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NXTLVL Experience Design

Episode 39: Hannah Grady Williams

Unlocking Gen Z With Hannah Grady Williams – Speaker, Author, and Gen Z Business Consultant




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Hannah Grady Williams is a Gen Z advisor to corporate CEOs who are often more than twice her age. She knows Gen Z, because she is one. From closing a real estate deal at the age of 12 to graduating from university at 18, she has been on the fast track. And, that’s perfect because she is bringing companies into a new era that is moving faster than a bullet train.

In Ep. 39 of the NXTLVL Experience Design podcast “Unlocking Gen Z” host David Kepron and Hannah begin to unpack some of the mysteries of this emerging generation of very different experience seekers.


Hannah’s Profile:

Website: (Personal Website)


Phone: 828-490-7535 (Work)



As a 12-year-old middle schooler and the oldest daughter of seven children, Hannah Williams’s dad took her to work at his start-up one day per week. Usually, they would visit properties, collect rent, and file paperwork, but one afternoon was different. “Hey Hannah, the phone is ringing. There’s a guy on the other line with a house for sale and you’re going to close the deal.” Hannah took the phone and fumbled through the call, but sure enough, within weeks, they owned the property.

Before long, Hannah was religiously consuming business books. She enrolled in college at age 14 and graduated with a degree in international business by 18. Since then, Hannah has consulted Fortune 500 companies and boutique luxury brands and has had the pleasure of working with some of the best and brightest leaders across the globe. Hannah is now on a journey to help companies connect with her generation, and her first book will be published in the Summer of 2021. In a time when the world is increasingly divided, Hannah has made it her mission to foster #RadicalEmpathy in the workplace – helping both young and old gain a voice.



Since watching my son Ben create Instagram posts years ago when he was 12, I have had an intense interest in what Gen Z was doing with their phones beyond using it for a communication device.

As I have watched and seen the creativity pouring out of my sons in the making of digital content, I have become increasingly aware that what they are doing with their digital devices goes beyond texting, playing games and watching videos, they are imbibing content at a remarkable pace, learning more about the world than I knew about the world well into my early adulthood and… making stories.

They are content creators writing narratives of their own lives. They are bringing to life themselves, their own personas, as individual brands, with strong points of view on politics, media, identity, social issues, the economy, climate change and more.

As content creators they have a facility with media production not seen in generations before them. That power of connection into the digisphere lays in the palm of their hands and they come to the table with an expectation set that is very different that other consumers.

Contrary to popular belief, they don’t love digital technology. They aren’t amazed orconfounded by it. It just is. It is as if it is simply another appendage that they wouldn’t be able to navigate the world without.

And, this mindset has particular consequences in how brands and corporations will interact with them.


As they create media content whether on FB, Instagram, TickTock or myriad other platforms, they become their own brands with thousands of followers who align with the projection of their personal brand image – all before the age of fifteen.

They have become savvy marketers.

They have had to, because to be relevant in their sphere of influence, they have attached relevancy to the system of ‘likes’ that tells them what they are producing and pushing out on digital platform is valid – that they are valid – that they exist and matter.

As long as they are recognized for what they produce and validated for creating it, the Brand of Me counts. This is of course a real challenge, rife with psychological complexity and pitfalls that can lead to significant emotional issues.

Nevertheless, they have had little say in the matter since they were born into a system of digital platforms that promulgates the creation of content that is targeted directly at the base of the brain stem feeding primitive neurobiological processes.

But then, they are generally wise to that too.

However, conscious awareness of the slippery slope that digital content consumption has them careening along, does not necessarily supplant brain chemistry that has one going back for more. Even if you have an inkling that it’s likely not good for you.

Gen Z sees through inauthenticity and want straight talk and not BS.

They’ll jettison brands that speak out of both side of their mouths paying lip service to social causes while they sit on a historical heap of supporting institutionalized inequities.

They can smell a sales pitch a mile away and will dump a brand relationship in a minute, not necessarily because they don’t align with the company’s brand position, but that the company doesn’t align with their individual brand ideology.

As culture shifts in response to exponential change, this emerging generation of experience-seeking consumers may be less tied to tradition as a benchmark for their engagement with a brand.

They live in a series of nows.

The fluid nature of the digitally enabled world might suggest that what has worked in the past is simply no longer relevant today, tomorrow or in the next moment. This group seems to be more deeply connected to experiencing moments than they are to monuments.

Relying on the past to predict the future requires that something has survived the test of time.

