solving the gen z mystery

by Katherine Khaloo

I’m Katherine.  I was born in 1998 and am considered a part of Generation Z (affectionately known in the short hand, as a GenZ).   I was raised by two GenX parents. I barely remember the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11 but am well acquainted with the reactions that followed.  I was aware of the election of the first Black President, without understanding what that truly meant. And I learned the value of the dollar while our country was entering the worst recession since the Great Depression. 

And yet, when marketers study my generation they lean on our obsession with technology and social media - leading to misguided conclusions that GenZ is lazy and unaware.  Gen Z is expected to make up 40% of all customers by next year, and contribute $44 billion dollars ($600 billion if you consider our impact on our parents). 

While Generation Z is a huge market to tap into, we seem to be a complete mystery to businesses and marketers.  To help you and your team better approach and communicate with the new drivers of our economy, I’ve demystified GenZ.  Keep reading ;). 

Connection and Authenticity

We’re more aware and conscious than you’d think

We were raised in a tumultuous social climate that was broadcast through our infinite access to media.  As such members of Gen Z are beginning to figure out that the way we spend our dollars has an impact. While Millennials purchase decisions were driven by the branding of a company (something GenZ still appreciates), Gen Z prioritizes your company’s mission and values as a business.  Whether that is how you internally treat your employees, charities or causes that you support or the way in which you are choosing to be more aware and less harmful - we want to know about it. 

We want to meet you, know you, and understand you

Gen Z grew up in a time where the volume of brands, campaigns and advertisements was higher than ever before - causing members of Gen Z to constantly be overstimulated.  Because of this, studies have shown that what has popularly been described as been misunderstood as an 8-second attention span is actually an 8-second filter that GenZs has developed to decide what content is worthy of our time. 

Which means that true connection and authenticity  ( a few as well as some memes) is what draws the interest of Gen Z. What Generation Z loves is feeling connected like we’re connecting with something great or brand that really matters. In this vein, You may have noticed that lots of brands have started mimicking an almost human-like personality when it comes to their copy and community management. 

A great example of this is the popular use of memes or humor to relay their products. This could also include authentic content (that ties into our last point of promotion your mission), influencer collaborations, or this phenomena that is becoming more and more popular of experiential marketing. 

Further, the idea of experiential marketing ranges from parties and events to pop ups and in-store occurrences. This younger crowd wants visual and interactive entertainment, and when successfully achieved perpetrates strong brand loyalty and lots of guerilla marketing through word-of-mouth or social postings.

We’re not as swayable as we seem

GenZ is ready for brand loyalty—we want to love being a part of your brand’s cult. Newer brands have done a great job at creating a cult loyalty through generating not only love for their products, but also for their aesthetic, their employees, their philosophies, and their branding. Through both social media and email marketing, as well as more unique guerilla marketing ideas like additional stickers and such, this obsession for your brand is possible—given that everything you display is authentic, of course. 

We still love influencers, but we’re picky about them

Generation Z may have different habits and opinions than our predecessors, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been influenced by those who came before us. We still love influencers in the way that Millennials do, but we have a sharper eye for who’s fake and who’s real. The influencers and content creators out there who are most successful in not only getting impressions but in getting their followers to purchase are the ones that stay true to their personal branding and morals, and connect with viewers on a more personal level. 

With that, it is absolutely crucial that you are very intentional with who you choose to collaborate with. Make sure you choose influencers who have similar morals, values, and philosophies to your brand’s. And if they’re able to integrate your brand and product into a story intertwined with their own, make sure to partner with them quickly.
Social Media Marketing

We bet you’re wondering which platforms we’re on 

As social media platforms continue to emerge and expand, it can be hard to keep up with what’s relevant and what’s not. This depends, of course, on what you’re hoping to achieve. 

Instagram, every marketers dream and nightmare. This platform continues to be successful with both organic and paid postings to reach your audience and sell your product.Through posts, stories, influencers, and IGTV, GenZ continues to look to this app for what’s hot and with advertisements continually becoming more and more targeted, binge shopping more and more.

YouTube, where influencers seem to dominate. This platform is widely used by the younger generation and is slowly becoming more preferred than watching TV shows or movies. Brand also have the opportunity here to create their own videos that expresses their brands and products (and goes a long way in getting that cult following if done correctly). 

