3 things to know about marketing to Generation Z

Generation X became Generation Y. Millennials are growing up. And now marketers are shifting focus to “Gen Z” — the next major consumer group, comprised of teenagers who are younger than 19 today. This generation has grown up with full access to the Internet and technology. They’re digital natives, and it’s even tougher for brands to woo this group and win their loyalty, love and income.

Comprising 25% of the U.S. population, brands need to understand how to market to Gen Z. Here are three things every marketer should know about this group:

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 on social media. 93% of Gen Z say they visit YouTube at least once a week, and 54% visit the site multiple times throughout the day. Gen Z also uses Twitter (26%), Google+ (26%), and Instagram (17%) on a weekly basis, but less often. With mobile-only, disposable media networks, brands need to create shorter form content — whether it’s a video or an animated image With mobile-only, disposable media networks, brands need to create shorter form content — whether it’s a video or an animated image — that is tailored to each social platform.

Clothing retailer Supreme is a great example of a brand accurately using Snapchat. A recent iMedia Connection case study shows how Supreme leveraged the power of Gen Z to get 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,” says the study.

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2. Empower them to do things themselves
Perhaps the phrase, “We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for,” describes Gen Z best. They’re growing up in a time of economic uncertainty, forced to be resourceful and self-motivated. According to Sparks & Honey, 76% of Gen Z-ers want to turn their 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 waiting 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. And marketing strategies will need to speak to this need for efficiency to be successful. Brands should give customers the tools to learn, do or experience things themselves. Brands should give customers the tools to learn, do or experience things themselves. From how-tos and educational videos (33% of them watch online programming), to creating online communities that want to accomplish goals collaboratively — DIY will take on a whole new meaning. Engagement tactics will need to include community, collaboration and gamification.

Just look at Nike’s athletic communities, or how Cladwell has built a utilitarian, yet personalized, platform to help male consumers dress better. Numerous fashion brands are partnering with artisans or DIY influencers to create goods and services that benefit all those involved.

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Luckily, empowering Gen Z doesn’t need to be costly. Unique partnerships are an easy way for brands to 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 a local organizations? 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 digital mediums. It’s important for brands travel with them. Brands will need to master platform-specific tactics for a variety of channels, ensuring maximum engagement with their target audience.

Here’s how such integration works. Imagine, for example, that a brand’s overall goal is to build brand awareness. A cross-platform strategy takes this overarching concept one step further by developing platform-specific tactics. The tactic for reaching customers might change, but the overall message should remain consistent — regardless of the platform. It should still be easily recognized as an extension of the overall brand. 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, emphasizes the importance and complexity of communication. In a multitasking world of online clutter, brands must communicate simple, engaging messages to catch Gen Z’s attention.

According to SapientNitro, “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 platform-specific desires will yield greater success for any brand.

As generations evolve and become more proficient with technology, brands must devolve in order to make one-on-one connections.

By Macala Wright
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