When a new generation enters the mix of society, they bring new habits, tastes and preferences. Brands need to learn about them and adapt in order to find long-term success. During their debut, Millennials brought about a new approach to the world, shaped by the rise of the dot-com bubble in the early 2000’s.
Next up is Generation Z. While many are quickly writing Gen Z off as Millennials on steroids, this is a rushed assumption that fails to understand how each generation came about. While Millennials were influenced by the good times of the 1990s and the ability to realize meteoric success through technology, Gen Z is influenced by the Great Recession and the overwhelming nature of technology.
In order to understand how to capture the attention of this new generation, brands are turning to them directly. Youth marketing strategists like Connor Blakley, who has previously worked with brands like Sprint, NPD Group and Modell’s Sporting Gouds, are helping them understand how the youth of today are programmed.
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Entrepreneurship has changed so much since I was young. Blakley is one of several entrepreneurs I have connected with through Facebook, and I find it especially cool that kids are pursuing this path at such a young age. If you told large brands 20 years ago that they would be hiring 17-year old strategists in the future, they would have laughed. But, they are helping to bridge the gap between brand and Gen Zer.
For those wanting to better connect with Gen Z, you need to focus on being authentic -- in both your marketing and brand story. Here are a few tips to help achieve this.
Do it for the kids.
Since Gen Z is the first generation of true digital natives, they have grown up using the internet and social media -- this means they have been inundated with advertisements since day one. Every time they perform search on Google, scroll through their Facebook feed or listen to Spotify, they are hammered with ads. This has played a tremendous role in how they view corporations.
Successful brands must adapt. Rather than being overly promotional, companies need to shift their focus on relationship building. This is where authenticity can be instrumental in making the youth not only engage and purchase, but also care about the brand.
Find your voice.
In order to be authentic and develop a relationship with Gen Z, the first step is to find your brand’s voice. Everything you do and say will be scrutinized, so you need to make sure your organization is like a real-life person with a backstory, an interesting message and a purpose. This brand story will be the root of your relationship with the youth and it’s what they are going to connect with -- if it’s strong enough, they will want to follow it.
A strong brand voice defies the typical constraints of corporations and makes them appear human. Wendy’s took this to the extreme when they used their company social media to “roast” and insult their competitors and customers in a way that was hilariously refreshing. As you find your voice, don’t be uptight, stale or boring.
Understand what Gen Z values.
Once you have a strong brand voice, you need to work on centering your marketing on providing value for Gen Z. Whether you are creating content, offering incredible experiences or doing desirable giveaways, you need to focus on attracting Gen Z. Furthermore, preferences change constantly, so you need to stay on top of the current lifestyles and trends that are culturally impacting this generation.
Taking this step to truly understand how the youth function and how you can improve their lives will demonstrate a level of caring that most brands don’t reach. Most brands run ads and develop marketing strategies around profits with little concern for their audience. Revenue and profits are crucial for survival, but you also need to focus on understanding and relating to your target market, which now includes Gen Z.