Tom Fishbourne published an amazing cartoon earlier this year mocking efforts to market to Gen Z – the kids (yes, kids) who were born after 1995 and therefore have grown up surrounded by and entrenched in technology. Consider:
- The oldest of this generation were only 6 years old when Apple launched the first iPod in 2001 and a seasoned 12 years old when the iPhone dropped in 2007
- The launch of Facebook in 2004 was only the start of the social media obsession for Gen Z, as they have rapidly adopted other options, such as the more visual Instagram and Snapchat
- YouTube is Gen Z’s favorite website to visit and they prefer, above all other mediums, for brands to reach them there
For a significant portion of marketers, this cohort is unlike any they have ever tried to market to and, importantly, radically unlike you. Be honest: Do you know what “on fleek” even means? (You can test your Gen Z vocab further, if you’re interested.)
The analysts and thought leaders talk non-stop about the “empowered customer” or the “always-connected consumer” and what pressure that puts on how to market to them. Gen Z uses five devices per day to multi-task and spends 41 percent of its non-school time on either a computer or a screen. Those numbers are far higher than any other age bracket and have led to a digital fluency that can’t be replicated by any of us old peopled. Think about the mindset – have you ever tried to use a magazine like a tablet?
What does this paradigm shift mean for marketers? Quite frankly, it requires becoming the best version of yourselves possible: agile, digital, authentic and, well, on fleek, of course.
- Move as Fast and as Deftly as Gen Z Does. It’s a hopeless ambition to catch up with a group of people who so naturally transition from device to device and channel to channel – you’ll never catch a shadow. You have to be there with them with an established presence that gives a Gen Zer reason to connect with you. This is not necessarily going to be a Facebook page with millions of followers but instead more tailored, interactive and visual experiences on many platforms. Think of this as your experimentation in true marketing agility.
- Start and End With a Digital Brand Experience – Marketing, Product, Sales and Service. A study by CDW-G found that 94 percent of students use technology to do their homework and that 86 percent say they use more technology outside of school than in it. Talk about steeped in their tech! When thinking about how to reach and appeal to Gen Z, companies – not just marketers – have to be thinking digital-first for the entire brand experience: the messaging, the products themselves, the shopping experience and how they support the purchase after the fact. Furthermore, considering all these different parts of the experience as separate entities is a disaster because of the blurred lines digital causes between marketing and service, or between product and marketing. To be a company that resonates with Gen Z, think digital, think connectivity, think big.
- Use a Genuine and Honest Voice for the Brand in All Channels. It strikes me as quite logical that members of Generation Z would place such a premium on authenticity, given how intimately connected they are with their worlds – thanks to mobile and social media. Your company needs to speak in a voice that communicates the core pillars that define the brand and in a language that speaks to the beliefs, ambitions and passions of these individuals. And a hint: Just using a bunch of emojis isn’t going to cut it.
Individualize the Message Content. For a generation that is growing up with near constant consumption and creation of content (pardon the alliteration), the threshold for what resonates with them is incredibly unique. Generic curation or repurposing of existing marketing assets for Gen Z isn’t going to create that authentic connection. You need to have a dedicated library of assets for the different channels that you use, based on that individual’s context when they engage. Marketing technology is your bestie here, because you can amass rich profiles of information based on Gen Z’s prolific digital behavior and intent, and then use those profiles as the basis to optimize and deliver the optimal interaction with that person.
Cory Munchbach is director of product marketing at Boston-based marketing software provider BlueConic.