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Marketing to Generation ‘Z’

Generation Z are the biggest online consumers. Born between 1995 and 2009, this generation has been connected to technology and the internet from birth. Smartphones, tablets, laptops and social media are their societal norm, and since they account for 25% of the American population, marketing to them and their interests could lead to some big business.

Quick page insight

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  • Generation Z (born 1995-2009) have been connected to technology and the internet from birth
  • Huge influence on spending power – currently $44bn per year
  • Major concern over identity and empowerment; technology allows them to explore this
  • Gen Z multitask across technology platforms and social media – 81% of Gen Z are actively using social media
  • Gen Z has a 0.08s attention span
  • They value communication and an attempt to understand their wants and needs

While they may not be your current target audience, Generation Z will be one day, especially as the oldest members of this generation are already firmly into adulthood with their own disposable income. Of those who haven’t yet reached adulthood, with an average $16.90 weekly allowance, this generation controls the spending of $44bn per year. This generation has a huge influence in spending power and so will be undeniably influential to future purchases of products and services. 

Generation Y, Generation Z’s predecessors and commonly known as ‘the millennials', are often seen as the ‘target market’ for new products and services, and so a lot of marketing effort has been geared towards them. Yet, this approach fails to encompass the most enigmatic, fast-moving and lucrative generation that came after them. By marketing to Generation Z, we also capture Generation Y as they tend to use many of the same social media and technology channels, but this relationship only works one way. Target only Generation Y and you risk losing business. 


Different Channels and Platforms

Generation Z are concerned most of all with identity. Through the technology they have been surrounded by since birth, they have created new personal identities, championing every aspect of their life from fashion and food to political and social activism. They have grown up amidst instability; economic recession, terrorism, school shootings and climate change are just a few of the threats and challenges that this generation has to contend with. Most importantly, for them, technology remains at the heart of both problem and solution.

Unsatisfied with government reports and official statements, this generation are empowered by the click of a button. They know how to self-educate and find relevant information, with 52% turning to social media and YouTube for research on current events. This is the world’s first truly global generation, linked up and logged in to other people anywhere in the world, any time of day or night. These channels can be websites, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp, LinkedIn, Yik Yak, Pinterest, Tumblr or many many others. 

Generation Z are ambitious. They want to have successful careers, they’re socially conscious and due to concern they have developed about humanity’s impact on the planet they want to effectively save the world, whether participating in political, social or environmental activism. Technology and social media allow them to do this. They project their own views and absorb those of others. They’re more concerned with the quality of the product, service and information rather than the brand or individual it comes from. 

Being Relevant & Capturing Gen Z

The result of their lack of loyalty to any particular brand is that attracting the attention of Generation Z can be a real challenge. The best way to do this is to be relevant, both in terms of content and where you market your products and services.

Generation Z spend an inordinate amount of time online, typically operating from around five screens: TV, smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer and smartwatch are all household staples. Wearable technology, like the Apple Watch or Google glass are also increasing in popularity. They multitask across all of these devices. While sat watching TV it’s more than feasible to imagine they are also looking at the screen on their phone, tablet, laptop or even all three. Your products need to be marketed across all of these mediums, with responsive websites and marketing campaigns targeted at all social media channels. With a huge 81% of Generation Z actively using social media, they are the largest socially connected generation ever, and so the relevance of this channel for marketing cannot be ignored.

This multi-tasking also means that they all have short-term thinking. The content of marketing campaigns has to capture attention in less than a second – around 0.08 seconds to be precise. How? Visuals. Generation Z communicate via images, often replacing text in their own messages with emojis and GIFs. These are a part of their everyday language so it’s important to know what they mean and when their use is appropriate. A striking image is easier to consume than a paragraph of text. You need to sell a visual ideal before you start explaining what it means. ‘Too Long, Didn’t Read’ might be considered the slogan of this generation. To win their attention, you need to act fast. This means complicated instructions or explanations should be re-envisioned with video, animation or even an infographic. Otherwise it’s all about the focus on bite sized, high quality, memorable content. 

The importance of the visual impact extends to your branding. You need to ensure consistency across all channels and so when considering marketing to one, you have to consider how you will use and communicate your brand to them all. A fully responsive website is now almost non-optional. It’s a good idea to take a mobile first approach to all marketing as this is most likely going to be the first place you encounter Generation Z. This joined up approach is essential to interacting and engaging with Generation Z. If your product and service is functioning or visible on a channel they prefer to lose, you’ve lost their custom. With short-term thinking comes short-term patience. They want things to work for them then and there or you’ve lost them. 

The joined up approach also has other benefits: your website gains higher ranking in Google search results due to social engagement. This short-term social gain provides long term results for your website. Social engagement does, however, have strings attached. You need to be relevant and communicate in real time. A marketing campaign that was successful only six months ago, may no longer be relevant. 

Even social media channels can come and go. Myspace is the perfect example. From 2005-2008 Myspace was the largest social networking site in the world, but following the dawn of Facebook it sunk into the shadows, only to be resurrected on nostalgic 90s & 00s Buzzfeed posts. Technology constantly and consistently evolves. Even more recent social media developments like video sharing platform Vine have seemingly had their day. It’s imperative that you keep up to date with the latest platforms, particularly those that function through smartphones. 

Smartphones manage and control the entirety of Generation Z’s lives. It’s their alarm, their to do list, their notepad, their calendar, their personal trainer, nutritionist, fashion adviser, personal shopper and so many other things. Targeting their phone is the most effective way to communicate with a generation of smartphone addicts, but don’t just focus on text message. Facebook messenger, Whatsapp, Viber and Kik are just a few messaging platforms, with Facebook being the ringleader. 

But what do you send them? To capture Generation Z you can’t think in traditional marketing terms. They don’t care about who can shout the loudest. They want a story, a person or a product that they can get behind. Stories of developments, innovation and creation are how to win this group. By engaging ambassadors in schools, universities or even in the street you can better understand how to approach them, target them and communicate with them. The more you focus your marketing approach towards their behaviours, the more they’ll appreciate your brand. 

Be Realistic

Obviously there is so much out there in terms of social media and technology that it would be almost impossible to be active across every platform and channel, unless you have a multi-million-dollar marketing budget. It’s far more effective to focus on one channel at a time and master it. By embracing change and accepting that the tools of traditional marketing are no longer effective, your marketing strategy can be hugely improved. You need to understand Generation Z, identify who within that generation you’re targeting and then identify the channels you will use to communicate with them.

Once your marketing plan is in place, measuring your success is easy. Applications like Google Analytics are essential for all websites, offering more traditional data analysis. Click through rates, shares, re-tweets, likes and other tools particular to social media can also show success in other channels. Compiling this data together you can gain knowledge of geographical, cultural and other demographic success rates for various campaigns. 

The most important thing for Generation Z is to talk to them. They’re a generation that likes to be involved. Recruit ambassadors, assemble focus groups, whatever it takes to communicate with them directly to find what it is that they want and need. When thinking Generation Z, you need to think different.

Written by at Burnthebook
Date modified: 2017-04-18

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