Marketing to Gen Z: Why We Need to Embrace the Next Generation
Every couple of years a flood of articles come out saying something like, “Why the newest generation is going to ruin everything for everyone.” It’s an easy assertion to make about a new generation. But does this ever actually mean anything? Why should we care about “the new generation?”
- This new generation will make up 40% of consumers by 2020.
- They already have a whopping $830 billion dollars of spending power right now.
- They’re by far the largest generation in America today.
Who is This New Generation?
For the sake of clarity, we will refer to them as “Gen Z”(make a different color) because they are preceded by both Gen Y and Gen X. But in case you’re wondering, here’s a definitive list of every name researchers have tried to coin for this generation since around 2005:
The Homeland Generation
Bubble Wrap Kids
The New Millennials
We’ll call them Gen Z because it’s easy to remember. And it doesn’t sound nearly as stupid as iGen ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Odds are, as the generation develops, a more permanent name will stick like the term Millennial has.
Introducing Gen Z
Gen Z is a brand spankin new generation that was born around the time the rest of us were getting frosted tips and riding around in Heelys. The generally accepted birth dates for Gen Z range from 1995-2014. This means they grew up in the aftermath of 9/11, both the Iraq and Afghan wars and the 2008 recession. But like any generation, the dates get kind of murky on the edges of the generational divide.
I was born in 1994 but would consider myself to be an obvious Millennial with no connection to Gen Z whatsoever. Several of my younger friends consider themselves Millennials even though they would be well within the Gen Z timeframe.
Millennials and Gen Z should really be called the twin generations. The two groups are so similar, it’s hard to tell them apart from each other.
Millennials to the Max
The two generations are similar in a lot of ways. But if anything, they’re just a more extreme version of the average Millennial. There are countless similarities but you might notice some slight differences.
What’s the Big Difference?
Regardless of their similarities, one thing is clear, Gen Z’s collective life experiences have been drastically different from the Millennial experience. The number one factor being technology.
Every one of these kids skipped the flip phone for the iPhone. As a result, most kids probably don’t even know what the term “cell phone” means. It’s been all smartphones all the time. 45% of US children now have a smartphone with a service plan.
That means access to the internet and social media.
Gen Z values social media in a completely different way than past generations.
In fact, they might actually kill Facebook entirely. They see no real value in using Facebook when there are similar, more engaging, fluid, and constantly changing social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. 47% of teens now consider Snapchat their favorite social media platform.
If you need some proof, ask the next kid you see if they want or have a Facebook profile. Odds are they either don’t know what Facebook is or have no desire to connect with Grandma and Aunt Judy through social media. Facebook has turned into the stereotypical old people social media platform. Brands need to face this fact and adapt to the changes in social media trends to stay relevant to a new, tech-savvy generation.
Ok Ok…I know what you’re thinking and I agree. Prematurely jumping ship on Facebook would be a really really bad idea. Facebook is by far the largest social media platform and everybody knows this.
Just because little Billy doesn’t see the value in Facebook doesn’t mean Mom, Dad, Aunt Judy, Grandpa, Grandma, and literally everyone else on the planet will ditch the platform any time soon. So just sit tight and keep developing your Facebook marketing strategies until we see some major changes.
Gen Z’s have never known a time without smartphones, touch screens, Netflix, and social media. They’ve grown up in an era of total media saturation with access to decades of media at their fingertips. Today it’s possible for the average teenager to spend their afternoon listening to Drake on Spotify while playing Mario on the Nintendo Switch. All while their sibling watches Stranger Things on Netflix scrolling through their Instagram feed.
Dealing with Gen Z
Despite their enormous buying power and massive population, marketers are just flat out ignoring Gen Z.
Because nobody knows what to do and more importantly, nobody wants to be wrong.
This generation has proven to be incredibly difficult to reach through advertising. Everybody seems to be waiting around for the answer but the problem is, there’s no real cut and dry solution. Especially with people who actively avoid advertising by skipping ads and installing ad blockers.
The advertising industry has yet to find a foolproof marketing strategy for reaching Gen Z. But like generations in the past, we can scrape together some basic understanding and develop a strategy from there. So we’ve done just that.
Here’s a rough list of some basic rules to follow when developing a marketing strategy for Gen Z.
1. You have to entertain them to reach them.
Millennials and Gen Z like reference jokes. Memes and references from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s are the cream of the crop for jokes. (Rickrolling was made popular by this concept)
2. Video is king.
Not television commercials, but social, interactive, and fun video content resonates with this generation more than any other form of media.
3. What’s in it for them?
A basic tenant of advertising has always been: “Don’t give away your product if you don’t have to.” Well, I’m here to tell you, GIVE IT AWAY. Gen Z loves this. This isn’t to say give away your product 100% of the time, that would be stupid. But giveaways and prizes go a long way with this generation and it makes you seem more down to earth and friendly.
*This rule should be used with discretion. Don’t give away your business. Give when you can and when it makes sense. Consult a professional before giving away anything of significant value.
4. Give them plenty of information and let them know the benefits.
Gen Z heavily researches products before they buy. Make sure your website has plenty of content. Including tricks and tips, buying guides, and a lot of general information about your company or product.
5. They hate gimmicks more than anything.
This probably seems like a direct contradiction from rule 3, but what I’m talking about is the really cheesy crap. The flashing billboards with BUY NOW written all over it. The TV commercials with the guy in the question mark suit. The age of Ronald Mcdonald is over. Gen Z can smell an ad from a mile away. Be genuine and speak to them like they have some basic intelligence.
6. Revolve your marketing strategy around a mix of paid/organic social media and optimize for mobile whenever possible.
Gen Z is obsessed with social influencers. Social media is the new TV or movie theater. Youtube personalities are quickly replacing movie stars in popularity. If you put Logan Paul and Leonardo Dicaprio in a room the kids would be wondering who the old guy with slicked back hair is.
The Future of Z
Gen Z isn’t going anywhere. Businesses and marketing professionals everywhere should be scrambling to connect with this huge digital generation because getting ahead of these marketing trends will make it or break it for businesses of the future. It may not be today or tomorrow, but someday we will be catering our advertising to this overwhelming cultural shift one way or another. Get ahead of it now while there’s still wiggle room for mistakes.
Whether it be updating your website, optimizing for mobile, or just getting your business on social media, take the initiative and start making the necessary changes to connect with Gen Z.