Investing in the Future: How Brands are Connecting with Gen Z Through Scholarships

By Blain Rethmeier

Published May 22, 2024

Hey there, fellow truth-seekers! Welcome to Obvious Omissions where I do my best to unveil truths hidden in plain sight. Earlier this week an article in Fortune caught my eye: “Brands from Burger King to Coke to Lockheed Martin are leaning in on scholarships to capture Gen Z.” Having had some practical experience in helping clients start foundations and scholarship programs, and being the proud father of two Gen Zers, I thought the piece did a decent job of highlighting how companies are using scholarships to connect with this elusive generation. But I couldn’t help but notice some glaring omissions that I thought deserved some further discussion.

First off, let’s give some kudos to these brands for their ingenuity when it comes to connecting to a generation that has left many marketers scratching their heads. These brands are doing more than just effectively marking their company or selling their products; they’re actually investing in the future of our society. By offering scholarships, they’re making higher education more accessible to students who might otherwise be left behind. That’s a big deal and a great way to think outside-the-box from a marketing perspective.

But I think the article misses an important point: these scholarship programs aren’t just about throwing money at students. These companies are being smart about filling the pipeline with talent in the specific fields that align with these brands’ industries. In other words, they’re cultivating a talented and diverse workforce for the future.

The article also glosses over how these scholarships are helping build a genuine connection with Gen Z. This generation is known for their strong values and desire to support companies that make a positive impact. By showing a true commitment to education, these companies are finally learning how to speak Gen Z’s language.

Here’s the bottom line: Companies that have launched scholarship programs aren’t just thinking about marketing; they’re thinking it’s a good investment for their industry and our collective future.

Blain Rethmeier

Blain Rethmeier is a self-described adrenaline junkie who thrives on stepping into high- stakes challenges.

Whether its public affairs, government or crisis communications, Blain has more than 20 year’s experience as a trusted advisor to Fortune 500 companies, C-suite executives and startup CEOs in Silicon Valley.

He has also worked at the highest levels of government, including The White House, U.S. Department of Justice and both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Additionally, he has worked on behalf of many highly regulated industries, helping to educate policymakers, consumers and influencers through compelling messaging, data, research and public-facing campaigns. 

Blain has a deep understanding of the political landscape and the policy-making process, as well as a strong network of contacts and relationships across various industries and sectors. Prior to joining the 76 Group, Blain served as vice president of public affairs for Hims & Hers, where he helped the telemedicine startup expand to all 50 states while increasing their services to include primary care and mental health amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

A native of Colorado, Blain returned to the state in 2022 to work with the 76 Group and its increasingly diverse roster of clients. Blain also works for Blitz and helps oversee its national training program for the many canvassing teams it employs.

Blain, who has two sons and a daughter, lives in Cherry Creek with his fiancée from Brazil, Gisele, and their ragdoll cat Nikki. When he’s not working, he’s outdoors doing something physical, including training for the 50k race he intends to run when he turns 50.