They are the first generation to grow up with the internet, smartphones and streaming television. Members of Generation Z were born between 1995 and 2012 and represent nearly 75 million Americans. Though younger than millennials, Gen Zers are already shaping business outcomes of brands worldwide.
Specifically, some brands are embracing innovative new strategies, in an effort to win over this age cohort: Facebook, for instance, developed Instagram Stories, to lure the youngest social media users away from Snapchat. And automobile companies, seeing that Gen Zers are less interested in driving than previous age groups, are investing in driverless vehicles.
So, what can you do to make your own brand friendly to members of Generation Z? In fact, there are eight things you can do right now:
1. Embrace new media.
One recent study found that members of Generation Z visit social media platforms an average of 11 times per day. Unlike millennials, Gen Zers prefer using Snapchat and Instagram to connect with friends, while millennials have historically preferred Facebook. Gen Zers are also big consumers of content on YouTube. So much so that YouTube has invested millions of dollars in creating content that appeals to this demographic.
For brands to be successful, marketers must devise strategies that incorporate the platforms Gen Zers use most. That means developing a strategy for Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. The exact strategy your brand develops will depend on your goals, and budget. To get started, create a content calendar for each platform, and measure engagement, reach and growth in followers to determine what your audience is most likely to appreciate moving forward.
2. Feature relatable content; avoid idealizing life.
Members of Generation Z prefer marketing campaigns that feature relatable depictions of life. They eschew idealized depictions since they feel disingenuous. One recent analysis of Gen Z preferences posited that the reason why brands like Abercrombie & Fitch are performing poorly is because the content produced by the brand is not aligned to these young shoppers' preferences.
Instead, embracing user-generation content (UGC) is a great way for brands to depict real life, since this content is produced by real customers. This form of content also functions as social proof that can help brands to quickly build credibility among prospects. User-generated content is frequently shared by brands like BMW, GoPro and Sephora (all brands that appeal to Gen-Zers) on social platforms like Instagram.
3. Think mobile first.
Members of Generation Z are mobile, first and foremost. A study by Google found that while Gen Zers surveyed used up to five different screens, respondents used smartphones most often to consume content.That means that brands should ensure they are offering prospects an outstanding mobile-website experience. So, on that note, avoid driving social media users to your website unless the site is first optimized for a fast, enjoyable mobile experience.
4. Realize -- it must be repeated -- that Gen Zers are not millennials.
As previously stated, Gen Zers are not millennials (contrary to popular belief). Where millennials tend to be collaborative and optimistic, Gen-Zers are considered to be independent and ambitious. While millennials prefer working in open offices, Gen Zers primarily prefer the idea of their own office.
Eventually, all brands will need to adapt to desires like this one, of Gen Zers, when it comes to hiring. Be sure to keep in mind that millennials and Gen-Zers have different career preferences. Avoid assuming that all young people are alike.
5. Get to know Gen Z influencers.
Generation Z has found inspiration in a crop of social media influencers that produce intimate and inspiring content on new media platforms. Influencers like Logan Paul and Shawn Mendes should be considered here. Brands interested in connecting with Gen Z should consider following a few of these influencers to understand the psyche and lexicon associated with this generation.
Typically, Gen Z influencers provide fans a glimpse inside an entrepreneurial, inspiring and somewhat transparent life. As influencers travel the world, they commonly use their smartphones to take photo and video content. Brands that develop a similar voice on new media platforms will likely have an easier time attracting Gen-Z interest.
6. Study brands that already appeal to Generation Z.
As mentioned earlier, a number of brands have already been able to make in-roads with Gen Zers. Nike, Sephora, BMW and Amazon are just a few of the brands Gen Zers find cool, innovative or inspiring. Each brand has developed a clear voice and value proposition that appeals to Gen-Z values.
7. Develop a technological brand narrative.
Gen Zers are a technology-driven generation. Of the brands that have the most appeal to this cohort, many are tech companies that have shaped the way Gen Z consumes media and connects with friends. Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook (among others) are appealing to Gen Zers because these brands are innovative to a degree that is shaping the world in which we live.
While other brands may not be as technically driven, it is important that your brand narrative incorporate technology to show that the brand is modern, innovative and forward-facing. Doing so will help organizations appeal to the interests of Generation Z.
8. Remember that “cool” matters.
Finally, remember, Gen Zers range between the ages of 22 and 5 years of age. Most members of this generation are teenagers; and, as such, being cool is important. According to the Google study cited earlier, Oreos, YouTube and Disney are considered cool because these brands developed a narrative using new media that speaks to this demographic, while maintaining an image that is consistent with the brand’s history.
Marketers, similarly, must think of ways to evolve a brand so that it speaks to Gen Zers, without compromising the company DNA that makes their organizations unique.
With about $44 billion in purchasing power, Gen Zers are projected to become a more important demographic for brands than millennials. To appeal to this generation, brands must embrace new media and use these new platforms to tell a brand story that speaks to the psyche of the world’s youngest generation.
Listening to Gen-Z influencers, and to brands that Gen Zers find “cool” will help you and your team understand how to position your own organization to capture mind-share among this important audience.