Climate change, political unrest, mental health struggles, social media saturation, never-ending news cycles--this is the soundtrack that's been playing as Gen Z has come of age.
Is it any wonder that this generation (those born after 1995) are more cynical of brands' attempts to reach them than their Millennial predecessors?
However, companies often make the mistake of lumping Millennials and Gen Z together simply as "digital natives," expecting the same kinds of outreach to work for both groups. From perfectly posed Instagram photos to highly curated influencer content, the style that worked for so many Millennials just isn't reaching Gen Z.
When you consider that Gen Z will account for 40 percent of consumers by 2020, it's clear that brands must figure out how to reach them if want to survive past the next five years.
Here's how to make your marketing stick for this difficult-to-reach, but incredibly powerful demographic.
It's been said that Gen Z has an attention span of eight seconds--basically, the same as that of a gnat.
What one survey by the firm Altitude found, however, is that Gen Z actually has what the researchers call an "eight-second filter." Having grown up in a world that's saturated with information, Gen Z has naturally developed an extremely tight filter to cut through the noise and locate the information that's relevant or interesting to them.
And what are they filtering out?
They're filtering out anything that seems inauthentic, unrealistic, or overly aspirational.
According to research by the influencer marketing firm Takumi, "72 percent of consumers said they would unfollow an individual over disingenuous endorsements, with 69% parting ways over the promotion of an unrealistic lifestyle or body image or evidence that people were 'dramatically' misrepresenting themselves or their lifestyles."
The "Instagram-perfect" aesthetic that we all know--the perfectly plated plant-based foods, the windblown, breathlessly happy influencers--is giving way to a much more day-to-day, unposed, realistic aesthetic among both Gen Z influencers and consumers. Gen Z YouTubers aren't striving to make their lives look perfect, but to look real.
So how can you hop on this bandwagon?
Your brand can start by embracing and committing to diversity in representation. That means having a diversity of skin colors, genders, body types, body sizes, etc. throughout your website and in your advertising and marketing images.
Models that are airbrushed to perfection are out--real people with real bodies and real experiences are in.
Don't try to sell to Gen Z.
Gen Z is also able to spot a sales pitch a mile away, and you can bet it won't make it through that eight-second filter.
Selling to Gen Z doesn't work. Instead, you've got to give them something of value and prove that your brand is worth their time.
While this may sound challenging, the good news is that once you've got their attention, they're willing to dive deep. Gen Z may have learned to scroll through newsfeeds before they entered middle school, but they're also committed to and focused on the issues and values that matter to them--and brands that both share and live out these values will be able to win their loyalty.
Use technology to personalize their brand experience.
Gen Z came of age with targeting, AI, and big data, and Gen Zers expect brands to know that they're not like every other customer.
Consumers in this group want to be treated as individuals. They want to see content, products, and recommendations that are relevant to their specific needs and behavior.
For this group, micro-targeting and micro-segmenting are the way to go, and technologies like AI and tracking customers via wifi signals can help identify how those customers should be targeted.
While Gen Z expects highly personalized brand experiences, they're also more careful about their privacy than previous generations.
According to research by SheerID, 87 percent of Gen Zers said that keeping their information private was more important to them than getting likes on their social posts. This means that brands must be straightforward and transparent about what personal information they're collecting, and how they're using it.
Marketing to Gen Z is different from marketing to Millennials, even though both demographic groups are connected consumers. If you're working to differentiate your brand among Gen Z shoppers, keep this advice in mind--and if you need extra support, make sure the agency you engage is well-versed in working with this rising generation of consumers and the powerful growth opportunities they hold.