By Eric Samson
It seems like the paint isn’t even dry on the millennial generation and already we’re talking about the next wave of consumers: Generation Z. With an estimated 44 million in spending power, they just might be the most important consumer generation of all time.
It will no doubt be tempting for you to think of Gen Z as a bigger, bolder Gen Y, but don’t fall into that trap. Granted, they’re influenced by similar outlets (social media) but they are also somewhat disinterested in others (cable subscriptions and long-form text content). When dealing with Gen Z, you won’t be starting completely from scratch, but you’re certainly going to have to learn some new tricks.
In some ways, starting with a new generation can almost feel like you’re working backward, so that’s just what we’re going to do. Instead of focusing on what Generation Z might want, we’re going to focus on what we know they don’t want and what you, as digital marketers, shouldn’t be doing.
Don’t Be a Try-Hard
Wait, what the heck is a try-hard? To use the parlance of one of literature’s most beloved adolescent know-it-alls, Holden Caulfield, a try-hard is a “crumby phony.” It’s the type of company or marketing campaign that looks less like a real person and more like a, well, company or marketing campaign. To put it plainly, you’re trying too hard and that’s not a problem necessarily unless you’re making it look too obvious.
Similar to their millennial compatriots, Gen Z has a nose for phoniness. In a recent study, 63% of respondents from Generation Z reported that they would rather be marketed to by “real people” than celebrities. That’s good news for marketing companies that now can save precious funds that might otherwise go to securing promos from Beyoncé or J-Law and put them toward other, more authentic avenues.
Instagram has made the “every person” spokesperson the future of digital marketing. If you’re marketing clothing, find someone who specializes in fashion. If you’ve got a new diet drink, find an Instagram fitness guru. It’s all about who you know.
Don’t Go Too Far
Of course, you’re not a creep. You’re just doing what you’ve always done: using Google Analytics, mining searches based on geo-location, and reading IP addresses, caches and cookies to market more effectively.
But Gen Z is onto you. They’re the generation who grew up in the age of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Wikileaks and NSA spying, and some studies suggest they are more aware than millennials when it comes to their privacy. Gen Z is more interested in disabling their geo-location and using more anonymous forms of social media than any generation before them. That means you should get on Snapchat and use shrewder forms of marketing through platforms like Whisper.
Don’t Over-Emphasize Facebook
As increasing numbers of Gen Z’ers turn toward more anonymous forms of social media, unsurprisingly that means they’re also leaving Facebook in droves. This includes 25% of 13-to-17-year-olds in 2014 alone. For digital marketers who consider themselves social media savvy, this number is troubling. Long has Facebook been one of the preferred ways to reach millennials. Now, that line of marketing seems to be drying up.
Fear not, because some of the most beloved and trusted outlets are still working: Put energy into Instagram, Snapchat and yes, YouTube. Gen Z is watching more video than ever and, believe it or not, the old Google-owned stalwart is still the preferred method of watching video online.
Don’t Waste Their Valuable Time
You’re going to have just a few seconds to capture Generation Z's attention, so use your time wisely. Your blogs, lists and content will still be worthwhile but you’ll have to boil it down to make it digestible for those precious few moments. Look at it this way: They want to text. They don’t want to talk. Go live, get silly and be personable. But most importantly, make it short, make it sweet and always include your link in the bio.
Don’t Write Them Off as “Post-Millennials”
If it hasn’t sunk in yet, Generation Z has very different ideas of their future than their predecessors, Gen X and Gen Y. In fact, Gen Z shares many of the same values that (gasp!) their grandparents, the Baby Boomers, did. They want to own houses, live in the suburbs and start their own businesses. In other words, they are embracing values, tropes and traditions that Gen X and Gen Y shunned.
Marketing is all about offering a dream and fulfilling a wish, so don’t go thinking that Gen Z has the same wishes and dreams as the generations that came before them. Gen Z is fiercely independent and wants to desperately distance themselves from Gen X and millennials. Marketers should embrace this.
Eric Samson is the founder of Group8A, a boutique digital marketing agency.