Generation Z: The Shiny New Toy for Marketers

For over a decade marketers have been focusing on Millennials as their cash cow – not only for their enormous size, but for the sheer magnitude of their direct and indirect purchasing power. But as funny as this may sound, Millennials are aging, and as they age, marketers need to make way for the new kids on the block: Generation Z (Gen Z), or those born after 1995. Whether you’re ready or not, this next generation wave is coming in, and they’re coming in strong. In fact, according to ad agency, Sparks & Honey, more than a quarter of America’s population belongs to Gen Z, and with each birth, this audience segment is growing. Plus, Gen Z has an average weekly allowance of $16.90, which equals about $44 billion a year in spending power. Combine those numbers with the influence this generation has over their parents and their digital device usage, and you’ve got a pie of opportunity – and marketers want a big piece.

From toys to TV, dinner menus to family vacations, Gen Zers know where to put in their two cents. This generation has a profound influence over their parents buying decisions – with 93% of parents (surveyed by digital agency, Deep Focus) saying that their teen and tween children have at least some influence on their family’s spending and household purchases. In addition, whereas Millennials use three screens, Gen Zers use five: a smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and iPod (or other portable music player). As an increasingly tech-savvy generation, they have no trouble retrieving information from multiple sources. Not to mention, they are more fluent in how the internet works than any other generation, simply because they’ve never lived in a world without it. Taking these factors into consideration, it is imperative that you creatively adapt to Gen Zer’s attitudes, wants, and needs in order to successfully market to this generation. And with an 8-second attention span per Gen Zer, that leaves little room for slip-ups. Want the biggest slice of the Gen Z pie?  Focus on these three areas:

LEVERAGE (THE RIGHT) SOCIAL NETWORKS

Social media is a great way to reach Generation Z, as this group is undoubtedly the most socially connected audience. In fact, according to Deep Focus, 51% of tweens are already using social media. However, the key here is leveraging the right social platforms since not all have the same effect on or value for this generation. For instance, Gen Zers care very little for Facebook, yet have an affinity for YouTube. In fact, 93% say they visit YouTube at least once a week, and 54% visit the site multiple times throughout the day. Visual sharing sites like Instagram and Snapchat, as well as other incognito social platforms, are also hugely impactful for members of this generation, so running promotional campaigns specific to these particular outlets is ideal. One innovator in marketing to this audience is Taco Bell. The company taps into the Gen Z mentality by promoting its products and engaging with users via both Vine and Snapchat, says Jeff Fromm, president of FutureCast, a millennial marketing consultancy.

EXECUTE CROSS-PLATFORM MARKETING

As previously mentioned, Gen Zers spend most of their time connecting, communicating, and evaluating products and services through five screens: the smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and iPod. In addition, members of Generation Z are consistently hopping from channel to channel, which makes it vital for brands to move along with them. In fact, 84% of Gen Zers browse an Internet-connected device while watching TV. To truly captivate this audience, smart marketers need to develop highly targeted and relevant campaigns that span seamlessly across all channels and platforms (social, mobile, desktop, video, native, etc.) in order to appeal to this generation. Headphone innovator, Beats by Dr. Dre, did just that when it launched a campaign that used social media, TV, celebrity endorsements, and other outlets to attract these young consumers. The result? Beats increased its Instagram followers by 76% and YouTube subscribers by 57%.

FOCUS ON AUTHENTICITY IN ADVERTISING

When executing cross-platform marketing initiatives, it is crucial that marketers appeal to the emotional needs of Generation Z, too. Contrary to Millennials, Gen Zers are practical realists, and they expect authentic and relatable communications. They often look for products and messaging that mirror reality rather than a perfect life and respond to independence, entrepreneurialism, and self-direction. In fact, according to Deep Focus, Gen Zers are more interested in narratives and content that have realistic endings (67%) and want to be engaged by real people, especially in advertising where they are nearly twice as likely to want to see “real people” than celebrities (63% vs. 37%). Providing Gen Zers with original content and a genuine brand experience engages this group and will keep them coming back in the future. Brands like Free People are already successfully executing this approach with messaging that focuses on individuality and unconventionality, and ads that exhibit a bohemian aesthetic, says Ad Age. The brand continues to grow with sales up 25% in the first quarter of fiscal 2015.

With an estimated 72 million people in the Gen Z demographic, innovative marketers are beginning to see the possibilities for long-term success with this young and powerful generation. As a result, they are adjusting their messaging, strategy, and image – and folding Gen Zers into their brand stories. To learn more about Gen Z at a glance, check out the infographic below.

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