School walkouts to demand greater gun control have had a lot of participation since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. These kids are not going to settle for talk, platitudes, and no action. And quite a few will be voters by November.
Not only will they be voters. They are rapidly becoming consumers too. They’re called Generation “Z,” and they have some characteristics and demands that businesses would do well to take into account. After all, this generation now makes up 26% of the total population.
Just Who is This Generation “Z” Consumer?
At first glance, they seem a lot like millennials. And they are in certain ways. But there are differences too, and we are just now beginning to learn more about them.
Here are several things that businesses should consider, as they prepare to market to this budding consumer.
- Like millennials, the do have a strong sense of social responsibility. But they are willing to be far more active in their demands. As witnessed by their activity since the Florida school shooting. They will make demands, and they will want proof. And they know they have power and are willing to use it. Consider this: Florida is one of the most gun-friendly states in the country. And yet they were able to get a gun control bill passed and signed into law.
- They don’t really see racial and cultural differences. And gender identity issues that so bother older generations are simply not important. What this generation wants is equality and justice for all demographics and cultural sub-groups. It will not tolerate businesses it sees as discriminatory.
- As much as millennials talk about entrepreneurship, many have opted to work for companies that meet their needs for flexible work conditions and benefits that support their lifestyles. Gen Z’ers, when polled, have a stronger drive to become entrepreneurs, because of the independence such a career offers.
- Facebook is not a big deal to Gen Z’ers. They prefer Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube, and such, because they are just more entertaining
- People can buy products, or they can buy experiences. We generally think of millennials as preferring experiences; Gen Z’ers love cool products, and they are willing to spend money if they are of high quality. And they seem to spend more time in brick and mortar stores than do millennials, where they can put their hands on products, try them out, and then make purchasing decisions.
- They are impatient as they search for information online, just as their predecessors are. Online businesses need to ensure that their sites are fully mobile responsive, that pages load fast, and that the mobile experience is smooth and seamless. PC’s are definitely dinosaurs.
- If they are planning on a career as an employee, they are pursuing volunteer work and internships in these industries very early on.
- They prefer video and short snippets when they seek out information – they will not read content.
- They hate ads and see them as intrusions. Yet, they will listen to micro-influencers who tout products and services. Especially in an entertaining way. They don’t mind irreverence at all – in fact, they relish it.
- They, like millennials, want to know the people behind the businesses they choose to make purchases, and they value relationships with them.
Given this list (which is incomplete, because we do not have a full picture yet), there are some things that businesses should do to begin to appeal to this generation.
Implications for Marketing Strategies
No Direct Selling
There is no need to attempt direct sales to Gen Z. First, they don’t like them; second, they use tools to block them; third, they will not like you and go elsewhere.
Instead, focus on where they are online and the types of content they really like. Try to emulate that content, though it may go against most of the marketing strategies you have used in the past. Use their “language;” enlist the help of Gen Z’ers in creating your content.
Who do they follow online? There are lots of influencers you may not know. Do the research and find them. See is you can enlist some of them to feature and recommend your products or services.
Ditch the Text
We already know that the average attention span of users of the Internet and especially related to content and posts is less than that of a goldfish – 8 seconds as a matter of fact. Gen Z is no different. You only have 8 seconds to grab their attention, and text and boring photos will not “cut it.” You need to move into video, and even AR and VR; you need to honor their preferences for types of humor.
Above all, don’t make Gen Z read, except for short phrases and quips.
You are Not Your Business – Who are You?
You have learned that millennials want relationships with you as a person and with your team. Gen Z is no different in this respect. These kids want to know who you really are, what are your values, what social responsibility and causes you are committed to. What is important to you beyond your business and profits? Are you involved in community activities? Does your business support charitable causes? Are you concerned about equality and justice? How can you prove this?
Micro-Influencers Play a Big Role
As already mentioned, Gen Z is really hooked into micro-influencers – those individuals on YouTube, Instagram and other social media platforms who are not huge celebrities, but are certainly internet celebrities. They use humor; they are a bit irreverent; and they are often hilarious. They have huge numbers of followers, and their videos are some of the most watched by this generation. Most have a theme or purpose. The task for businesses is to find those micro-influencers who may have “causes” related to their niches and develop relationships with them. A few mentions by a micro-influencer is worth far more than all of the purchased ads a business may consider. These individuals can help spread a brand far more than almost everything else a business can do.
Casual Wins It
Gen Z does not want professional-looking content. Just view a few of the videos from the micro-influencers they follow, and you will clearly see this. If you try to produce polished content for this demographic, you will lose them.
Get Some Gen Z Consultants
The best way to understand this demographic and to “test” your marketing content is to enlist help from its members. Find a few Gen Z’ers and use them as consultants as you create content.
James Scott, CEO of Essay Supply, an online writing service, put it this way. “We analyzed our Gen Z audience and spent a lot of time researching their preferences, their cultural heroes, and their penchant for quirky content and humor. Once we felt we had a good handle on them, we began email campaigns that focused on topics/themes we knew they would appreciate. We realized a 16% increase in opens and an even larger increase in responses.”
Here are some samples of “quirky” email content the company used.
It celebrated weird holidays – National Pancake Day and Puppy Day:
What We Don’t Know Yet
It also capitalized on the popular animated series, Rick and Morty:
As this generation becomes a larger portion of the consuming public, and as it becomes more vocal, we will learn more. Their response to the Florida shooting told us a lot. They will react and they will respond. And they have staying power in their demands and responses.
This is not a generation to be ignored. And if marketers intend to grab a market share of their consumerism, they would be wise to keep a watchful eye, conduct continued research, meet them where they hang out and, yes, get a bit weird.