Generation Z will make up 40% of the consumer population by the year 2020. Such a large market segment means businesses will succeed and fail in their ability to resonate with Gen Z. Due to Generation Z’s unusual upbringing centered around social media, technology, and the digital world, marketing to this subsection of the population is radically different than previous norms.
Previously, utilizing marketing firms and traditional networks such as television commercials, newspaper ad networks, and billboards were effective. These traditional routes had higher barriers to entry and were obviously advertisements. This obviousness meant flashy and catchy was important for grabbing attention and keeping the advertisements in viewers’ minds.
With the lowering of entry costs for running advertisements, there are never been so many ads in everyday life. Particularly so, social media blends in large amounts of advertisements with users’ newsfeed, meaning the content needs to be on-par with the content they are trying to view from their favorite friends and social media accounts.
Switching to a more natural communication with consumers predicated upon engagement means advertising, while still about informing consumers, is more tied to building a brand and informing people of milestone events, rather than carving a catchy slogan or jingle into these young minds. These are the four best routes for modern marketing for a modern generation.
1) Social Media
Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram have made marketing to demographics incredibly easy and in expensive. Furthermore, due to the already large engagement and use by the age bracket, this is where their eyes go naturally so it is key to make sure they see your brand on these platforms.
As your content needs to compete with desired content from family, friends, and followed pages/accounts, quality and authenticity are the most important objectives here. If it feels like an ad, Gen Z will keep scrolling. Dollar Shave Club has done a tremendously successful series of content for marketing, involving things from absurd trips through one of their workshops with streamers and confetti to a video of a snail crossing a road that last over 10 minutes. Their content inspires a smile in anyone, which means Gen Z wants to watch the ad. Furthermore, they will walk away with happy feelings associated with the brand.
2) Influencer Marketing Within social media your young customers are looking at a few things: family, friends, influencer accounts, and sponsored content. Sponsored content is great but can have impersonal outcomes. If this content is good enough it can get family and friends to share it, but this is difficult and unreliable. However, Influencer channels love a various selection of brands and love making money. Working out deals to get your marketing content on influencer channels means you can have organic interactions with your consumers and tap into an established network of viewers.
Successful influencer marketing typically relies on a strong relationship with the influencers. Getting Kanye to endorse a toilet cleaner is probably not going to happen and if it did it would likely be extremely expensive and have bad reception. Finding influencers who are already aligned and potentially aware of your brand leads to cheaper costs and better long term engagement with the personality. The ideal situation is not pay-to-play in the sense of a transactional cost for a single post or set of posts, since this is less organic, minimizes return on investment, and has problems with proper delivery from the influencers.
There is a lot of information out there and having signs of legitimacy helps hedge against possible shortcomings due to companies lying, deceiving, or being inexperienced. One of the most used means of verifying information and finding legitimacy is the press. Press is a largely unbiased and independent source of the highest quality information in a society. This means that all else equal, a product featured in Forbes will have more respect from Gen Z than a product not featured in Forbes.
Press can be difficult to obtain however. Reporters largely determine stories based on three criterions, brand value, relationships, and intrigue of the angle. What this can be boiled down to is that reporters are people too and need a means of verifying and sorting through potential stories before writing and running the pieces. Beyoncé will never struggle to get press because she is Beyoncé so everyone knows what she does is legitimate and news worthy. For those of us who are not Beyoncé, developing relationships with reporters so they understand who you are and what you are saying is true will help get press published. Finally, no matter who you are, stories need to be interesting. There will never be a headline “Beyoncé is alive for another consecutive day” unless it is in The Onion. So regardless of how good your relationships and brand value are, you need to have some sort of milestone that is worthy of being written about.
Merging both the value of tapping into Influencers’ power over Generation Z and the legitimizing effect of press, endorsements can be huge for gaining the attention of Gen Z. One of the largest and most mysterious street artists in the world is Banksy. Banksy has never been caught on photograph and has executed some of the most daring and provocative street art pieces in the history of the medium. An aspiring film-maker named Thierry Guetta befriended Banksy and other major street artists and eventually launched his own art career as Mr. Brainwash. His first show sold over $1 million of art in the first month due to a series of endorsements from Banksy and some of the other street art icons. Anyone who cared about Banksy cared about Mr. Brainwash. Getting people of notoriety, position, and acclaim to back you helps make their audiences become your audiences.
Generation Z cares about the story of products and brands more than jingles and slogans. Using marketing tactics for increasing the legitimacy of your brand, communicating a unique story, and breaking through the noise are the most important outlooks for creating your Gen Z oriented marketing plan.
Published by georgebeall
George Beall is a student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has a deep admiration for true innovation and has been involved in multiple in technology startups and is an angel investor in SAMO VR. In his spare time he enjoys horseback riding, discovering upcoming music, and binge watching Netflix.