4 Essentials to Help You Connect with Gen-Z

Has the subject of marketing to millennial’s caused your eyes to glaze over as you try to decipher their purchasing habits and behaviour on social media? Consider moving up the alphabet to focus on Gen-Z.

There are key characteristics to keep in mind about this emerging consumer group, which is comprised of youngsters and teenagers born between 1995-2010. First off, they are estimated to comprise about 27% of the North American population.

Gen-Zers have grown up with full access to the Internet and mobile technology—so they’re online natives who, even now, may be rolling around in their strollers, on their skateboards, or in Mom’s minivan peering endlessly into their phone screens.

In fact, 95% of teens report they have a smartphone, or at least access to one. You may not be reaching out to this group of consumers today, but you will be soon enough. When you do, here are some essentials to keep in mind.

1.    Keep Your Messaging Short and Sweet

Getting their attention and keeping it will be tough. They have the attention span of a gnat with ADD. So if your mobile platform and supporting social media efforts are currently lame, you are invisible to these kids.

That’s because Gen-Z is already the most socially active group marketers have yet to encounter:

  • 81% of teenagers are active on social media
  • According to a recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 45% of teens now say they are online “almost constantly.”
  • Gen-Z spends more time on mobile devices (~11 hours per week) and streams more content (~23 hours of video content a week) than any other generation
  • Platforms that promote video and image sharing are widely used by Gen-Zers. 85% use YouTube daily, with Instagram at 72% and Snapchat at 69%

In this kind of “real time” brand communication landscape, you’ll want to focus on creating shorter forms of content – text, image or video—that is created and tailored to work well on each social platform. And designed to generate reaction…NOW!

2.    Keep Social Media Platforms to a Minimum

Focus on YouTube (they like moving pictures), Instagram, Snapchat and Twitch. Facebook is a wasteland for this group. Only really old people go there.

A recent iMedia Connection case study showed how Supreme Clothing leveraged the habits of Gen-Z to enhance their market appeal. The retailer promotes one-day, limited edition events—‘snap sales’— through Snapchat, that result in line-ups around the block at its stores in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo.

The powerful concept at work could be called “insiders first” – which means the most connected and motivated members of Supremes’ brand community get breaking news they want (and can act on) before those not so well-connected.

From our own experience at Blade, we know the power of mastering the social media channels to grow brand communities among Gen-Zers. We re-built the Benzagel acne medication brand exclusively using social media. When we took over the brand several years ago, it was on the verge of being de-listed by the major Pharma retailers. Today, it is a growing, multimillion-dollar brand in an otherwise flat category. It thrives on Instagram where we deploy contests, enlist celebrity bloggers and provide on-going support and dialogue opportunities for teens who are struggling with acne.

3.    Empower These Kids to Do It Themselves

Gen-Zers want help to do things themselves with relevant, actionable information that doesn’t just hype your brand. According to New York ad agency Sparks & Honey, 76% of Gen-Zers want to turn their hobbies into a business.

From how-to’s and educational videos (33% of them watch online programming), to creating online communities that aim to accomplish goals collaboratively — DIY will take on a whole new urgency for Gen-Zers.

A current example is Nike’s athletic communities, where users can download a mobile app that helps them improve their workout. Okay, long distance running might not be the best career choice, but it does reflect a commitment from Nike to provide a value added service that helps Gen-Zers do more on their own. By comparison, Cladwell is an online service that asks users to complete a brief survey and then offers a personalized platform to help young men dress better, again, on their own.

4.    Avoid Overspending on Media. Invest in Energized Content Instead

One other thing to keep in mind is that engaging and motivating Gen-Zers doesn’t need to be costly. In fact, by balancing traditional media platforms with online campaigns, programs, and community building efforts, you can reach these kids with quality content and give them reasons to be your brand ambassador.

The key is to keep your messaging and imagery fresh, energized, and real. As Marketwired points out, Gen-Z is more than twice as likely to respond to advertising that features “real people” as opposed to celebrities; which supports the fact that YouTube is Gen-Z’s favourite website. That’s where celebrities are often real people who share experiences with viewers and introduce them to new products.

So keep it real, keep it relevant and turn down the self-hype when reaching out to Gen-Zers. The more you hype about yourself, the less Gen-Zers will care. Find out what these young buyers care about and how your brand can make a difference to their busy and changing lifestyle.

When you get the mix right, they’ll enlist, engage, and stay in your brand community, eagerly looking for your next instalment of relevant, empowering and actionable content. What could be easier, right?


Wayne S. Roberts

The Globe and Mail calls Wayne S. Roberts "an ad industry provocateur." Maybe its because he's never seen the point of playing by the ad game rules that place awards above results, while offering spec work instead of real value to win accounts. Throughout his career, Wayne has maintained a defiantly independent streak characterized by his insistence that agencies must be honest, direct and passionately invested in their clients' success. His pioneering work in espousing the brand community perspective has been a touchstone of his belief that branding is more than just logos, websites and ad campaigns; it is the fundamental way human beings connect with each other to create communities and launch movements that have changed our world.

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