Just when you thought you and your brand had got marketing to millennials nailed, along comes generation Z. At a glance, generation Z (or Gen Z, for short) appears similar to the millennial generation, but look a little closer and you’ll find fundamental differences in the way they communicate, socialise and are influenced by brands. As a business hoping to market effectively to members of Gen Z, it’s about time you met them, understood them and began planning for their prevalence in the marketplace.
Meet Generation Z
Generation Z is the generation directly after the ‘millennials’. Whereas millennials are defined by growing up around the millennium (born in the 1980s), Gen Z tend to be defined as being born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s. Think Spice Girls and Robbie Williams at their peak. This is when these kids were BORN. Like other generations of human beings, Gen Z grew up, went to school and are heading to university and are even beginning to enter the workforce. This means they are starting to earn a salary and your company may have products or services they want. If so, you want to market to them.
So what are they like?
If you thought the sense of entitlement peaked at millennial, you are sorely mistaken. Having paid around three times the amount of university tuition fees of the typical millennial and having a completely different relationship with technology (being the first generation to be surrounded by the internet from a very early age), Gen Z are even more entitled. Remember, this is also the first generation to grow up with media completely on demand and the first to grow up with smartphones – the world at their fingertips.
But it’s not all bad news for marketers.
Gen Zs are incredibly open-minded, comfortable with technology and learn new things very quickly. They’re happy to try new brands and trust new sites and technology provided enough of their network are doing it. Let’s get to work.
Marketing to Generation Z
Generation Z grew up socialising over social networks. The internet is also where they’ve grown used to consuming media, new information and buying things. This represents as many opportunities as it does challenges for the modern marketer.
Social network of preference: Instagram
Communication: Snapchat, WhatsApp
A stereotypical quality of Generation Z is the short attention span. In fact, the entire population’s attention span is reducing based on various studies. It’s not necessarily true that they are incapable of remaining focused, but the nature of the internet and the way people are marketed to on the internet makes flitting around between tasks the norm. More than ever, marketers need to grab the attention of their audience members quickly and aggressively. Furthermore, after their attention is grabbed, marketers must quickly convince people to take the next step – provide a compelling call to action or provide instant validation of their brand and product (see the power of influencers, below).
Just as we’re all getting used to everything being ‘on demand,’ Gen Z are used to watching what they want, when they want. And it’s pretty much all consumed through the internet. From a marketer’s perspective, this is great. Why? Because we can track their every move, identify what their interest are based on their behaviour and, therefore, market to them incredibly accurately.
Another bonus is that they’ve grown up having ads pop up all over to place or sitting through ads before watching videos, for example. Whereas the rest of us got used sites with pretty static, unintrusive marketing efforts and so find this new, aggressive, ‘in your face’ marketing rather annoying; that’s the norm for Gen Z.
Seeing as Generation Z are comfortable socialising and consuming media online, it makes sense that they build strong relationships with people they’ve never met, like their favourite YouTubers. This represents another opportunity for marketers.
The power of influencers
Influencer marketing is increasingly important for consumer brands. Influencer marketing involves using social influencers (those with thousands or millions of followers) to use or advocate products, services and websites. This is nothing new. Brands have been using celebrities to endorse products for decades, but it’s different now. The public has a much more personal relationship with social influencers than they do with celebrities and the fact that they recommend products on their social channels rather than being broadcasted on TV or a billboard makes everything so much more believable.
Gen Z is smart. They know what an advert looks like. Whilst they will suspect a social influencer has a vested interest in promoting a brand, they still trust these individuals who they invariably see and engage with on a daily basis. It’s no surprise that social media marketing companies are branching out into influencer marketing to bolster their core efforts, particularly with their consumer-facing clients.
An important word on Instagram:
Instagram is a powerful marketing tool but it’s incredibly difficult to track results from. (We know this because we’re a social media agency – we go to great lengths to track return on investment for clients.) There’s no doubt that a brand can quickly generate awareness amongst its target audience but, currently, Instagram only allows an account to link out from its profile once. However, this is all set to change with the launch of Instagram’s business pages, set to roll out to the UK toward the end of 2016.
Influencer marketing is so useful for brands because it makes it so easy to resonate with their audience. They don’t need to dream up a fantastic piece of content to push on social media, they’re using an individual who already resonates with an audience. If a brand can find an influencer with an incredibly close target audience, this tactic can be incredibly effective.
The zero moment of truth is another major factor for Generation Zers. ZMOT cannot be understated in modern day marketing but comparing prices and reviews of products and services is second nature to both millennials and Generation Z.
5 rules for marketing to GenZ
1. Don’t patronise them
Never underestimate GenZ – their knowledge, skills, and intelligence. No one likes being patronised and they simply won’t forgive you for it.
2. Be bold, not gimmicky – they’ve seen it all before
Quality will always trump quantity. Be as original as possible in your marketing activities. Adopt new features of digital marketing quickly, avoid jumping on the bandwagon after all their favourite brands have already taken their seats.
3. Convince them quickly
Portraying your value proposition quickly has never been more important than it is today. Nailing the initial marketing message is crucial. No prisoners will be taken.
4. Engage on an emotional level
Features and benefits are not at the forefront of the mind of a member of generation Z. There are a bazillion apps and products out there that can perform a myriad of complex tasks. In the end, that won’t sway them. You need to tap into their emotions, empathise with them and show you care about them and society as a whole.
5. Use trusted influencers
Many of us have become numb to advertising but remember that Gen Z grew up with the internet and social media, they pay very little attention to it. However, they do pay attention to social influencers. The rise of the YouTube and Instagram star perfectly coincides with generation Z coming of age so it makes sense they are swayed by these figures. If you’re struggling with point number 4, this is your route in.
So what’s the bottom line?
Marketing to Generation Z unquestionably represents new challenges for brands, however, it’s clear that there are the tools and tactics out there to be effective. On the whole, digital marketing continues to evolve in the way it has done for several years with increasing impetus on high quality, original content, gaining emotional buy-in and utilising third party influencers.