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What You Need to Know About Marketing to Generation Z

There's a new wave of influential consumers on the horizon, and now is the time to pay attention. This past month, our media team attended the Her Campus GenZology Summit where we learned how marketers can connect with Generation Z, an emerging demographic of rapidly evolving consumers. Whether your brand is primarily targeting Gen Z or trying to gain a foothold among younger consumers, these takeaways can help kickstart your Gen Z marketing strategy. 

Who is Gen Z?

  • Born in 1998 or later
  • Digital natives and early adopters of technology
  • Socially conscious and culturally diverse
  • Establishing their independence: 80% of Gen Z makes their own purchasing decisions

GEN Z’S CONSUMER BEHAVIOR

Brand Discovery and Consideration Starts Close to Home

New to adulthood and financial decision-making, members of Gen Z are thoughtfully developing their brand preferences. When considering whether to buy a new product or service, Gen Z is eager to learn about the brand and will consistently seek information throughout their consumer journey. Not all information sources are equally impactful, though – Gen Z primarily looks to their social circle to guide purchase decisions. 

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Gen Z strongly values social relationships, so it’s no surprise that these connections are also key purchase drivers. Gen Zers are most likely to be won over by recommendations from friends and family, as well as positive real-life experiences with brands.

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For marketers, a Gen Z-targeted media strategy should prioritize channels that have a trusted presence within their market. 

What are some effective tactics?

  1. Social: Paid & organic social posts
  2. Content promotion: Sponsored content on sites with a large Gen Z readership
  3. High-impact creative: Eye-catching visuals that make your brand the topic of conversation is the cherry on top for earning Gen Z loyalty

FreeformFreeform’s 6-week OOH campaign made a lasting impact by inspiring a wave of organic social engagement.

Let’s Get Virtual: Consumer Trends in the Age of COVID-19

COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives, and social distancing poses a challenge to both community-seeking Gen Zers and the brands trying to reach them. However, digital platforms present innovative opportunities for Gen Z to stay connected during these difficult times. eCommerce and virtual experiences have also allowed consumer activity to stay strong. 

Here are ways that brands can grow relationships with an engaged Gen Z audience: 

  1. Give Back: Be a force of good by contributing to the community and communicating with empathy and reassurance.
  2. Virtual Experiences: Host interactive virtual events that bring consumers together.
  3. Promote Self-Care: Food, clothing, and skincare products are popular purchases that help Gen Z feel uplifted while staying home.
  4. Steals and Deals: Encourage future IRL purchases with incentives like samples, coupons and loyalty programs – Gen Z is looking forward to shopping in person again! 

SOCIALLY DRIVEN

Utilizing Social in a Socially Distant Environment 

While the future may remain uncertain, social media platforms have remained a constant in helping Gen Z feel connected. Pre-COVID-19, Her Campus reported that 51% of Gen Z college students spent 2 hours a day on social media, and 28% spent upwards of 3-4 hours a day. 

Since then, there has been a surge in social media usage among Gen Z, as today’s state of social distancing has made maintaining relationships more important than ever. With this in mind, brands should leverage their social platforms to connect with the Gen Z audience in a meaningful and impactful way. 

Specific Social Habits

When it comes to social, Gen Zers have very specific habits unique to each platform, and brands should adjust their social media strategy accordingly.

Instagram – Preferred Source for Brand Interaction

Instagram allows for a wide variety of content to be produced and consumed, making it Gen Z’s preferred choice when it comes to brand interaction.

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Additionally, likes are no longer the main KPI on Instagram. Number of shares are equally as important and can lead to increased followers, helping to boost your brand’s overall success. 

How can your brand increase its following?

  1. Post High Quality Content: Brands should post relatable, relevant and authentic content to drive increased engagement among the Gen Z audience.
  2. Interact With Your Audience: Replying to your audience when they comment or mention your brand goes a long way in making the Gen Z audience feel seen.
  3. Learn Their Language: Gen Z has their own way of communicating, so it is important to keep up with the new slang to better relate to this audience.

Twitter – Personalize Your Brand

Once fading in its appeal due to the rise of Facebook and Instagram, Twitter has once again become a highly relevant source of content for the Gen Z audience. From meme culture to article promotion and interactive polls, Gen Z is eager to consume relatable content on Twitter and feel as though your brand cares.

How should your brand adapt its Twitter platform to draw Gen Z in?

