consumers. More than any other generation, they are interested in how, where, and by whom their products are made. They want to know that their consumption is not making the world a worse place because climate change is much more real and immediate to them than it is to many older adults. They look at their future and don’t see an unending upward slope of progress; they see a world hanging in the balance. So they will want to know for sure if that lab-grown diamond is truly contributing less to carbon emissions than a mined diamond. They want to be sure that the working conditions in a lab are not worse than the working conditions in a mine.
It is imperative, then, for retailers to be just as inquisitive about their suppliers and really understand where their lab-grown diamonds come from, how efficient their labs are, and how workers are treated and compensated. If you can point to these facts and demonstrate that your product truly is an ethical and sustainable alternative to mined diamonds, then you will find customers among Gen Z.
Beyond contentious issues of carbon emissions per carat grown or mined, there are other environmental benefits of LGD that retailers can communicate to Gen Z consumers. Water scarcity, deforestation, and human rights are all issues that will affect Gen Z purchasing decisions. Diamond mining has become much cleaner and safer in recent years, and many mines recycle the water used in the extraction process and rehabilitate the land after a mining project finishes. But contamination and waste are still byproducts of the mining process, no matter how modern the mining facilities.
Deforestation is also an issue of concern for Gen Z. Forests absorb both carbon and heat from the sun, so it is important to young people that we intervene in the environment in ways that conserve the planet’s remaining old-growth forests.
In some parts of the world, these untouched lands are also the homes of indigenous peoples. Gen Z care about protecting and empowering the people most vulnerable to exploitation. In Canada, diamond miners work with First Nations people to ensure that sacred ground is not disturbed and that the people who have a right to the land profit from it. But in many cases artisanal mining, or small-scale mining done not by large corporations but by local people, with no regulation or labor rights for the women and children who do much of the work, takes place outside of the law. While regulations and diligent manufacturers and suppliers keep the products of illegal artisanal mines out of the supply chain, they can still find their way in. The money from these illegal mines often funds drug and human trafficking. Lab-grown diamonds are one way consumers can be absolutely sure that they are not helping to fund these activities.
Even with modern technology, regulations, and public awareness, the effects of mining on local flora, fauna, water supplies, and people remain long after mines shut down. No matter how many environmental regulations mining companies comply with, the most environmentally friendly thing to do is not mine to begin with. Overall, however, it is important to recognize the strides the mining industry has made in the past 20 years to become a less exploitative, more sustainable industry. We can extol the virtues of LGD without denigrating or making overblown claims about the mining industry, or pointing to its past failures as examples of modern practices.
Gen Z are questioning the consumption habits of those who came before them, from homeownership as an investment to car-centered development to buying cheap products from developing countries. They are also a generation that gravitates toward brands that share their values. Lab-grown diamond marketing is an opportunity to connect with Gen Z on the issues they care about, but only if it comes from a place of honesty and authenticity.