So… WTF is a ‘Gen Z’?

By Jess C on 7 August 2019

What’s Gen Z, anyways? 

Just when you think you have Millennials all figured out, here comes the next phase of generation-generalisation: the ‘Gen Z’. Born roughly between 1995 and 2010, this youth market will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020.

At worst, Gen Z has been labelled ‘fake’, ‘entitled’ and ‘anxious.’ But despite being vilified for being always on(line) and self(ie)-absorbed, Gen Z are extremely engaged with the negative effects of technology on self-worth and mental health – seeking novel ways to experience the world offline. Gen Z’s rejection of toxic stereotypes in favour of individualism is balanced against a firm, ‘always on’ global connectivity.

In short, Gen Z are the ‘woke’ generation of entrepreneurial activists devoted to social good and positive change. And as the most financially powerful and diverse demographic comes of age, what does that mean for brands? There are, of course, certain labels and consumer habits that can be useful… But not if it means becoming complacent or lazy when marketing to them.

 Maybe you’re feeling the vice of pressure ­– perhaps from your own KPIs or from your C-suite – to start reaching out to influencers or to start marketing on Snapchat in order to engage this new demographic. But never fear. Evolving is as much a part of the industry as any metric or data.

Engaging the next generation

 Gen Z places a much larger emphasis on their role in the world and their collective responsibility to help improve it, responding to ethics over goods and experience over objects. This presents an interesting challenge for brands, to see how they can engage them in a genuine way. Here are some things to know: 

They’re digital natives

Generation Z has grown up with entertainment always available at their fingertips. Of course, not every Gen Z is constantly engaging with activism online or are social media obsessives. But when you’re trying to reach them, you have to know where Gen Z are (and it’s definitely not on Facebook). Your best chances are on Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, in that particular order.

 Keep the creative eye-catching enough that it’s compelling, but not obviously attention-seeking.* (I know. It’s a fine line.) With users being able to click “skip” on ads before they even know what the product is, try to make your video ads arresting and hard to ignore. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how brilliant your ad is if only the first three seconds are watched. Keep it snazzy or prepare to be skipped.

 They’re movers, shakers and co-creators

 This “post-internet generation” doesn’t just consume entertainment – they help to shape it and co-create it. Studies have revealed that 80% of Gen Z say that ‘finding themselves creatively’ is important. Over 25% post original video content on a weekly basis, while 65% enjoy creating and sharing content across social media.

For the most authentic form of engagement and simplest solution, try to involve Gen Z in your campaign activity. Maybe it’s acquiring user-generated content or thinking up a brand activation that’s creatively enticing and hands-on. Get Gen Z involved, because they want to be involved. 

Get your s*** together

It’s really important to smoothly integrate micro-influencers into your campaigns. Because of the comparatively “small” followings of micro-influencers, their posts seem more authentic and relatable than those of the mega-celebrity. Ultimately, Gen Z are more likely to believe the thoughts and opinions of the mico-influencer than those of a big-name star.

 That’s why it’s imperative that your brand chooses the right influencers for your brand and to give them some creative autonomy (within reason!).

Find your purpose

 You can’t think like ’89 Kevin Costner, i.e., “If you build it, they will come.” (Can you tell which generation I belong to yet?). Brands no longer have the luxury of not picking a side on decisive issues – consumers want to be loyal to brands that share the same values as they do. But naturally, your cause has to make sense for your brand.

 Gen Z connects with brands that push them, challenge their critical thinking and present fresh perspectives – brands like Glossier, Palace Skateboards, Nike and Superdrug. 

Ultimately, Gen Z is a unique generation that exists in a polarised, post-internet world. This creates both new challenges and new opportunities to connect with them. The fun part will be throwing your conventional assumptions and frameworks out the window, so you deliver fresh ideas, branding, marketing and offline experiences that this evolving generation is looking for.

Getting to Know the ‘Me Is We’ Generation

Gen Zers see themselves as part of something greater. And when brands engage in an open, ongoing dialogue with these digital-savvy consumers, they can be too. Recently, Facebook released an IQ report educating marketers on how to connect with a generation of digital natives who desire nothing more than community, inclusivity and the desire to build a better world. Read more in their report here.

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