Want to know something that’s even harder than marketing to Gen Z? Becoming an entrepreneur. Yet that’s precisely what 64 percent of Gen Z college students want to do with their lives, according to a joint study by Internships.com and Millennial Branding. And that’s not the half of it. According to another Gallup survey, 42 percent of them want to “invent something that changes the world.”
As a Gen Zer, I’ve seen my fair share of the good, the bad and the cringeworthy marketing tactics. Understanding us is by no means a simple feat, but here’s three examples from brands that have passed marketing to this Gen Zer with flying colors.
Marketers Beware: Gen Z and Millennials aren’t so similar after all.
Dear Retailers, When I was in middle school, the only way I realized that something was trendy was if Teen Vogue was writing about it or if Kim Kardashian (pre-72 day marriage) was wearing it. When it came time to go shopping I had to find something that resembled what I’d seen a year ago on TV. It was a pyrrhic victory. Not all size fours are created equal and even if I did find something that fit, it was definitely out of my price range. That outfit, or a great knock-off, was finally acquired and shortly went out of fashion after. In-store retail was a boring maze of racks, and online shopping was a confusing mess. Store layouts weren’t fun enough to engage me, and the lack of online reviews made me want to give up all together. Shopping was time consuming, disconnected and an expensive hobby. Ten years later – the game has only *kind of* changed. Here’s why:
We can’t teach you 99 tech tricks to turbocharge your day or how to open a banana like a monkey…but we CAN provide you with some of the secrets to capturing the minds, hearts and (digital) wallets of Gen Z, the generation marketers can no longer afford to ignore. Considering Gen Z is the first generation to be raised with the iPhone, Netflix and Snapchat, one might imagine that the secret to solving your generational marketing woes is the screen. But… Not so fast. Press pause and stay awhile.
W Hotels is generally credited with founding the boutique hotel movement. This movement helped kickstart personalization in hospitality by introducing smaller properties that could afford to be nimble and answer to the whims of their guests (the chain trademarked its “Whatever/Whenever” motto). But W was the exception, not the rule. Even while it was refashioning itself in the “boutique” mindset, Westin — its sister Starwood brand — was touting consistency as a its strongpoint.
It doesn't seem to matter how blue-chip your e-commerce platform may be — or how much of a household name your brand is among previous generations. Lots of brands have an "it's complicated" status with Gen Z. If you're one such company, you're in good company. Take eBay for instance. eBay is a far cry from 1995, when — so legend has it — the e-commerce giant sold its very first item online: a broken laser pointer for $14.83. Today’s eBay ranks at 172 among the world’s Fortune 500 companies and has a net revenue of nearly $9.6 billion. Its extant first-party data is the envy of most other e-commerce platforms. Year after year, its machine-learning algorithms manage to captivate and retain the long-term loyalty of millions of buyers and sellers worldwide.
Marketers and thought leaders have this odd fixation on proclaiming things “dead.” Every few months or so, we get a summary report that a particular technology, marketing strategy or consumer mindset is now outdated (usually as of last night) and become one with the dinosaurs and Elvises. We’re bombarded with reports about the “death” of programmatic advertising (when in fact there might not be anything of substance to take its place).
In an era where travel gets determined more often by Facebook than by Fodor’s, the definition of “what’s important” to do while vacationing gets blurrier with each passing year. And no single group is redefining what vacation time well-spent means more than Gen Z. With roughly $143 billion at Gen Z students' disposal, it’s high time travel marketers paid closer attention to what activities these new vacationers are looking for.
A few centuries back — long before your great-great-grandma ever bought her first Kindle eBook (just kidding; didn’t happen) — the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote a treatise called The Social Contract. The book’s basic argument ran something like this: Kings, emperors, etc., dukes, etc. — the powerful folks of the 1700s — shouldn’t get to dictate the rules of society without the express consent of the people they governed. Rousseau’s book helped accomplish a whole bunch of things in its time (see the American and French Revolutions). But don’t worry. This isn’t a history quiz. This is about cutting-edge marketing. It’s about how the idea of a “social contract” — and the consequences of violating it — continue to ripple throughout our own data-driven age.