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How to Launch a Gen Z Strategy (Somewhere Else Besides Social Media)

by John Wheeler
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    Get set for the back-to-campus rush

    As Gen Z prepare to head back to university, there’s a huge opportunity for brands to seize.Students will be stocking up on everything they need to hit the...

    It’s no secret that Gen Zers love using social media platforms to connect with brands. Also known as zoomers, 97 percent of Generation Z reported having at least one active social media account, according to a 2019 study. Streaming video site YouTube and messaging app Snapchat are currently among the most popular. More than 70 percent of Gen Zers have made at least one purchase based on social media during the past month, and 97 percent say they use social media as their primary source of shopping inspiration. 

    Ninety-one percent of millennials and Gen Zers who report using social media use TikTok, 83 percent use Instagram, and 71 percent use Twitter and Facebook equally. Zoomers spend about three hours on social media per day. They prefer accessing these networks on their mobile phones; 95 percent of young people currently own or report having regular access to a smartphone, while 66 percent use multiple devices simultaneously. 

    Because of this constant connection, it’s easy to make the mistake of utilizing a generic Gen Z strategy that doesn’t consider the unique needs of their audiences. Unfortunately, this can be an ineffective way to engage this young demographic. 

    What’s the best Gen Z strategy? 

    There's a strong disconnect growing between many marketers and young audiences, which can be partially blamed on how Gen Zers perceive advertising campaigns. Developing a one-dimensional online strategy isn’t enough. Gen Zers hate being bombarded with ads—69 percent avoid them altogether or utilize ad-blocking technology. Social media is meant to be a two-way conversation between a brand and the consumer. But brands that rely solely on social media are missing part of the picture. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the only way to reach them.

    "Gen Z are the ultimate early adopters, and we see their habits now influencing the behaviours of Millennials and Generation X too, and even the younger generations following them. They are the most influential but elusive consumers in history. Many marketers find this new world order daunting, but it represents great possibility." Josh Rathour, CEO UNiDAYS


    While it's true that social media is a major part of the average Gen Zer’s life, it doesn’t mean that brands should carry out a Gen Z strategy that simply bombards young consumers with relentless ads or incentives. Brands should aim to reach a captive audience over a passive one, and there are several ways to do this: 

    1. Utilize affinity marketing.

    When it comes to designing an effective Gen Z strategy, brands need to explore innovative ways to connect with young audiences through exclusive content, offers, and incentives. Affinity marketing can help by reaching Gen Zers how they want when they want. 

    The UNiDAYS’ Student Affinity Network can even help organizations reach Gen Zers on an international level. An affinity marketing platform uses discounts, incentives, and experiences to help build brand loyalty. This type of marketing can:

    • Help recruit “brand ambassadors,” loyal customers who will gladly promote products and services.
    • Establish brand loyalty.
    • Give members access to special discounts and exclusive offers.
    • Help brands reach young audiences with specific interests.
    • Attract new customers who may be interested in similar products and services.

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    2. Create authentic, relatable content.

    Study after study shows that Gen Zers are tired of seeing airbrushed models in advertising campaigns. Seventy-seven percent of zoomers prefer seeing real and relatable people wearing their favorite brands. Clothing brand Aerie has mastered this Gen Z strategy by hiring culturally diverse models with different body types and refusing to airbrush them. And it’s working. The brand has experienced consistent growth for 25 consecutive quarters and pulled in more than $1 billion last year.

    Gen Zers want to see people who look like them in advertising campaigns. By showing that you prioritize inclusiveness and diversity, you can attract and retain a captive audience that will admire your brand. And because Gen Zers still love shopping in-store, the use of “relatable” models and real-life situations should be embraced in both digital and physical ad campaigns. 

    3. Tell a captivating story.

    Zoomers aren’t just interested in your brand’s products or services. They also want to be part of its story and experience, especially if they can share it with their friends and loved ones. Knowing and understanding what sets your brand apart from competitors can help you develop new, memorable ways to impact Generation Z. Effective storytelling can revolve around current social causes, philanthropic efforts, and real customer experiences. 

    Zoomers are socially conscious. They want to support brands and organizations that share their beliefs and values, so don’t be afraid to showcase your charitable efforts and the causes you care about. Just make sure to remain authentic. Gen Zers can easily spot insincerity, and it’s nearly impossible to regain their trust once you’ve lost it. 

    UNiDAYS can help. 

    When it comes to developing an effective Gen Z strategy, there are many different ways to build your brand. From impactful storytelling to affinity marketing, we can help. Contact us to learn more. 

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      Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19


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