A Beginner’s Guide to Gen Z
It’s been years since we first heard about millennials. There have been countless articles published on how to target them, stay relevant to them, deal with them in every aspect of our business and private life. And, of course, we’ve all heard about all the industries they killed ;).
On the other hand, these extensive lists of industries that millennials “completely destroyed” say A LOT about their way of thinking, buying habits, behavior, and so on.
But, we’re not here to talk about a generation that’s been coming of age and joining the workfo
rce for over two decades (yes, the oldest millennials will be forty in about five years, just like “Return of the Jedi” – let that sink in.) If you couldn’t keep up with adapting your marketing to millennials, you’ve already missed the appropriate time to make the switch. There’s a whole generation of people you may have overlooked as they were rising to adolescence. It’s Gen Z.
Who are they?
Born any time after 1995 up until the late 2000s (these dates vary depending on the source), Generation Z, the “post-millennials” that will be almost 2.6 billion strong by 2020, is a force to be reckoned with. As they’re coming of age, they’re on their way to becoming the biggest influence to shape the world’s future.
Whatever you do, though – don’t confuse millennials with gen Z, as the latter hate being mistaken for their predecessors. Celebrate their uniqueness.
I should probably warn you that some of the following subheadings have pop culture references (or puns) that are about the same age as Gen Zers. Because I’m fun like that.
How do you reach them?
Using visuals or making your websites and emails mobile-optimized should all be a given by now. There are no magic tricks to winning Gen Zers’ loyalty. The main rule is to think not of “what they want,” but “what they need and care about.”
Don’t pretend you’re the REAL slim shady
Members of generation Z look for authenticity in a brand.
If you focus too hard on being relevant, you come across as being inauthentic. This will only put people off. And probably make them cringe. Gen Zers can sense when something’s being calculated or forced, or if someone’s trying too hard. After all, it’s them who decide what’s cool and not cool.
Let’s say the knowledge of pop culture these days is not your strong suit. The best solution is to not talk about it. The world’s moving fast, and the people born into the existence of smartphones are updated in split seconds. Use slang and memes out of context or too late – and your brand might become the next meme.
Be like Casper (the friendly ghost)
Transparency is crucial in many ways. For example, being transparent about how you process and store personal data. Gen Zers are reluctant to share their personal information. They want control over what they share. It might sound funny, but seventy percent of Gen Zers would rather share their personal information with their pet than with their boss. State exactly what you need the information for and how you are going to protect it. (Speaking of data protection, make sure to read our GDPR guide)
Be transparent about prices and deals – show the exact value they’re getting for their money. Gen Zers will research your product anyway: compare options and prices in different stores, look for the best deal, check for discounts.
Be transparent about what’s going on in your company – anything sketchy that’s left unexplained will cost you customers.
Buffer is a great example of a company that’s transparent about almost everything. From their values to salaries, to pricing and code.
Making your brand see-through and real is the most effective thing you can do. You build trust and show people you care about the product and the happiness of your customers. Also, your audience feels safer and not like you’re trying to trick them into anything.
It’s getting hot in here – maybe it’s the global warming?
Gen Zers are very opinionated and vocal about things that matter to them. They grew up with a voice, and they strongly believe it matters. They’re often compared to activists from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
The thing you can do is stand for something.
That doesn’t mean you have to get political – politics in marketing may annoy people and even turn them into strong opponents of your brand.
Take PepsiCo, for example. This giant of a brand tried too hard to relate to young people, social issues, and politics with their now-infamous “Live for Now” ad featuring Kendall Jenner. They showed the young, white, and polished celebrity-turned-model amid a diverse crowd of protesters, “saving the world” by giving a police officer a Pepsi.
The brand just wanted to be relatable in the times of various protests (most notably against police brutality towards black people), but they did it in a tone-deaf way. It was Gen Zers who voiced their disapproval for the ad that made a serious issue seem light, claiming it “the worst ad of all time.” The brand quickly apologized and pulled the ad.
Your statement can be something small, not necessarily connected to social good. Just remember to make statements that your company’s structure and culture represents. Show the truth.
If your brand is already vocal about an issue young people care about, emphasize it even more, and they’ll reward you with their engagement. As well as bad practices, the good ones spread across the Internet with the help of teens, sometimes going viral.
