Source: Barkley & FutureCast
Marketing to Generation Z
By 2020, Gen Z will make up 40% of all consumers. They’re unique, certainly different from any previous generation marketed to – yet they’re also powerful, both as consumers and as market influencers. It’s crucial that companies understand what Gen Zers want from them and learn to meet them on their own terms in order to capture their business and earn their loyalty.
According to UTC marketing and entrepreneurship professor Dr. Stephanie Gillison, Gen Z’s unique experience growing up with technology and social media shapes how they interact with companies’ marketing efforts.
“Most of them were given cellphones when they were children,” Gillison says. “They don’t know a world without social media, without easy internet access.”
Gen Z goes to social media, typically on their smartphones, to get their information and form their opinions about brands. Mobile-friendly online content appropriate for different mediums (Facebook versus Instagram, for example) is not an option but a requirement for brands wanting to market to Gen Z.
Standing out in the midst of the online noise takes some real creativity, but several major brands have stepped up to the challenge. Domino’s Pizza now allows registered customers to order pizza simply by tweeting a pizza emoji at Domino’s. Dunkin’ Donuts’ Gen Z customers can buy their friends coffee and donuts through ApplePay on the brand’s mobile app.
Authenticity and Value
Companies need to be present on the latest social media to reach Millennials, yet simultaneously, social media is so engrained into Gen Z’s lives that they can spot promoted content a mile away. They know when they’re being marketed to. So how does a brand set themselves apart? The key, according to Gillison, is authenticity.
“They want to see real people,” she says. “This is the generation that goes to YouTube and watches other people using products and reviewing them. They’re looking for honest feedback from real people, not a television ad with a celebrity spokesperson in it. They want authentic voices coming at them.”
The trick is actually giving Gen Z what they want without over-doing the product placement. If they want beautiful, entertaining stories – give them stories and do them well. If they want how-to tutorials, teach them something they can use. Gen Z is overbooked and stressed out. If you waste their time, they’re gone.
Value for Money
Gen Zers certainly value their time, but they also appreciate the value of the dollar.
“They’ve grown up in lower economic times, going through a recession when they were kids,” says Gillison. “That’s going to shape their view of how they spend their money.”
Financial security is a huge priority for Gen Z. They want to spend their money wisely, so brands’ marketing needs to make a clear case for their product or service. After all, the whole internet is out there with alternatives they can find with just a few clicks and swipes.
Brands like Patagonia are popular among this young generation because, though their products have a steeper price tag, their lifetime warranties and quality materials ensure a superior level of craftsmanship and value.
“Value is really, really important,” Gillison says. “Really making them understand why this product is going to be great for them, why they should spend their money on your product versus your competitors.”
Equality and Activism
Thanks to social media and growing cultural diversity, Gen Z is becoming passionate about social justice issues and activism at a much earlier age than previous generations. Connected to the globe through their digital social networks and Facebook feeds, they are actively involved in international conversations surrounding issues like Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights. Topics that were once easy to ignore or deemed impolite to discuss have risen to the fore, and Gen Z wants to see companies involved in the conversation, reflecting their values back at them in ads – people who look like them, different family compositions, ages, and ethnicities – and in action.
According to a 2017 report by Barkley and FutureCast, 60% of teens support brands that support human rights causes, particularly racial and sexual orientation equality. Gen Z is quick to celebrate a brand they see as authentically standing for a cause they believe in, but they’re also quick to point out the phonies, those who cash in on a cause for PR with no action behind their words – so you’d better practice what you preach.
Ben & Jerry’s, for example, has frequently and consistently voiced their support for issues like climate change and LGBTQ rights. They use their website and social media as platforms to take public stands with the likes of Black Lives Matter, and even give ice cream flavors social-justice themed names (“Empower Mint” anyone?) paired with campaigns to support human rights rallies or lobbying for refugee resettlement. Gen Z loves it.
On the other hand, brands like Pepsi have faced backlash for their marketing toward Gen Z. In 2016, the company released a television ad featuring a well-known celebrity appearing to solve a protest by handing a can of the fizzy drink to a police officer on the front line. Many saw this as a way of trivializing the social justice movement, and the ad was pulled almost immediately.