01 Dec How to Tune Into Generation Z
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Last year our Marketing Team won the Hire Space Best Online Marketing Award for their “direct targeting of an ethical/millennial audience and awareness of modern trends.” Today our Head of Marketing is here to help you understand why it’s essential to factor in the future generations in your sales and marketing plans.
Generation Z is radically different from the generations of consumers that came before it. When you hear the word “millennial,” you may think of Mark Zuckerburg or influencers like the Kardashian. This loud, narcissistic generation, which is prone to oversharing on social media, has dominated the attention of brands for the last two decades. But now there’s a new demographic : Generation Z.
This generation was born in the period from 1996 to 2011; they’re currently tweens, teens and young adults. Made up of individuals who grew up in the age of the internet, Generation Z is the first generation in human history whose everyday lives consist of constant social networking and information sharing.
So how do they compare to the generations that came before them? Well, one striking difference is the way they use technology. Many of us grew up using a phone with a long, tangly cord that was stationary in our homes and only had one function: calling. In contrast, Generation Z was raised using smartphones that play music, tell you the weather forecast and give you 24/7 access to the web. These same devices also make the camcorders of look positively antiquated, allowing users to record high-definition videos that are uploaded to YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat instantly.
Gen Z consumes information and communicates in ways that are fundamentally different from previous generations, too. For Gen Z, the internet is a place to chat with friends, share content and conduct research into topics of interest. But unlike Millennials, Gen Zers have always had instant access to these activities. So, why should you pay attention to this fast-paced, information-hungry generation?
For starters, Generation Z is the largest consumer demographic in history. Gen Z is estimated to be 27 per cent of the current global population. They’re also flush with vast spending power – it’s estimated that they can influence approximately £450 billion worth of their families’ total purchasing decisions. This young, always-connected cohort represents a goldmine for marketers who can tap into their psyche. But how can you achieve this?
Generation Z is a diverse group of highly nuanced individuals. Each subset has different needs, wishes, lifestyles and cultural contexts. If you want to appeal to Gen Z, you need to be dialed into this diversity. Communicating with youth culture depends largely on correct customer segmentation – that is, the process of dividing a consumer base into small groups of individuals that are similar in things like age, gender or interests. This helps you make sense of groups that are too large and varied to be understood as a whole.
For example, traditional segmentation filters can help us break a group down, leaving us with people that share similar characteristics. Standard filters such as demography, geography and behaviour, for example, could help us filter Gen Z down to just female teenagers from Watford with a disposable income. However, these filters don’t provide us with much information about the personal lives of the people in this group. What motivates them? How do they spend their free time? What do they care about?
That’s where a youth-specific approach to consumer segmentation that uses psychographic and situational filters – such as activities, interests, opinions, and brand affinities – to unearth more intimate details. By applying these filters, we can narrow this select group of female teens from Watford with disposable income down into a more culturally-specific subgroup. This subgroup could now include teenage girls from Watford with spare cash that are also organisers of cosplay events and a hardcore environmentalist.
Zooming in on the interests and habits of Gen Z consumers can help you identify and target the most relevant audience for your company. It can also help you understand what drives young consumers. When it comes to tapping into the Gen Z psyche, understanding their lives, priorities, daily challenges, cultural touchstones, and digital habits is crucial.
The generational markers that define Gen Z are independent, diverse, socially engaged, pragmatic, collaborative, intent on privacy and skilled at filtering out irrelevant information. Perhaps the most defining marker, though, is social consciousness. On a daily basis, Gen Zers read news stories about politics, society, and the environment, then engage in conversations about them across social media platforms. They don’t just want to be seen and heard, though; they want to belong to a movement.
These desires are embodied in Gen Z icon Malala Yousafzai, Like Malala, Gen Z as a whole is committed to making the world a better place, and they want to align with companies that share this commitment. As a result, they’re more aware than previous generations about what particular brands stand for and how they conduct business. Not only do they check whether products have good reviews online, but they also look at a brand’s history, unearthing any sketchy dealings with questionable business partners.
If your company has a gender pay gap or are failing to publicly support LGBTQ+ rights, chances are Gen Zers will find out; they’re also likely to spread this information across social media.
However, Generation Z is happy to direct its purchasing power toward ethically-minded businesses that take a stand on social issues. That’s why brands need to align themselves with issues that matter to Gen Z, like diversity. Gen Zers have an openness toward differences in race, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and they expect companies to reflect these values. After all, diversity is Gen Z’s lived reality. The key takeaway for marketers here is to understand that building credibility with this generation is not something that can be achieved overnight. It’s something that has to be earned.
