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Marketing to Generation Z: What you need to know

What is Gen Z?

Gen Z is anyone born after 1995. Gen Z'ers have grown up with the internet as a fact of life. Their smartphones are natural extensions of themselves. They sniff out inauthenticity in milliseconds. If they don’t like what they see, they move on. They are intuitively savvy influencers. They self-brand by curating their social media profiles. When it comes to marketing, Gen Z'ers are a challenge. They are also a future goldmine. Forbes reports that by 2020, 40% of all consumers will come from Generation Z. Many of the marketing models that worked for millennials and previous generations won’t work anymore. Marketing to Gen Z'ers requires advertisers to rethink their digital strategy from top to bottom.

What is predicted about Gen Z’s consumption habits?

Gen Z'ers have high expectations for content and they’re highly dismissive if they don’t like what they see. They know that there’s something better around the corner. They won’t watch your video ad—they’ll be in another tab or they’ll block it with a script. Content that is riddled with blatant sponsorship and product placement will also get a swipe to the left—too disingenuous. Gen Z'ers want rich, meaningful content that is varied. DIY tutorials. Web TV series. Curated makeup recommendations. Quick political polemics.

For the internet generation, legitimacy is cultivated through visual branding. In order to appeal to Gen Z'ers, content must also adhere to current standards for web marketing. This means that your website must be compatible with the latest browser, everything needs to be responsive for mobile and images shouldn’t pixelate as they scale.

How can I market to Gen Z?

Gen Z'ers have their own entrepreneurial spirit. They are their own brands and in many cases, they create their own content, products, or services and market themselves through social media as early as middle school. In other words, Gen Z'ers aren’t really your audience or your consumers—they’re your collaborators and your competition and they should be treated as such. This means your messaging should not be about how great you and your products are, but instead it should highlight how you can help them help themselves. To appeal to Gen Z'ers, it’s important to emphasize how your company develops mutualistic relationships with other creatives.

Although the smartphone is the locus of the Gen Z'er’s attention, they’re constantly switching devices—from phone to laptop to TV to tablet back to phone. Even on single platforms, multiple desktops are running multiple windows with multiple tabs. Split screen capabilities have become industry standard on mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. It’s important to place ads in more than one place. Chances are, as your audio ad is playing in between Spotify tracks, you’re on mute and they’re scrolling through their Instagram feed. It’s important to meet them there. The good news is that as Gen Z'ers use many different web services, digital advertising has become centralized. Google AdWords and Facebook’s advertising platform is partnered with a wide variety of organizations which means that your ads can target Gen Z'ers no matter where they are online. 

It’s worth repeating—Gen Z'ers are a challenge. However, they’re not without their habits and there are a wealth of tools available to target them. To market to Gen Z'ers it’s essential to have a polished, contemporary brand that does not feel inauthentic. Marketing should be situated in a larger plan of content creation. Luckily, analytics makes answering the question “what kind of content” quite easy. Tracking engagement, viewership time, and more will grant you crucial insight into what your Gen Z consumers want to see. As the most social media savvy generation in history, Gen Z'ers imbue their profiles with their interests and other demographic information. In other words, Gen Z'ers do a lot of the research for you. Marketing to Gen Z'ers is about figuring out how to create value, distribute widely, and demonstrate that value in a heartbeat—before they look away.

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