As we move into a new experience paradigm of continual change, failing fast and continual iteration may become de rigeur because constant change will demand it and make it mainstream in order to remain in sync with change.

With attention spans shortened due to a constant flow in information to attend to, GEN Z is perfectly adept at moving fluidly between experiences.

They experience life in a strange state of ‘inbetweenness’ – between what is now and what is next. And, the delta between these states becomes smaller as the exponential rate of change continues bending upward, faster with every passing day.

Seems like we all may find ourselves living in a perpetual state of change – living in the presence of a future absence and the absence of a future presence.

Emily Dickenson said “Forever is composed of nows.” It seems that this is a truth that becomes more self-evident as we experience life in the fast lane.

And, for this new group of consumers now is simply more relevant than what has been.

This presents a particular challenge to brands who have relied on traditional narratives, like many luxury brands, because culture shifts swept by rapid change may not have them looking backwards when “back” fades quickly from a front row seat in a bullet train.

All of this poses particular challenges and opportunities for brands meaning to sell goods, services and experiences and for companies looking to hire and retain them.

This is where Hannah Grady Williams comes into picture.

Hannah consults with corporate CEOs who are often more than twice her age. She knows Gen Z – because she is one of them.

She can demystify this complex generation because she lives it every day and understands what makes her generation tick… or shall we say – click.

Hannah’s trajectory to being a consultant to corporate CEOs started at the age of twelve when she closed a real-estate deal for her father’s business and hopped on the fast track to finishing an International Business degree at the age of 18.

Since then, she has consulted Fortune 500 companies, boutique luxury brands, and has worked with some of the best and brightest leaders across the globe. Along the way, Hannah started two companies that failed, and says she’s proud of that.

Out of these failures Hannah embarked on a journey to help companies connect with her generation.

Why is this her passion you may ask?

Simply put, in a time when the world is increasingly divided, she exists to foster #RadicalEmpathy in the workplace – helping both young and older have a voice.

Hannah Grady Williams bridges the gap with insight that only come from direct lived experience.

She’s a straight forward, no nonsense communicator who is like a Sherpa guide helping corporate leaders find steady footing on the footpath to unlocking Gen Z.



David Kepron is a multifaceted creative professional with a deep curiosity to understand ‘why’, ‘what’s now’ and ‘what’s next’. He brings together his background as an architect, artist, educator, author, podcast host and builder to the making of meaningful and empathically-focused, community-centric customer connections at brand experience places around the globe.

David is a former VP – Global Design Strategies at Marriott International. While at Marriott, his focus was on the creation of compelling customer experiences within Marriott’s “Premium Distinctive” segment which included: Westin, Renaissance, Le Meridien, Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels and Gaylord hotels.

In 2020 Kepron founded NXTLVL Experience Design, a strategy and design consultancy, where he combines his multidisciplinary approach to the creation of relevant brand engagements with his passion for social and cultural anthropology, neuroscience and emerging digital technologies.

As a frequently requested international speaker at corporate events and international conferences focusing on CX, digital transformation, retail, hospitality, emerging technology, David shares his expertise on subjects ranging from consumer behaviors and trends, brain science and buying behavior, store design and visual merchandising, hotel design and strategy as well as creativity and innovation. In his talks, David shares visionary ideas on how brand strategy, brain science and emerging technologies are changing guest expectations about relationships they want to have with brands and how companies can remain relevant in a digitally enabled marketplace.

David currently brings his creativity and insight on brand experiences to an international audience as a member of VMSD magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board, as a Board Member of the Interactive Customer Experience Association (ICXA) and Sign Research Foundation’s (SRF) Program Committee.

He has held teaching positions at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), the Department of Architecture & Interior Design of Drexel University in Philadelphia, the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (L.I.M.) in New York, the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Montreal and he served as the Director of the Visual Merchandising Department at LaSalle International Fashion School (L.I.F.S.) in Singapore.

In 2014 Kepron published his first book titled: “Retail (r)Evolution: Why Creating Right-Brain Stores Will Shape the Future of Shopping in a Digitally Driven World” and he is currently working on his second book to be published soon. David also writes a popular blog called “Brain Food” which is published monthly on

In September of 2020, he launched the “NXTLVL Experience Design” podcast which brings listeners dialogues about “DATA: Design, Architecture, Technology and the Arts.” His guests include thought leaders who are driven by a passion to create the ‘New Possible’ and promote new paradigms of experiences into the mainstream.



MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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