Generation Z, or the cohort of individuals born since the mid 1990s, is quickly becoming the world’s most powerful and dynamic consumer group.
By 2020, Gen Z will account for nearly 40% of all consumers, yet many brands have no idea how to connect with them. It is often like they are throwing darts but are aiming in the wrong direction.
One of the best ways to better understand this group is to talk to them! I sat down with Deep Patel, a Forbes’ Top 25 Marketing Influencer and best selling author.
Here is what he had to say:
I think a lot of people confuse Gen Z with Millennials and other groups that came before them. What is the biggest difference or thing you should know that separates this new pack of consumers?
Gen Z grew up online with sophisticated user interfaces, experienced the brute force of the Great Recession, and has seen entrepreneurship be commonplace. This means they care about aesthetics more than Millennials, they care about cash flow more than Millennials, and they are more likely to have side hustles than Millennials.
How do you, or can you think of some examples, of how little things that make marketing to Generation Z different/new?
Millennials were entranced by the internet and very willing to put up their personal information online. Gen Z knows this can come back to bite you, so they are less likely to have a public Facebook and more likely to prefer the privacy of Snapchat. They also have been trained to process online authenticity and filter out ads, so they are critical of fake or promotional appearances online from companies and also less likely to click on traditional ads.
Companies need to dedicate a great focus to developing a connection with their young customers and acting like people not corporations. Furthermore, conceptions of coolness have changed greatly and evolve quickly due to Gen Z’s atypical upbring and the speed of social media in sharing trends. Companies need to try to keep up with the nuanced outlook of their Gen Z customers.
What is the biggest, yet avoidable, mistake you see people make when they are marketing to this younger, yet extremely powerful generation?
Companies too often try to be cool and try to do new-age marketing, but aren’t doing it properly. Having a social media presence is good, but using it for promotional purposes is bad. Using memes for advertising is good, but posting bad memes makes companies look old. Overall, Gen Z marketing needs to focus on results and perception, not just on action.
Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad is a perfect example. It checks off all of the boxes. Social impact, powerful influencer, interesting and young storyline, but it was an epic flop. The reason is that while an older executive would look at the commercial and see a “Gen Z success,” only a member of Gen Z can deem it a success. The commercial was abundantly fake and clearly a ploy to appeal to young people; plus it played down a struggle many young people felt dearly about. Action for the sake of action is not good, companies need to act in ways that truly connect with Gen Z.
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