Three Things Marketers Must Know About Gen Z

Three Things Marketers Must Know About Gen Z

Monday, November 24 2014

Generation X became Generation Y, and now Generation Y’s millennials are growing up. Marketers are turning their focus to Generation Z (“Gen Z”), as their next target consumer group. Gen Z consists of teenagers under 19 years of age today. What’s interesting to note is that this generation has grown up with full access to internet and technology. These digital natives will be an even tougher consumer group for brands and retailers to woo in terms of getting their attention and winning their loyalty, love, and income. Making up 25% of the American population, Gen Z is a relevant and necessary group to understand and to know how to market products. Below are three areas every marketer should know about Gen Z:

1. When It Comes to Social Media, It’s All about YouTube and SnapChat

Gen Z may be the most socially-savvy group marketers will ever meet, with 81% of teenagers using social media. 93% of Gen Z say they visit YouTube at least once a week and 54% visit the site multiple times per day. Gen Z also uses Twitter (26%), Google+ (26%), and Instagram (17%) on a weekly basis. With mobile-only, disposable media networks, brands will need to create shorter form content—whether it’s a video or an animated image—that tailors to each social platform.

Clothing retailer Supreme is a great example of a brand that has successfully appealed to Gen Z through Snapchat. An iMedia Connection case study shows how Supreme leveraged the power of Gen Z to place it back on the relevancy map.

“Supreme's coveted one-day, limited edition items create lines so big around the block that the police often need to close down the streets. Supreme is also an innovator in social, and uses Snapchat to promote ‘snap-sales.’ This means that at any given day or time, a Snapchat is sent out that lets the customers know that there is a sale for a limited amount of time—causing a rush to the store.”

“When it comes to marketing to teenagers, juniors brands are the most digitally adept retailers online, and social media is where they start their conversations that carry customers over into purchase,” says Christopher Griffin, President of WWDMAGIC. “That’s what Supreme effectively did. It established a dialogue between its brand and its customers because it understood where they spent their time online.”

2. We’ll Empower Them to Do Things Themselves

The phrase, “We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for,” describes Gen Z in a nutshell. They’re growing up amidst a lot of economic uncertainty, forcing them to be extremely resourceful and self-motivated. According to Sparks & Honey, 76% of Gen Z-ers want to turn their personal hobbies into a business. “For Gen Z, it's all about going your own way—starting your own company or creating a new product without having to wait for permission, the right skill set, an academic degree, or even years of work experience.”

Self-reliance and empowerment are the key elements of engagement. As such, marketing strategies will need to speak to Gen Z’s need for efficiency in order to be successful. Brands will find themselves giving customers the tools to learn, do, or experience things themselves. From how-to’s and educational videos (33% of them watch online programming), to creating communities, to finding like-minded individuals to accomplish goals collaboratively, DIY will take on a whole new meaning. Especially when marketers overlay DIY with new, evolving engagement tactics, DIY will represent community, collaboration, and gamification.

The good news is that marketers can already find and learn from stellar examples of brands empowering customers. Just look at Nike’s athletic communities or how Cladwell has built a utilitarian, yet personalized platform that helps male consumers learn how to dress better. Meanwhile, numerous fashion brands are partnering with artisans or DIY influencers to create goods and services that benefit all those involved. 

Empowering Gen Z doesn’t need to be costly. By forming unique partnerships, brands can creatively connect with their target consumers. What could you teach at General Assembly or build with a platform like Mightybell? What kinds of community events could you develop with local organizations like Grow LA or Silver Lake Farms? Collaborative ventures are not only cost-effective, but they give Gen Z what they want most—skills and knowledge.

3. Take a Cross-Platform Marketing Approach

Gen Z, even more than their Gen Y counterparts, will travel across multiple mediums and it’s important that brands travel with them. Brands will not only need to master platform-specific tactics that engage the Gen Z audience, but also appeal to their values and aspirations for the future. Successfully appealing to both platform and behavior-specific needs will require brands to integrate specificity into their overall multi-channel, cross-platform strategies.

Here’s how such integration works. Take, for example, that a brand’s overall goal is to build brand awareness. A multi-channel, cross-platform strategy takes this overarching concept a step further into platform-specific tactics. Depending on the platform, the tactic for reaching customers will change, but the overall message should remain consistent, no matter the platform. Multiple tactics on multiple platforms should still be easily recognized as an extension of the overall brand campaign to build awareness. For a specific cross-platform example, look at Forbes’ take on Beats By Dre’s #ShowYourColor campaign.

Gen Z’s need for experience, combined with their emotional attachment to their digital devices (we all struggle with this) further emphasizes the importance and complexity of communication. In a multitasking world of online clutter, a brand must communicate simple, engaging messages to catch Gen Z’s attention.

According to Sapient, “Beyond the actual utility of digital, most Gen Z kids have an emotional dependence on their digital connections, which is hardly seen in other demographic groups. Many older generations also use digital devices significantly, but mostly as a utility tool. The Gen Z population, in contrast, finds digital playing an important role in their life, probably because they have not known any other means and have used digital in their formative years.” Playing to Gen Z’s emotional needs and satisfying their platform-specific desires will yield great success for any brand willing to think critically about a cross-platform strategy.

Isn’t it interesting that as consumers evolve and become more proficient with technology, brands must devolve in order to make one-on-one connections?

What are your experiences in marketing to younger generations? How do you plan to approach their digital consumption patterns in your own marketing strategies? Share your tactics below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.