You need to see the latest research on the newest generation for marketers to target, Generation Z: people born from roughly 1995-2009 who are the most diverse of any U.S. generation and are becoming the “multicultural mainstream.”
I participated in a discussion about this research at an ADWKDC panel hosted by Daniel Kelly, Director of Business Development at Varick Media. Some of the people leading the charge in Gen Z research gave us great insights and showed us strategic ideals. The panelists were Donna Spurrier, CEO of Spurrier Group; Jose Villa, President of Sensis; Matthew Lieppe, owner of Matthew Lieppe & Co.; and Mary Burke, Marketing Director of Chief.
What Sets Gen Z Apart
The Sensis agency, along with its research partner ThinkNow, provided a great overview during the forum and Villa kicked off the discussion with four tenets that Gen Z seems to follow:
- Diversity – Most of them know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns
- Justice – This is where their belief system takes priority
- Brand Me – What they care about as individuals
- Digital Detox – They want a more analog/physical experience
To assist agencies and others with their outreach to this generation, Spurrier posited that, “to reach this demographic we must find better influencers.” These influencers are always top of mind to Gen Z members, who must be won over quickly because their attention span is 9-12 seconds. Research shows another way to grab their attention: As Lieppe put it, “experiential marketing is what most resonates with Gen Z.”
Diving Deeper Into the Data
Technology allows us into this generation’s real-time consumption and choices, enabling extremely strategic and niche approaches to target slices of the population. We now have data showing how Asian-American Gen Z females are consuming media and can cross-reference that with their African-American Gen Z female counterparts.
Research into the four tenets (above) lets anyone explore such similarities and differences. Having this data available is key so that marketers can see where they are over-indexing. No longer is the research overarching by, say, zip code or other broad segment of the U.S.
Many companies have had to rely on concrete data as well as assumptions when trying to target specific groups. One such assumption is that there will be a digital shift where Gen Z and Gen A, the following generation, will limit their social circles and be extremely selective as to where (and with who) they spend their time.
We already can see this in numerous Instagram accounts and duplicate Facebook and Snapchat channels open to Gen Z appetites. As agency professionals, we must make sure our brands are on these specific apps and can target in a more direct way. Burke mentioned that this generation is on a mobile device about 3.5 hours a day, showing the importance of app and mobile targeting/advertising.
Another assumption is that to reach this generation, brands need to throw away the old thought process of selling a perfect product, embrace a less-curated brand consciousness and let earned media take over. However, the content must be relevant and in a familiar tone. Gen Z members, as all participants mentioned, do not fall for b.s., will research everything they are told and will call a brand out for being incorrect or trying to persuade with emotions.
What can we do to get ahead of this generation with our marketing efforts and give our clients and team members exciting new ways to look at our landscape?
Lieppe believes that we must provide better creative and a lot of it. As Gen Z is screen-agnostic, all creative must be ready to go not only from an analog perspective but also has to be mobile optimized and work across all browsers/operating systems.
In this creative, we must give clients options and show them how messaging must resonate on a very granular level to work. Also, creative must showcase ethnic diversity, in language if possible, as a reflection of the users themselves. When providing creative direction to clients, Lieppe feels that it’s important to provide spec creative even if they don’t ask for it.
Another way to strategically reach this audience is through the resurgence of personally addressed direct mail and long form email. Gen Z wants experiences and wants all of the information up front, and reading an email or opening a piece of mail addressed to them is in fact an experience. They haven’t lived in a non-mobile, non-email world so this type of marketing seems to resonate with them and gives them a chance to turn off from the vast digital noise they experience every day.
Arguably the most important channel for reaching this generation is through viral social earned media. With the ability for this generation to click a button, make a post, re-tweet, on-demand vlog, etc., getting the brand into people’s hands has never been easier and scarier for agencies, shareholders and brand leaders. We can help direct clients to use media in the best way by understanding the Gen Z phenomenon, placing media correctly and effectively analyzing and presenting that data.
The event was a great success because the attendees asked lots of questions and learned a lot about Gen Z. It is apparent that there will be a shift in advertising/marketing in the next few years as the generation ages and becomes a larger consumer segment. The time is now to grasp what is transpiring and prepare for the shift, or else get left behind in a Gen Zzzzz slumber.
Here are more insights from ADWKDC:
Savoring the Design Thinking Workshop (This 2016 event was so successful that a similar program was held in 2017)
Angelique Clark is an out-of-the-box thinker and avid blogger with an exceptional understanding of the digital landscape. She’s a natural leader to her peers, clients, and even her leadership team. Working at Planit, she strives to make the advertising world and her team more collaborative, forward-thinking and aware. Link with her: Angelique Clark