The launch of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty makeup line last year made the Internet go crazy. The main reasons, besides the fact that it’s a celebrity-made product? It celebrated racial diversity like no other brand, and the products were not tested on animals. Simple as that, but the praise was never-ending.
The Fenty Beauty campaign showed diversity and stood for animal rights. It made young people feel represented. And representation in ads matters – it’s what Gen Zers tend to fight for. 63% of the Zs want to see “real” people in ads, while only 37% prefer celebrities.
Platform 9¾ is not the only one
Gen Zers constantly find new platforms for sharing and receiving information. So monitor the trends and be there. If you worry about young people leaving Facebook because of the latest scandals – don’t. They rarely visit it anymore anyway. Being on Instagram and YouTube may help, these two are safe bets (for now.) These two platforms are also a great source of knowledge of the language your Z audience uses, how they ask questions, and comment on the things you post. (Let me remind you – if you try to imitate any slang or lingo, you risk sounding phony.)
When it comes to marketing, sometimes it’s the unconventional platforms that guarantee success. A good example is the latest move by Wendy’s, who used the viral trend of funny, themed playlists, and dropped a mixtape on Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play.
Also, don’t complicate their lives. Gen Zers are perfect at multitasking, but if you disrupt it with barriers they have to overcome (like slow speed of your site, being available only on desktop, making them do five different things instead of just one), they won’t have the patience for it. Make the whole experience with your brand frictionless and integrated across all platforms.
You’ve got email.
“But what about my email campaigns?” you ask. Well, good news! Although Gen Z is connected to social media at all times and social media is also where brands are, email is not dead. In fact, it is still the most personal and preferred way to engage with brands. It can stay this way if you learn how to personalize your emails and make sure you have the permission to get into their inbox because that’s what the new generation cares about.
A good example of emails that cater to Gen Z’s needs are the ones by Glossier, a skincare and makeup brand. The copy is fun, the CTAs convincing, the design minimalistic and perfect for mobile users. Their images often feature natural-looking people teens can relate to or their products that are designed to be highly “instagrammable.”
Some of Glossier’s newsletters only contain a pick of wallpapers for mobile devices. This builds even stronger brand loyalty. Their welcome email invites people to the brand’s Instagram profile. Glossier is also great at getting user-generated content. They encourage customers to post pictures with a hashtag #nofilterjustglossier, and they not only like these photos but feature them in their newsletters.
What your business can do
If you run an ecommerce store, the technology you introduce on your website should empower and give shopping possibilities the customers can’t access anywhere else. Think of new features that aren’t only necessary for your ecommerce site to exist, for example, let people check the inventory. A well-thought-out additional feature can make you upstage competitors in no time. They also offer feedback, so you can listen to them and get new ideas.
Pinky and the Brain, brick and the mortar
The way young people shop has changed significantly over the last few years. According to the National Retail Federation’s report, more than three times as many Gen Zers shop in a store most of the time rather than online. But what they for sure do online while shopping is double-checking their decisions. What Gen Z shoppers expect the most from your brick-and-mortar business is an amazing/fun experience at your venue, that gives them social media-worthy or educational value. Think of special events or outstanding design, something out of the box that makes your store, not only your product, unique.
Who stays in a pineapple under the sea?
There is a phenomenon sometimes called “the Instagram effect” on consumer spending. Gen Zers are under constant pressure to live exciting lives, so they value experiences more than material goods. That’s why they tend to spend their time and money on traveling, often staying in “instagrammable” places and hotels.
This online generation also favors face-to-face communication and going out with their friends to restaurants. (Also, most likely the instagrammable ones, to be precise.) They consider themselves foodies and spend more on eating out than on apparel. So, consider adding some “special touches” to your venue to see the youngsters flowing in.
Are you ready?
Consider that there’s always an alternative to your business, and if not – Generation Zers will create it themselves. In his podcast, Ryan Jenkins says that seventy-one percent of Generation Z believe the sentence “if you want it done right, then do it yourself.” They just prefer DIYing things to buying from brands that don’t fit their needs.
It’s not surprising, though, as there are how-tos for everything on the Internet. If you’re still reluctant about catering to the new generation’s needs, remember that the older members of your audience are probably still going to listen to their younger Gen Zers for help with making decisions about their spendings.
So what are your thoughts on marketing to Gen Z? Are you excited, skeptical or already catering to their needs? Let us know in the comments.