Snapchat, where friends send each other embarrassing selfies. But while some brands (mostly media companies) are able to get more impressions through the platform, Snapchat overall is virtually useless for most brand’s marketing strategies. 

Facebook, the platform that is thought of being irrelevant. But that’s not necessarily the case. Yes, it is true that organic growth on this platform is nearly impossible, but that doesn’t mean that paid advertisements are ineffective. In fact, with the algorithm this social media uses in targeting customers, it can be most successful in expressing information about your brand or bringing awareness to an event you may be having. 

Twitter, a place where meme lovers and passionate politicals rub arms. GenZ simultaneously uses this platform to find viral memes and learn about the real news going on in the world. For branding purposes, unless your brand is related to these at all, they may not be the most helpful for marketing.   

Pinterest, the website that is known to be loved by moms. Well, this platform has done a good job of staying relevant to younger generations and is often the go-to for recipes or inspiration. Their algorithm does a good job with targeting in terms of advertising, but more than anything this platform could be used to supplement your brand image and promote a cult following. 

Tumblr, who is notorious for being the black sheep of social media platforms, isn’t necessarily dead. Well yes, maybe in terms of paid advertisement it is, but it is still a viable platform to use for spreading viral content across multiple types of products and industries, and also could be utilized for supporting your brand. 

Podcasts, while blogging was the rage with Millenials, podcasts are quickly blowing up and becoming more popular across several generations. Paying for advertising on podcast episodes can be very helpful. The catch is similar to what we mentioned with influencers—it’s most effective when you find podcasters (who are slowly beginning to be considered as infuencers) align with your philosophies, values, and general aesthetics as a brand. 

TikTok, the platform that is known exclusively to Gen Z. What’s interesting about this platform is that it completely missed the older GenZ generation (like myself) and really targeted tweens and early teens. Marketing on this platform hasn’t been attempted much, but with TikTok influencers emerging and more and more people downloading the app, potential for this platform is possible.

We love quality content

In order to successfully market through social media, you need to have engaging content. With so much competition out there, it is crucial that you create visually appealing and on-brand content for your products and branding. Not every post needs to be a perfect product image… We love to see high-end user generated content, authentic captions, useful stories, and helpful customer service. 

Email Marketing 

As social media continues to permeate all facets of our life, especially in terms of communication, people think that email is dead with the newest generation. Especially for marketers sake, this is (thankfully!) not true. GenZ does indeed still check their email, and continue to use it for communication purposes--both personally and professionally. 

This is good news! We have another platform to connect with this younger generation on. But what we need to keep in mind is how smart and savvy this group of people is with technology. Which presents two challenges (and some solutions to these challenges) for marketers to know of and keep in mind
We check our emails, we just don’t subscribe to a lot. 

Let’s admit it—we all have that spam email we use for those occurrences that demand it but we’re not totally willing to give up our personal information (and sanity). This is no less true for Generation Z. We’re much more picky in what we choose to subscribe to, and are not afraid to hit that unsubscribe button when we’re feeling that a brand isn’t connecting to us in a meaningful way. 

The first hump that needs to be overcome in successfully completing email marketing is actually getting Generation Z to share their emails. Traditionally, brands will invite customers that visit their brick and mortar stores or purchase from their website to submit their emails. Continuing with that has proven to be successful, especially when your audience is incentivized to do so through receiving a coupon.

We already saw this on your Instagram

Since this is still us you’re talking to, if we’re subscribed to your emails then it’s highly probable that we follow you on your social media platforms already. And we see what you put on there. 

What lots of marketers do wrong with email marketing is repeating the same content or information on both their social media platforms and their email campaigns. With GenZ being so savvy and consistently checking their accounts, it’s not surprising that they easily get tired and uninterested in a brand for reusing their material. And because of this, they’re more likely to unsubscribe to your emails since they’re not offering anything unique and instead fills up precious space in our inboxes. 

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to combat this. Simply being mindful of not tiring your audience and staggering your messaging on various platforms will go a long way in helping your audiences. 

Putting It All Together

As marketing continues to expand and shift every day, it’s important for digital marketers to be able to keep up and continually grow with the industry and our audiences. As that audience continually grows to include Generation Z, it’s essential we modify our strategies and tactics to include them.  Need help? Reach out to us here to get started on revamping your strategy to include Gen Z + Young Millenials.