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Marketing to Gen Z: What brands should know and expect

by Stephanie H.
    Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19

    The highs and lows of Q3 for Gen Z

    Gen Z boasts a well-earned reputation for being a notoriously tricky demographic to get onyour side. So, how do you make students fall in love with your brand?...

    Gen Z is growing up. In 2020, brands can count on values-driven messages and some tried-and-true delivery mechanisms to reach this powerful and large group of consumers. 

    In 2020, the oldest among Gen Z will be 24 years old which, for some, means graduating college, and for at least a fifth of them, it means joining the workforce. The youngest among Gen Z will still be in elementary school. 

    That’s a huge runway on which brands can build loyalty and establish long-term affinity with the 65 million young men and women within the U.S. that comprise this massive and potentially lucrative consumer group. 

    Starting at an early age, brands can begin to raise awareness with Zers by taking note of the major milestones they’ll encounter in a relatively short time—starting and graduating college, entering the workforce, growing earnings potential—and marketing to them all along the way. Gen Z will experience many changes as they mature, though certain aspects of this generation won’t waver: Namely, they will continue to look for and give their money to brands that align with their needs and values. 

    "Brands must urgently connect with this unfamiliar, digital-native consumer who is defining social commerce. They live and breathe social media, instant messaging, video games and live-streaming - often all at the same time. Gen Z are the ultimate early adopters, brands would do well to create a student strategy that capitalises on that." Josh Rathour, CEO UNiDAYS

    Here are a few things brand can keep in mind when it comes to marketing to Gen Z in the new year and decade ahead. 

    Marketing to Gen Z: The opportunity

    According to Business Insider Intelligence, Gen Z holds up to $143 billion in spending power. In 2020, Gen Z will account for 40 percent of all consumers in the US. Fast-forward six years, and come 2026, Gen Z is projected to be the largest consumer population in the US, inching ahead of all other consumer groups, including Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers. 

    Leverage these defining Gen Z traits. Download our Gen Z Marketing Playbook.

    Gen Z enters the workplace

    Once Gen Z marticulates from higher education, they will be on the lookout for employers. In fact, they already are. In 2020, Gen Z will make up 20% of a multigenerational workforce.To attract, engage, and retain Gen Zers as employees, organizations must recognize (and react) to Zers’ complete digital native status. 

    As the no-doubt most tech-comfortable among among all generations, to hire the best and most talented among them, brands will need to take a tech-first approach. Z graduates want and expect to work at digitally savvy organizations. According to a Dell Technologies survey of close to 13,000 Gen Zers worldwide, 91% say technology would influence job choice among similar employment offers and 80% aspire to work with cutting-edge technology. If you’re a technology-rich workplace, be sure to let that show in your digital footprint—on your site and in social media, and of course, including the hiring process and even onboarding. 

    Dropbox gets recruitment right with content and format. Check out this video of puppets giving actual Dropbox employee testimonials. Tea and scones while writing code, as told by a puppet? Yes, please. 

    Won’t stop, can’t stop: Tried-and-true Gen Z marketing approaches

    • Video content

    Video remains an effective and contagious way to spread the word about your brand with Gen Z. When Zers enjoy your video content, it’s likely they’ll share it with friends. If done well, short-form and funny are best bets for this group, and as a best-practice, remember to create videos that make sense both sound-off and -on. 

    A 2018 Pew study showed that 85% of teens use YouTube. That said, when you consider the sheer size of Gen Z and their spending power, brands cannot afford to overlook creating video content. 

    U by Kotex created a successful branded video series, Carmilla, to educate young Gen Z girls about their periods. They hosted the videos on KindaTV, a feminist channel on YouTube. While the series hasn’t posted content recently, it remains a great example of a lightly branded, educational and engaging video series—at last check, season 1 had amassed nearly 29 million views. 

    Use of video in email marketing campaigns is a great way to make sure your content doesn’t bore visually motivated Zers. If your email client doesn’t allow video, you can always include YouTube video clips of gifs. Key here it to use visuals in your communications. 

    Pew Research Gen Z social media usesource:

    • Influencers, but with trust

    As with the Millenials that came before them, Gen Z subscribes to influencer channels on social media. In fact, combined, about 7 in 10 Gen Z and Millennial consumers report that they follow people on social media who could be considered influencers. 

    That’s a high percentage, yet it comes with a bit of skepticism. In that same study, while 55% of Gen Zers stated they were more likely to purchase a product or service that an influencer recommends, only 52% of Gen Zers (and 50% of Millennials) said they trust influencers they follow on social media.

    Just like word-of-mouth referrals from a trusted friend or family member, (82% of Gen Z respondents said they trust their friends and family to give good advice on brands or products), brands should take care to align with influencers that authentically represent and share the same core values. The last thing you want is a paid or sponsored influencer to say or do something that contradicts what your brand stands for. 

    In 2020, brands should consider adding micro-influencers to their mix. The number of followers that typically denotes a micro-influncer is between 10,000 to 100,000 followers. It may feel counterintuitive, but the smaller following size may lend greater credibility among Gen Z consumers. These influencers' focuses are usually tied to specific and often values-driven topics (free-trade fashion or sustainable food; cruelty-free makeup; specific social justice issues, etc.,) giving them certain street cred and legitimacy—both admirable traits to associate with your brand. 

    There are plenty of micro influencers around, and you may be surprised to find you have some of your own. Review your followers on social media and check out who is posting about your brand often. How many followers do they have? Consider reaching out to them—it’s a pretty safe bet they’ll be happy you slid into their DMs. 

    • Nostalgia

    Gen Z may be a little young to be waxing wistful, but with all the connections (however impersonal) that social media offers, the opportunity to unite over ‘simpler’ times can be appealing. And for Gen Z, simpler, less intense and more ‘old-fashioned’ times can be as recent (gulp, to some of us) as the ‘90s and early ‘00s. 

    A couple of brands are pulling this off. Think Polaroid cameras, who over the summer, released a completely new yet still-vintage-cool version of their magical camera in an alternate dimension mashup with the hit Netflix show, ‘Stranger Things.’ Then there’s the mouse-meets-high-fashion of Disney who just announced a collab with Gucci to celebrate the Year of the Mouse. 

    Let’s see the places Gen Z will go

    Whatever the product or service, brands should aim to develop offerings that are authentic, shareable and social, and add value. By aligning with the exciting milestones Gen Z will encounter as they mature, brands can deliver messages and products that grow with Zers over time. 

    As we enter a new year and decade, brands should continue to embrace who Gen Z is, what matters to them, and who they are becoming. As a group—both consumer and otherwise—they offer a great deal of promise and hope. 

    Learn how to harness the power of Gen Z and employ some of these tips, tricks as well as additional insights in our free download, Gen Z Marketing Playbook

    Download the free Gen Z marketing Playbook here

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


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