By now, most companies have a solid marketing plan in place to reach Millennials. However, even some of the most forward-thinking companies have yet to develop a plan to communicate with Generation Z. When you consider that by 2020, a whopping 40% of the market will be Gen Z, it makes sense to develop a plan to reach this generation now.
With that in mind, I recently set out to speak to a top voice within Gen Z to learn more about this generation that will soon be prevalent in the marketplace. When I came across Ishan Goel's profile on Instagram and read some of his blogs on Huffington Post, I knew I had found just the guy I was looking for to help me gain insights into Gen Z.
Ishan is currently working on a project with the Mark Cuban Companies. In the past, he has worked on a presidential campaign from 2016 and consulted for Fortune 500 companies.
After speaking with Ishan, I have no doubt that he is a bridge between Gen Z and the marketing world. Here's a piece of our conversation:
John White: Clearly you're using social media for more than collecting likes. How did you manage to grow your network so large and connect to some of the top entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the business world?
Ishan Goel: I had a few tools on my side that helped me get in front of the right people. I used my photography services as a door opener. Everyone likes a good picture, and I used it as a way to get inside events, meet people most can only dream to reach, and make some extra money on the side doing what I loved. From there I provided excellent work and pictures, and it was all about re-marketing myself and bringing value. Eventually, when you get high enough in the ranks, it turns into a very small world and networking never stops but becomes seamless.
White: Ok, Ishan, this is literally the million dollar question that people reading this want to know the most. What advice do you have for companies trying to market to Generation Z?
Goel: Companies are struggling to market to Gen Z because we can see an advertisement is coming a mile away and know how to click out of it, rendering traditional targeting methods useless.
Instead, focus your campaigns on spontaneous creativity. Gen Z loves to see originality and transparency, we are turned away by confusion, and the longer we have to look at something to understand what is going on the less likely we are going to fall into whatever sales funnel you have going on. Make it clear, make it fun, and make it simple. Social media is Gen Z's go-to because it's a playground we understand completely. Talk to Gen Z like friends, not customers.
White: Which social media networks should marketers focus on to have conversations with Gen Z?
Goel: Instagram is doing a great job with keeping their platform feeling warm and friendly. Also it's still too confusing for adults (parents) to get on and use actively. It is a place where the user can have control of most everything.
Snapchat is powerful because it keeps everything in the shadows and keeps the user in control of the convos and privacy. Snapchat is currently Gen Z's go-to when posting something. The stories help you update and be updated on everyone's day and the streaks help with reminding how close you are to your buddies.
White: Was your age an asset or a hindrance starting up so early?
Goel: I started my first "company" when I was 13 years old, and I had to understand the game and prove that I wasn't like everyone else. Being young really helps because you don't come off as a threat. My mentors didn't mind having me in a meeting or listening in on a phone call because they knew I was there to learn and in turn provide insight. I believe it is an asset, and taking advantage of always being the youngest in a room makes you much more interesting and valuable.
White: You just graduated from high school this past spring. In our conversation, you mentioned that you feel the school system in the U.S. is doing little to help young entrepreneurs like you get started. What did you get out of your primary school education (k-12)?
Goel: I believe it taught me how to accept failure and how to work around a system that wasn't inviting to creativity. Despite what most people say, the grade school years do not identify how smart you are; they simply track how good you are at following directions and memorizing material for the next test. I saw so many students who were all caught up in the competition instead of the collaboration, and it was tearing the best out of people in hopes to "prepare them for the future." I believe it slowed me down, but also put me in the position to help other students and show that there are ways around today's school system. I was motivated to launch incubators and programs that helped thousands of students grow as entrepreneurs and creators.
White: What would you change about our school system to make it more effective in developing students to become more entrepreneurial?
Goel: The grading system. I believe the GPA and letter grading system is the reason we have students who don't mind cheating as long as they get a good grade. Teachers have the power to put in any grade they want based on how they feel, participation points, whatever the case might be, which makes the class about the teacher instead of the content.
Grading should be based on knowledge that was learned over time and should be based on a rubric system. Instead of random multiple choice questions, having real-life scenarios with response essays would be much more valuable and project-based learning to encourage teamwork. If a student isn't internally motivated, they will never truly learn the information so we need to stop focusing on scaring students into passing and motivate them to do more with the information that is taught at school.
White: What advice would you give high school students who want to become entrepreneurs?
Goel: It takes a little redirection with time to pull 2-3 hours per day to put into a side project. Do that instead of playing games on your phone or watching your friends' snapchat stories. Build yourself up because that is the one thing that you will always have. Get out there and network; take advantage of not having many responsibilities. This is not the time to be lazy. If you get ahead of everyone else now, chances are you will always be a frontrunner no matter what you are doing.
Do whatever it takes to get the experience and build a network you are proud of.