Plan Z: How to effectively market to Generation Z

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It’s no secret that the emergence of Generation Z, a generation born within the digital age, has impacted various markets and created a need for more effective marketing strategies.

What makes them a difficult generation to market to is their myriad of qualities that makes them so distinct from past generations. They are digital natives who do most of their shopping, communication, and information hunting online. Generation Z have an attention span of just 8 seconds, compared to the 12 seconds of a millennial. But a study shows that this isn’t just a short attention span, but an 8-second filter. 

As Zen Media CEO Shama Hyder put it, “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.” This filter sorts out information they deem to be inauthentic, irrelevant, or “overly aspirational”.

It would be a mistake not to tailor your marketing strategies to target Gen Z because this generation makes up 32% of the world population, 25% of which are in the U.S., and by the end of 2020 they will account for 40% of all consumers.

Sell experiences, not products

These days, plastering a photo of an A-list celebrity holding the latest gadget on a billboard is not enough to market your product. Your marketing campaign should not only tell consumers why your product is great, but it should also ask the question: What experience will this product bring them? 

Fraser Larock, a marketing and branding expert, once said, “Without a brand or an active message to support it, you can’t control the story they tell. Products are 25 percent of what you sell. The rest is an intangible feeling tied to the product.” Which means 75% of what you are selling is the experience and these should be stories that appeal to your customers and keep them coming back for more. In order to sell a feeling or experience, your marketing campaign should trigger an emotional response by touching on the consumer’s senses

An example of selling an experience is Disney World and their many parks across the U.S. Disney does not focus its advertisements on their newest attraction; rather they emphasize the family time one will experience at their parks. They sell you the experience of seeing your “favorite movies come to life” in the form of rides, games, food, and costumes―things that many people are drawn to. 

Another successful example of selling an experience is Brandy Melville, one of the most popular clothing brands in America. Their social media posts give off a “California vibe” filled with models on beach trips and hanging out with friends. What makes their brand so successful is that they are not just selling trendy clothes, but they are also selling the experience of an “all American lifestyle” filled with fun, laughter, and memories which consumers can be a part of my purchasing their products.

Instagram feed of @brandymelvilleusa.

People are shifting their importance from products to values and your brand needs to keep up. Higher Logic, a company focused on bringing brands closer to their customers through meaningful interactions, stated that products must now  be built around an experience which excites and motivates customers to share their experience on social media sites. 

Not just in it for the money

With all the technology surrounding Generation Z, they are more aware than ever of the inequality and injustice that surrounds them. A company that fails to pay their employees equally, or one that lacks diversity in ads or in their staff, or one that has no environmentally sustainable practices is a company that will most likely be rejected by consumers. Data shows that 55% of surveyed Gen Z say that they choose to buy from brands that are eco-friendly and socially responsible. Meanwhile, 66% are willing to pay more for products from companies whose values align with their own. 

In the Philippines, 65% of Filipinos recommend that a brand give a small portion of its annual profits to charity, while 56% believe that firms have a responsibility to ensure that their company is free from damaging practices such as forced labor.

An example of a socially responsible brand is TOMS, a shoe company based in California. They are a for-profit company that focuses their marketing on their “One for One” campaign wherein whenever they sell one pair of shoes, another pair is donated to a child in need. Over the past 13 years, TOMS has been able to donate 95 million pairs of shoes to children in 82 different countries. They have also taken it a step further by deciding to donate at least one-third of their net annual profit to a charitable fund. They have been incredibly successful in their campaign because this is exactly the kind of message that speaks to a generation who cares about improving the world.

Engaging and interactive visual content

Your Gen Z marketing strategy isn’t complete without a social media platform to market on. The top three social media sites used by Gen Z are Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube. Data from a 2019 Hootsuite report stated that 45% of Gen Z say that they use Instagram to discover new brands and products, and will usually turn to YouTube to watch reviews on products and services. Lastly, they turn to Snapchat to document their shopping experience.

What’s common about these three is that they are platforms driven by visual content such as photos and videos as opposed to just text. Your content should not just be present on these popular sites, but also be visual driven and interactive.” Using polls on Twitter and Instagram stories is a good way to interact with customers and gives you the chance to learn about their interests and preferences as well. 

Poll tweeted by Marvel Entertainment.
Instagram poll from shoe brand @mgemi.

Some websites such as Topshop, even have online quizzes you can take “to help buyers hone in on styles that speak to their personality.”

Another way to interact with customers is by encouraging tagging. Some stories and companies have hashtags for their brand and encourage buyers to use this hashtag when sharing about their purchases on social media. Customers may also tag the social media handle of the store or even their physical location. Tagging helps attract new customers and clients by providing an easy way for customers to access your social media sites and see your products on real people.
There is a reason why Generation Z are called digital natives. Gen Z relies heavily on social media for their daily dose of information, entertainment, communication, and more, with 74% of them preferring to spend their free time online. Research shows that 85% of Generation Z learns about new products on social media.

Generation Z is a tech-savvy, morally-guided, and hyperactive group of people who are your next big opportunity for business; don’t make the mistake of undervaluing them.

Visual by: Trisha Tan

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