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How Your Marketing Can Engage Gen Z

Who Is Gen Z?

In the past 100 years alone, human communication has evolved exponentially– so much so, that there are more generations of technology in that short a timespan than there’s been in more than two thousand years of human history. Most will read that statement and widen their eyes in wonderment, but marketers would rather spend their time figuring out how the next campaign will utilize those latest advancements to reach their audience…

In a day and age when that audience is young, technologically-proficient, and operating on multiple screens per day, the task seems like a wild goose chase. However, capturing your target is simply a matter of understanding who they are first: they’re Gen Z, and they’re marking the first point in human history when being connected is not a privilege, but a birthright.

It’s not enough to view Generation Z as just digitally-native, 8-second-attention-span-having, pre-teens and teens who are glued to their devices. Instead, identify them through their behaviors, which have spread to other demographics. According to Dan Keldsen in his book The Gen Z Effect, Generation Z has had a profound effect on:

  • helping to grow text messaging by roughly 30% among all age groups,
  • making the acceptance of global hyperconnectivity and easily-accessible  education for the masses a reality,
  • currently shifting power from those in positions of affluence, to those of organic influence,
  • helping to ease the process of slingshotting from outdated technology to the newest versions,
  • spawning the habit of self-quantifying (measuring of one’s activities & health metrics),
  • and cutting down learning-time down with concise and convenient “hacks” and shortcuts.

They’ve grown up through a recession and the explosion of social media. They are ever-aware of social unrest, environmental issues, and injustices via a totally connected world. They expect instant gratification like no other generation, and thanks to advancements in technology, they can have it. Life without Wi-Fi? Never heard of it.

It’s not enough to just try to “market” to them (they don’t want to be sold to), or pretend that you “get” them (they’ll detect your bullshit), or try to make your video “go viral.”  It’s a matter of understanding the attitudes ingrained in them, why they exist, and realizing that these behaviors define how you connect with them…

Where Are They?

In case you’ve missed it, today’s teen population faces a unique problem: running into things because they’re glued to their smartphones. Observe any 13-19 year old and you’ll notice an orgy of devices– they’re on a smartphone while watching TV, while working on their desktop, while playing music from their tablet. So how does one go about reaching a demographic whose smartphone are simply extensions of their own body?

To say you’ll need to go cross-platform and cross-device is obvious– but where to, exactly?

  • Want to offer a demonstrative or informative resource as part of your strategy? YouTube is where 93% of Generation Z spends time on at least once a week, whether it be for instructions, tutorials, research, or purely for entertainment.
  • Need to run an activation campaign with a limited time offer? Well, out of 63% of its monthly users, mobile app Snapchat boasts a user age range from 13 to 24.
  • Does your campaign feature a story with image-heavy, high-quality photos and prevalent hashtags? Instagram might be your go-to platform then, as more than half of Americans from 12-24 claim an account.

While you can stick to one of these social platforms (out of a slew of apps, and growing) to see some level of success with your campaign, consider reaching Gen Z via a multiple channel strategy– after all, you’re dealing with a demographic whose attention span is said to be a paltry 8 seconds or less. It would be wise to spread your messaging across as many screens as possible!

Say What?!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know that some of Gen Z’s most  influential “celebrities” aren’t in Hollywood– rather, they’re stars of their own YouTube or Vine channels. They’re influencers on Twitter with massive followings. They’re part of Tumblr communities that share common, relatable perspectives. They’ve penetrated a whole generation’s screens by simply being themselves. Whether it’s drawing on their own entrepreneurial spirit, creating content that stirs up emotions, or contributing to a socially-conscious dialogue, they’ve created online personas that are extensions of themselves. Through these personas, they’ve built up an organically-driven trust factor between them and their followers that’s difficult to replicate with the traditional paid campaign.

So how exactly do you approach Gen Z? Throw that hard-sell messaging out the window and consider taking the route of a socially-conscious campaign, an instructional video, or perhaps centering your campaign around a collaborative effort that involves utilizing your audience’s social media connections. Whatever your route may be, it should communicate a personable, relatable tone that invites the audience to collaborate and participate, instead of one that commands from a one-sided perspective. That voice can potentially be the difference between someone choosing another product identical to yours.

Getting through to Gen Z does not necessitate the usage of YOLO, any mentions of swag, or writing in a language completely comprised of emojis (unless you’re in the business of making novelty t-shirts). Speaking to a group that is socially aware, uses multiple online sources for research, and is in constant contact with their social circle requires an almost brutally-honest, transparent voice devoid of corporate, “sales-y” jargon. Authenticity is key– and so is the intention behind your message and the mission behind your brand.