  1. Understand You Are More Than A Company: Company accounts that take on a more personal approach resonate much more with the Gen Z audience. Gen Z wants to feel as though your Twitter handle is managed by an individual and not a buttoned-up corporation. 
  2. Reply and Retweet: Like Instagram, taking the time to respond to user mentions and replies can help your brand connect with its audience and grow its following.

Facebook – Groups, Events, and Content, OH MY! 

Facebook is still considered an important social platform for Gen Z, and is primarily used for three key purposes:

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How can your brand cater its marketing strategy based on each of these three purposes?

  1. Groups: Ensure your brand is consistently posting relevant updates and articles specific to your brand’s group pages to keep Gen Z engaged. 
  2. Events: Utilize Facebook to raise awareness around key brand events for greater interest and attendance.
  3. General Content: 76% of Gen Z utilizes facebook solely to consume content, so it is important to make sure your brand consistently posts high quality content such as videos and branded articles for increased awareness. 

SnapChat – Mainly for Peer Interaction

SnapChat is a hot spot for Gen Z. However,  they use the app mainly for peer-to-peer interaction and are less likely to engage with brands. Brands should focus their marketing strategy on social platforms that show stronger engagement among Gen Z, such as Twitter and Instagram. 

TikTok – A New Opportunity for Consumer Interaction 

TikTok is the latest craze among the Gen Z audience, used solely to consume and create video-specific content. 

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With roughly 1.5 billion downloads (more than Instagram and Facebook), TikTok is a key source in reaching the Gen Z audience. The 60 second video limit forces TikTok content creators to be innovative and impactful in a short period of time. Brands must follow suit by promoting short, yet impactful creative to stand out in such a fast-paced environment.

TikTok offers a wide variety of advertising opportunities, allowing brands to pick and choose the most effective tactics for their specific marketing strategies. While like SnapChat, Gen Z is slightly less likely to engage with brands while scrolling through TikTik, your brand can still make an impression on this unique audience. 

Influencer Partnerships: Brands should tap into influencer partnerships as they provide a less invasive and more organic way of putting your brand in front of Gen Z. 

AUTHENTICITY MATTERS

Authenticity: The Key to Gen Z’s Heart (and Wallet) 

Gone are the days of the “perfect” brand. When it comes to Gen Z, they are much more interested in a brand that is “real” than a brand that portrays a “perfect” persona. They relate more to ads from micro-influencers than celebrities, and strive to find brands that have a sense of community. An easy way to begin creating this community is to invest time into strong community management. When Gen Z interacts with a brand on social media, they expect a response. Whether it’s commenting back or replying to/reposting an Instagram story, Gen Z wants to feel like they are a part of the brand’s community through social interactions, so community management is crucial.

Influencers: The Trusted Voice

Every day, a celebrity posts a #sponsored #ad for a product that influences people to scramble to find their wallets so that they can use the same product as their favorite celebrity. What’s more, the past few years have given birth to non-celebrities becoming influencers, and Gen Z is very receptive to these influencers. Some fast facts about Gen Z’s purchasing behavior based on a panel of Gen Z consumers:

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If your brand wants to reach Gen Z, utilizing Influencer Marketing is a good place to start. A few tips on how to develop an influencer strategy:

Step 1: Instill A Sense Of Community

  • Work with influencers who are open to attend local meet-ups or networking opportunities that are hosted by your brand, and that make the Gen Z consumer feel appreciated. They don’t want to feel like it is a simple transaction for your brand through the influencer.

Step 2: Form Strategic Partnerships With Your Influencers

  • Strive towards long-term partnerships. This not only establishes authenticity with the Gen Zers by letting them know that the influencer uses the product/service long-term, but also allows you to retarget top audience segments. You should also look to take a deep dive into the influencer’s audience when planning your campaign – just using their baseline stats only allows you to scratch the surface.

Step 3: Create Premium Experiences with Influencers

  • When possible, aim to continue the conversation with Gen Z and brand influencers through meaningful activations in relevant moments and environments that matter to Gen Z. Here, you should be adaptable; experiences don’t just have to be face-to-face. They can make just as much of an impact when they happen virtually, too.

To successfully market your brand to Gen Z consumers, it’s clear that genuine connections matter above all else. With a mix of authentic messaging, strategic media planning, and an understanding of the Gen Z community’s values, brands can win their loyalty (and dollars) when it matters most. 

 

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