6 things you must know to reach Gen Z

Auugh! Don’t tell us there’s another generation out there with its own marketing rules. Fear not. You’re going to have fun reaching out to these kids.

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal, Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses.

Oh, no! Just when you’ve sweated out a strategy for dealing with those millennials, along comes Generation Z.

No, this is not the last generation of humans on earth (we hope). The moniker is shorthand for those kids who help you figure out your smartphone or new HD TV when you’re stumped. Born after 1998, they represent consumer spending of $44 billion.

Angela Fernandez, vice president of strategic and creative planning at Ketchum, offers advice on how to reach them in a Ragan Training session, ” Video’s 8-Second Rule: How to evolve your social media strategy to reach Gen Z.”

They are technologically connected, Fernandez says, as well as independent, entrepreneurial and “less susceptible to vices” than their elders. (Give them time.)

The Gen Z set doesn’t yet have the reach of millennials—those aged 19-35—who make up a third of the U.S. population and represent $200 billion in consumer spending. But the youngsters’ influence is rapidly growing, and it takes a different kind of communications and marketing to speak to them.

Here are some pointers:

1. Speed is the new currency.

Every minute, Fernandez says, the world’s 3.4 billion internet users and 3.8 billion mobile users send 150 million emails and 21 million Whatsapp messages. They search Google 2.4 million times, tweet 350,000 times and log into Facebook 701,000 times.

The Gen Z crowd spend nine hours a day on their phones, computers or tablets-double the time of the average American. If you want to reach this market, Fernandez says, it’s all about the speed with which they can consume your message.

“Attention spans have gone from 12 seconds to eight seconds,” she says.

(That’s how much time you have to grab them and get them into your content.)

2. They live in an intertwined reality.

Generation Z is the first group that has been wholly immersed in tech since birth. “For them, there’s no online world and offline world,” Fernandez says. “They have a symbiotic relationship with technology. It’s all the same world.”

They expect innovation from brands and want to be inspired. Though their elders were excited by the possibilities of the internet when it first came out, the youngsters have seen a backlash against oversharing, cyberbullying, online predators and other evils of the web.

“It’s no wonder that Gen Z has a much more cautious and strategic idea of what their social media profile is going to be,” she says.

This has led to the rise of platforms such as Snapchat and Whisper among the young.

RELATED: Learn how to tell better brand stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and your blog.

3. They want to change the world.

Amid the information overload, Generation Z is comfortable with multitasking, Fernandez says. They expect to be entertained. Meanwhile, the marketing landscape has shifted. They can opt in or out based on their interests.

Never mind that kid in your back bedroom who can’t haul himself out of bed before noon. As a group, they are industrious self-starters. They want to change the world—or even just their little corner of it.

“There’s a great big opportunity, because they are looking for brands to take them by the hand and say, ‘Let’s go and do this together,'” Fernandez says.

4. Foster creativity and sharing.

How to do all the above? Help them get creative. Check out 7-Eleven’s “Bring Your Own Cup Day” campaign, which went nuts on Twitter and other social media.

The store chain invited customers to bring in and fill whatever humungous cup they preferred with a Slurpee (the cup had to fit in a 10-inch hole, and be sanitary, clean and leak-proof). Customers, especially Gen Z, brought in KFC buckets, helmets, pots and pans and, er, a plastic Clorox jug. The campaign allowed for creative expression (mixing and matching the day-glow flavors) and social sharing.

“These are people who were excited to share and showcase what they bring in,” she says.

5. Empower them to build their personal brand.

American Girl noticed a trend wherein customers were recording videos using the brand’s dolls. These videos covered topics such as the first day of school, cyberbullying and the ALS bucket challenge. The doll company decided to create their own videos, bringing in a blogger-expert to give people advice. The video collection of AwesomenessTV was born.

Lockheed Martin, the aerospace company, won all kinds of kudos with a virtual reality “Field Trip to Mars.” It became “the Single Most Awarded Campaign at Cannes 2016,” AdWeek reported.

Lockheed Martin “The Field Trip To Mars” from H.K. McCANN on Vimeo.

6. Keep. It. Brief.

One study revealed that a huge portion of the Gen Z crowd called BuzzFeed their favorite platform. They like the funny stories, food pieces, quizzes and horoscopes.

One big hit has been BuzzFeed’s 30-to-60 second videos that show quick recipes, Fernandez says. No wonder: For the first time youth are spending more on food and going out to eat than they are on clothing and apparel.

All in all, the good news is that Generation Z is open to hearing from brands. They distrust large, stuffy organizations, but are open to a more human style of outreach. They know they’re being sold to, but don’t mind it if that is done with wit and creativity, or in a way that touches their altruism. (See the campaign to get people to stop smoking around their pets.)

“You do what’s best for your brand,” Fernandez says, “because Gen Z will understand that.”


(Image by Benjamin Linh VU, via)


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