Young consumers are rapidly changing the digital landscape and how brands engage with their audiences. Generation Z is composed of individuals born roughly between the years of 1997 to 2012. This generation makes up nearly a third of the global population, giving them immense power to sway the behaviors of companies both new and old. These teens and young adults spend more time online than any generation before them, and 95% of teens now have regular access to a smartphone, a notable jump from 73% in 2014. It is crucial for marketers to cater messaging toward Gen Z in ways that may feel unfamiliar or even counterintuitive at times, but are sure to excite and inspire loyalty.
One of the most significant factors for Gen Z when deciding what brands they want to engage with is the capacity for a company to be transparent and hold itself accountable. Gen Z looks for companies and individuals that make a point to participate in conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. They don’t shy away from calling a brand out when they are doing something that violates these values. Brands should always ensure they are utilizing diverse perspectives throughout the entire marketing process. Gen Z also supports companies that put their time and money back into the world, to fight for a larger purpose.
As a generation largely defined by their desire for social change, Gen Z votes with their dollars – they do not want to give money to a company that doesn’t have their best interests at heart. A recent study found that 82% of Gen Z think that authentic and diverse representation in advertising is necessary even outside of their own communities, wanting to see people of all backgrounds in brands’ messaging. Gen Z takes a magnifying glass to companies, especially larger ones, unlike any generation before them. They want to see these major corporations stop talking about the things they could be doing to enact change and instead, truly put it into practice. Taking the time to determine your brand’s values and ensuring that they are expressed in your messaging will allow your customers to connect with you on a new level. Don’t stop at making statements on issues that you are passionate about, push it a step further and share resources that educate and inspire your audience. Consider allocating a percentage of your profits and donating them to a cause that aligns with those values, or even starting a fundraising campaign. Gen Z wants to engage with brands that stay involved in cultural conversations in the long term, beyond what’s trending.
A 2018 study found Gen Z to be the “loneliest generation” with a loneliness score of 48.3, a statistic that has surely been exacerbated by the pandemic in recent years. They spend an average of 10.6 hours online per day, exceeding the already lengthy 8.5 hours spent by millennials. This means that Gen Z is consuming astronomical levels of content every day, and is especially adept at filtering out what does not resonate with them. Gen Z typically has an attention span of about 8 seconds, which means video content on platforms like TikTok or Instagram Reels must be immediately engaging to encourage viewership. Young people are looking to be a part of a community and actively seek this out when they are on social media. There are a myriad of ways that you can build community through your digital strategy and inspire an audience to not only follow and engage with your brand but to become loyal customers. Encourage participation on your social profiles by incorporating polls on Instagram stories or asking provoking questions on TikTok that inspires your audience to “stitch” your video with their own anecdotes. These additions to content are small but mighty, as they make followers feel like their opinions matter and are being used to enact change within their communities.
Generation Z does not want to feel that they are being marketed to; they look to engage with accounts that have a clear, approachable personality over meticulously tailored messaging. Don’t be afraid to relax your language and have fun with your digital marketing strategies. Brands that lean into viral trends and join in on conversations within their communities, even outside of their respective brand profiles, demonstrate that they are in touch with their audience and encourage interactions beyond the scope of their products or services. Perhaps a member of your marketing team becomes the ‘face’ of your social media account. This gives the audience a familiar face that they will associate with your brand whenever you appear on their feeds, regardless of the specific content of the post. Another simple way to show compassion for your customers is to respond to comments, DMs, and tagged UGC content promptly. Staying active online shows that your profile not only represents a brand, but has a personality of its own which reinforces once again that your audience is valued and heard.
Generation Z is quickly cementing itself as a tastemaker across generations, and it is crucial that your marketing is tailored to harness their support and following. This unique generation requires distinctive marketing tactics to engage, inform, and retain customers. By defining your values and implementing them into your strategy, crafting an approachable brand personality, and fostering a sense of community, you will surely be able to gain not only the attention but the loyalty of this influential generation.