Insights for effectively engaging with Gen Z

Audience Targeting

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Generation Z have started to take centre stage amongst the marketing community

It’s been known for some time that people born after 1996, known as Generation Z (or Gen Z for short) have started to take centre stage amongst the marketing community, as increasingly more brands are shifting their gaze, and more importantly their marketing budgets, in their direction.
Whilst these shifts in marketing targets are nothing new, and marketeers have been managing these shifts for many years (recent focus being on –Millennials) many are focusing their efforts on creating a lasting deeper connection with this smart, tech-savvy audience.

Let’s take a closer look at Gen Z and expand on some of the insights for this audience.

Surprisingly Gen Z are different from previous generations Dubbed ‘Generation Sensible’ - they have a different set of priorities such as excelling in school and the environment. This has partly come about because Gen Z are all too aware, they are the ones who will have to deal with the economic, social, political and environmental issues that have been created by previous generations. They are acutely aware of the impact of their decisions right now - for example, Climate Change or Brexit. They embrace the label of their generation unlike the Baby Boomers and have even defined a further niche between millennials and gen Z called zillennials (for those that don’t quite fall into either).

Brands that are looking to reach Gen Z have a real challenge, not only to create advertising that cuts through all the noise, capturing their ever-decreasing attention; but to resonate with this audience through integrity - generating deeper connections that are built on purpose.

This means brands going beyond pure aesthetics to develop brands and products that stand for just as much in the real world as they do in the digital one, this means developing something real with ethical purpose. FMCG giant P&G did just this when, in 2015, they developed the Always campaign #LikeAGirl. Traditionally adverts for feminine hygiene products seemed tame and subtle, focusing on product performance and never seemed to punch (if you excuse the pun). No one was going to like or share an advert about periods - it’s far too personal and intrusive, and what’s more, most women don’t want to think about them. Using the core brand equity ‘confidence’ P&G shifted this from product confidence, into Self-Confidence. What the #LikeAGirl campaign achieved was a game-changer for young women in general, changing the conversations that surrounded girls in sport. By using a phrase that had been associated with weakness in the past they were able to change the narrative, turning it into a positive and powerful statement through the visual representation of what the statement ‘like a girl’ meant for young women, which for them meant running fast, punching harder, and jumping higher – with pride and self-belief.

Whilst not all Gen Zeders are in the market for Always products, what P&G demonstrated was that when purpose is developed in the right way, it creates far more than a simple trend or marketing craze. Purpose with substance is crucial for building successful brands based on authenticity – something that is essential for communicating with Gen Z.

Fixated and Fickle or Smart and Savvy?

You would probably expect that the way this generation look is extremely important to them, and you would be right, with Gen Z over-indexing on this by almost double, when compared millennials (also known as the Instagram generation). The same can be said for the importance they place on other peoples’ opinion of their appearance. These statements can easily paint a picture of a generation of youngsters fixated on their looks, fickle and shallow – but this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. This generation has grown up with the internet and social media. To say they are digital natives is an understatement. They interact with all the social channels (YouTube, Instagram and Facebook being the highest), they game, they watch digital streaming and catch up TV. Therefore, reaching this digital appt generation is not a problem, we know what channels they interact with and we know at what time of day they are most susceptible.

This generation are smart and have a dark sense of humour. They use their digital savviness to fool authorities as the Tik Tokers did for Trumps Tulsa rally in June earlier this year, fooling the organisers of the rally that a million people had reserved tickets, when in fact, they were youngsters on TiK Tok. The turnout was so unexpectedly poor the outside rally didn’t even take place, with organisers quickly trying to use Covid as the main culprit for such low participation.

Because they have grown up with digital, they instinctively know when they are ‘being marketed too’ and switch off because they value authenticity above anything else. They prefer advertising that resonates with them and that they can interact with.

Connected vs. the real world

Gen Z has grown up connected and feel comfortable to live in the digital world. Stats show that the average time spent interacting in the real world, face to face was around 8 hours per day, for Gen Z this reduces to just over 6. Gen Z feel that technology has improved their ability to forge quality human interaction over 40% more than for the same gender 45+. Whilst Snapchat filters and the like provide Gen Z with the perfect set of tools to happily live in a world where visual enhancements and improvements to their content are the norms, what you see isn’t always what you get. Their trust with celebrities is relatively low and they see social media influencers as more authentic and real, over-indexing by 20% for citing trust as a real consideration when buying a brand online. With FMCG brands regularly developing polished brand narratives, values, look and feel, none of this is going to grasp the fleeting attention span of the Gen Zeder. Authenticity for this generation is content that looks organic and peer-to-peer generated rather than overly-branded. Think micro-influencer, not celebrity influencer. Crucially these brands will need to harness the understanding of both these worlds, to be able to effectively communicate to this audience in the digital world whist developing lasting emotive meaning and interactions in the real world. This requires developing content that is valued, sharable and original whilst still delivering on the brand message, and all within the ecosystem of the Gen Z world – organic, authentic and real.

As an established advertising agency here at Golley Slater we are driven to develop responsible advertising campaigns that can increase our clients' sales, improve their conversions or shape positive behaviour change. If you’re interested in knowing more about what’s possible for your advertising or simply want to know more about our extensive approach to campaign planning, we could talk about this all day, but promise not to take up that much time.

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