In case you are still worried about courting the Millennial market, it's time to move on. Gen Z has started to enter the workforce and they are a market to be reckoned with. And lest you fall into a relationship rut: Gen Z is not Millennial 2.0. They differ in their affinity for brands, brand loyalty, and media preferences, according to new research from Atlantic Re:think, which was done with ComScore and Harvard College Consulting Group.

This year, Gen-Z will surpass Millennials as the largest generation, comprising about 32% of the population. But this is much more than a numbers game. As Atlantic Re:think's research affirms, Gen-Z is also already shifting trends on communication and consumption.

Understanding audiences is critical for media companies like The Atlantic so that they can serve up the right content and experiences for its younger demographic. It is also important for The Atlantic to be in a position to help marketers effectively reach audiences as well. Thus, the report offers insights for media executives, marketers, and employers alike.

According to the research, Gen Z actually prefers more established media brands (yes, like The Atlantic) to emerging media companies. Gen Z also has different content and format preference from Millennials. They're more likely to interact with video, and have a greater affinity for entertainment, advice, art and design content.

And, though Gen Z shares previous generations' esteem for recommendations from friends and peers (55%) above all other sources of information about new brands, they are also highly influenced by a brand's social media activity (48%) and advertising in the context of their favorite media brands (40%).

So, given that Gen Z actually finds advertising influential, here are a few key takeaways for marketers from Atlantic Re:think's research:

1. Talk smart. Gen Z doesn't want to be talked down to. (Who does, really?) But one respondent noted that "some of the more Gen Z oriented news sources are pretty patronizing...in a way that presumes that people who are young are also stupid." As Dave Cullen. the author of Parkland: Birth of a Movement, recently said of his sources and subjects, "I never treated them like kids. It goes a long way." A full 84% of Gen Z respondents said that they are interested in current events, world affairs, politics, etc., yet only 34% say that they are well versed in these topics. With Gen Z, there's an opportunity to help them understand the world and find a constructive place in it. Treat them with respect and you will earn theirs in return.   

2. Get real. One fascinating finding of the research was that advertising should be a reflection of the world, not a mirror of your target. Diversity and inclusivity matter a lot. Sixty one percent of Gen Z are more likely to buy brands that have spokespeople who are diverse rather than spokespeople who look like them. At the same time, 62% are more likely to buy brands that have spokespeople they aspire to be like rather than spokespeople their age. What this boils down to is that marketing to this generation needs to be genuine, honest, and aspirational without being exclusionary or pretentious.

3. Optimize for tech. While they have a "utopian" view of technology, Gen Z also values its privacy. Overall, Gen Z views technology positively, with 76% saying its made them more creative and 71% saying it's made them happier, compared to only 47% who say it's made them more anxious and 45% who believe it's made them more stressed. Gen Z is thoughtful about sharing data online but not nearly as concerned as Millennials. Marketers need to deliver on Gen Z's expectation of technologically-optimized experiences and recognize their fondness for innovation and experimentation. This generation will exchange personal data for terrific experiences. So, don't waste that opportunity.

4. Be savvy, skeptical, and socially responsible. Gen Z has higher expectations for brands than Millennials, and they're less likely to be brand loyal. In order to appeal to Gen Z, brands will need to adopt characteristics that are significant to them: 82% said social responsibility was a very important or an important characteristic of their favorite brands. They value organizations that value their employees, the environment, and sustainability. Given their likelihood to shift brand allegiances, aligning business strategies and marketing messages around the issues that matter to this generation (and the interests and passions of your specific slice of this demographic) is critical for success.

Along with perennial favorites quality and price, Atlantic Re:think offers six characteristics that are particularly appealing to Gen Z: experience, personalization, responsibility, personality, eco-consciousness, and innovation. So keep these characteristics in mind as you look forward to developing a relationship with your next generation of customers.

Published on: Feb 15, 2019
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