The Post-Millennial Generation, Generation Z, is growing up. They’re moving past allowances, getting ready for first jobs and college applications. They’re not yet adults, but they’re becoming a bigger and bigger part of the world’s consumer base. They’re also the next big point of focus for many brands and marketers, who have long been focused on Millennials.
The first generation that’s enjoyed access to the internet and digital content for their entire lives, Generation Z has unparalleled abilities to research, multitask, communicate, and create with technology. They’re spending hours online each day, and the internet and social media are inextricable parts of their lives. Marketing to Generation Z means becoming a part of their online lives in a way that isn’t intrusive or artificial. Here are 5 things marketers should keep in mind as they try to reach and interact with Generation Z.
Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Live.ly, and other social media networks may have features in common, but their content, users, and methods of action and discovery are unique. Snapchat users don’t open the app looking for the same kind of content they might find on Facebook — they’re looking for something they can only get on Snapchat. If marketers want to reach Generation Z users where they’re already posting, consuming, and interacting with content, it needs to be tailored to the platform on which it’s appearing.
Brands like Sour Patch Kids, Warby Parker, and Birchbox are doing great work on Snapchat, but even more are partnering with some of Snapchat’s most popular creators, making their presence on the platform feel natural and organic. The same is true of brands on Instagram, Facebook, and nearly every other social media network. Eighty-five percent of Generation Z users learn about new products on social media. Even those users who aren’t eager to follow brands themselves on social media are receptive to brand messaging on platforms, provided the messaging is relevant, authentic, helpful, and tailored to fit the platform and audience.
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Generation Z spends a lot of time online (almost half spend ten or more hours per day online) and nearly a third of Generation Z users watch at least an hour of video online every day. Video is some of the most engaging digital content, and as such, it presents a valuable opportunity for marketers.
Traditional video ads may be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of marketing with online video, but brands are also reaching users through product placement, sponsored videos, their own branded content, and content marketing. As Generation Z users become a more significant part of the purchasing public, finding more ways to reach them will be vital not only to brands’ success but to their survival.
Another form of online video, livestreaming is becoming a bigger and more central part of our lives online. Eighty-one percent of internet users watched more live video in 2016 than they did in 2015, and ad views on livestreaming content grew 113% YoY in the third quarter of 2015 while long and short form videos on YouTube only grew by 30% and 9% respectively. Whether brands sponsor livestreams, form partnerships with livestreaming talent, or livestream their own content, finding a way to capitalize on the growing livestreaming market will be instrumental in keeping up with online video trends.
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More than any generation before them, members of Generation Z are aware of social issues and place a high value on equality and human rights. Not only are they aware, they prefer brands that take a stance on the issues that they care about — issues like racial equality, gender equality, and LGBT rights. In a study of over 2,000 respondents, advertising agency Barkley found that 60% of Generation Z users (which it dubs “Pivotals”) will support brands with a firm stance on issues of equality, particularly where race, gender, and LGBT people are concerned.
It’s not just an “added bonus” when brands take a stand, though. Generation Z users (along with Millennials and others) expect brands to be socially conscious and to be on the right side of the world’s biggest issues. In a recent example, Pepsi learned the hard way that being tone deaf in marketing can be just as harmful as doing nothing at all with its controversial ad featuring Kendall Jenner. It behooves brands to listen to their communities — particularly those who are younger and more attuned to issues of equality — and to stand up with them when possible.
As digital marketing becomes more and more crowded, users are blocking out more and more advertising content — both figuratively and literally. Ad blockers are more pervasive than they’ve ever been before, particularly among younger users. The most likely generation to be using ad blocking software, an estimated 31% of Generation Z users have ad blocking software installed.
A survey from eMarketer found that 40% of respondents installed ad blocking software because they were “tired of being bombarded” by ads. Intolerance for ads is forcing brands and advertisers to get more creative about how they approach audiences. Generation Z users crave authenticity in advertising. Traditional media is often based upon carefully designed ads that talk at audiences with meticulously designed messaging, but the Generation Z audience would rather hear from real people. In fact, Barkley’s study showed that 77% Generation Z users like to see real people in ads.
Influencers can be a powerful tool for building authenticity into marketing campaigns. Already a trusted voice and presence for their audiences, influencers know how to speak to viewers and, because their success hinges on the strength of their connection with their fans, they’re experts at communicating naturally and encouraging engagement and interactivity.
Attention spans are shorter than ever, down to eight seconds, according to a study from Microsoft. Though it’s not Generation Z that’s finding it harder to stay focused for more than a few seconds, Generation Z’s aptitude for all things digital could make them faster to move on if they’re not engaged. It’s not all bad news, though. Our ability to focus for long periods of time is declining, but if information is presented to us more quickly, more concisely, and in a way that has us using more than one screen or method to engage, it presents an opportunity.
Generation Z is using five screens on average, giving them an unprecedented ability to watch, research, share, and more, all at the same time. Microsoft’s study points out that communicating with users who are using multiple screens has the power to amplify, not diminish, advertising efforts. There’s a difference between distraction and multitasking, and if marketers can find a way to engage with users across platforms and across screens, they’ll be able to take advantage of shortening attention spans.