The idea that trust is critical when building relationships is nothing new. The advertising industry has been championing the value of trust since the early 1990s and it’s also been a topic of extensive research. However, when it comes to marketing to Gen Z, the role of trust takes on a whole new significance. That’s why the tone a company projects to young consumers is so important. A tone of authority, for one, will get brands nowhere with Gen Z. Establishing a conversational, down-to-earth tone that speaks to Gen Z on an equal playing field, on the other hand, can help forge authentic connections. This is essential, as Gen Z can sniff out insincerity from a mile away.
One tried and tested method of building genuine relationships with Gen Z is having a consistent voice for your brand that consumers can rely on. A brand’s voice encapsulates the essence, conveying its attitude and personality.
It’s no secret that social media has become the lifeblood of Gen Z. If they’re not tweeting or uploading photos to Insta, they’re Whatsapping their friends or creating stories from their weekend activities. That’s why it’s more important than ever for brands to have a strong digital presence and an effective social media strategy. When it comes to connecting with Gen Z in the digital world, brands should consider which platforms their audience is using and when. They should then devise content that suits that particular platform and post it at a time when users are most active. Contrary to what some may think, Facebook isn’t the most widely used platform by Gen Z, it’s Instagram.
Gen Zers don’t just want to be sold to, they want to be invited into an interesting conversation where their views are respected and acknowledged. Instagram’s visual features open up opportunities for brands to construct narratives and share real-life experiences with youth audiences.
Like Instagram, Snapchat focuses on storytelling and sharing real-life activities on the platform. Previous generations, like Gen X, tended to respond to content that they saw as professional-looking and well-produced. Not so Gen Z, which admires brands that keep their content real. Gen Zers like to see the messy and imperfect details of everyday life, which are more relatable to their own experiences.
Ever seen a brand post something on social media that’s so dull you just scroll on past it? Then you’ll know that there’s nothing worse than uninspiring content. And, if you won’t give that content the time of day, you can be sure that Gen Z won’t either; that’s why, to get this generation’s attention, killer content is key. Content doesn’t have to be primarily entertaining to grab Gen Z’s attention; it can also align with global events.
As we’ve seen, Gen Zers are open-minded individuals who think in global terms. This means that they don’t just want to see posts about major holidays like Christmas or Easter. Instead, you should consider creating content around other cultural celebrations such as the Hindu Festival of Lights or Black History Month. However, don’t jump on the bandwagon. When it comes to engaging with cultural events, brands should think carefully about how they can inspire their audiences and add something to the conversation.
It’s probably no surprise to hear that Gen Z is always digitally connected. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend 6.5 hours a day absorbed in media – whether watching TV or videos, using social media, or he internet.
Because of this, Gen Zers have become skilled multitaskers. While spending time online, they might also listen to music or have Netflix on in the background. Their attention is constantly split between multiple devices, all of which compete for their attention. This means that brands who want to cut through the noise will need to focus on short, snappy, visually appealing content – things that convey a message or a story relevant to Gen Z.
GIFs and memes are the ultimate “share-worthy” content. They encapsulate an experience and convey it in a relatable manner. Emojis act in a similar way. They distil an emotion or mood down to a single symbol, providing an emotional context to text messages and social media posts.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple technique for this. An important rule of thumb, though, is to use them sparingly. There’s no point in crowding your social media posts with rainbows, dolphins, or cats with starry eyes if they don’t convey something important. The worst thing brands can do is come across as inauthentic.
It might sound like a paradox, but as the world becomes increasingly more connected, young people are becoming lonelier. In a landscape of mobile phones and endless social media feeds, it’s easy for young people to feel detached from the things in the world that matter. That’s why many Gen Zers are turning to online communities to help them find more authentic connections. These communities can be built on social media platforms and blogs and even based around hashtags. They are usually founded upon common interests – like pop culture, political opinions or environmental issues – or are based around offering help and support in some way, like in mental health groups. So, how can YOU create your own communities?
Let’s first take a look at an (utterly unrealistic) example of a celebrity who has created one of the most successful communities : Taylor Swift. From day one, Taylor has treated her fans as friends, rather than consumers by authentically engaging with them. She leaves comments on fan art, shares her experiences of growing up, offers advice to young teens over social media and before her album 1989 was released, she invited fans to hear the record before anyone else. In short, she has mastered the art of creating an online community by making her fans feel like they are listened to, valued, and understood. So, how can you be more like Taylor Swift?
Generation Z are highly individualised, tech-savvy, and socially engaged. For you to really tune in to the frequency of this generation, you have to listen closely to Gen Zers’ values and perspectives, provide them with worthwhile content, and engage them in meaningful conversations.
Next time you’re trying to define your companies identity, try to think about it in simple terms. If your brand were a celebrity, who would it be? What car would they drive? Which other A-list stars would they hang out with and what events would they go to? Then, make a list of keywords and concepts that best describe your brand.