Every decade or two a new generation rolls into town, and when they do, marketers the world over find themselves at a loss for how to reach them with their promotional content. As they scramble to adapt to the changes in expectation, media, and message, marketers must consider two important things: “How is this generation different?” and equally importantly, “How is this generation the same?”
Here are a few of the most important answers to this pair of questions, particularly when it comes to the mobile-friendly Generation Z that is currently coming of age and will dominate the marketplace in the not-too-distant future.
How is Gen Z the Same as Its Predecessors?
Though the iGeneration is young, tech-savvy, and in many ways dramatically different from the ranks that preceded it, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, every Gen Zer is still human.
They’ve grown up in historically different circumstances, but it doesn’t change the fact that every young member of Generation Z (typically considered those born after 1997) still acts and operates as a human. They have physical needs, strong emotions, and they are abundantly aware of their mental state.
From the business side of things, marketing goals themselves haven’t really changed with Generation Z, either. As a marketer, you need to create a lead generation strategy in order to connect with and guide a Gen Zer through your sales process until they convert into a customer. That much of the marketing process remains as true as it has always been.
Learning about the nitty-gritty differences that set Gen Z apart is important — and it’s something that you’re aware enough about to actually read this far into an article. However, before you begin revamping everything about your current marketing strategy in order to adapt to the expectations and behaviors of a new cohort, it’s essential to keep in mind that the actual marketing message is still appealing to humans — humans that, in most ways, think, feel, and physically operate just like the ages that came before them.
How is Gen Z Different from Its Predecessors?
Alright, now that the similarities have been put in perspective, it’s time to dive into the differences, some of which are profound. First off, it’s worth pointing out that Generation Z has earned itself the nickname of “Digital Natives” because its members are the first group of human beings to grow up completely immersed in a world of technology.
To put this in perspective, most Millennials know what it’s like to write extensively with a pen and paper and have experienced picking up a corded phone, but Generation Z is the only one to have known the internet age for the entirety of their existence.
This perpetual immersion in technology has had some interesting side effects. Most other generations put down and turn off their gadgets in order to socialize and connect with others, but Gen Zers actually use their tech to feel more connected. They do this through activities like watching videos with others and heavily participating in social media.
In addition to their online engagement, Gen Zers are the first generation of born and bred online content creators. An excellent example of this phenomenon comes in the form of the cancelation of Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” contest. The crowdsourced commercial event, which was popular with Millennials for a decade, was finally canceled in recent years. The reason for the cancelation was clarified by the company’s chief marketing officer, Ram Krishnan, when he said that, “If you look at when we started the program, millennial consumers were the target … [Now] Our Doritos target is Gen Z consumers and they’re already content creators.”
In other words, a contest that glorified content creation had become meaningless to the content-creation-familiar Gen Zers that they were now marketing to.
Another major marketing shift that has been spearheaded by Gen Z is the fact that they’re visually focused. In fact, they’re the only one that favors YouTube over Facebook, as they utilize the video streaming service for television, music, and even education.
Although there are endless minor shifts and changes that can be mentioned, these particular points highlight some of the most significant differences that set Generation Z apart from those who came before them.
Marketing Tactics for Generation Z
Utilizing the above information can allow marketers to craft a generationally-appropriate marketing strategy that takes into account both Generation Z’s similarities and differences, especially when it comes to traditional marketing strategies. Quality is tantamount for Gen Z; it should be tantamount for your content no matter the cohort of your target audience. Customers don’t want to be fed shoddy work in any capacity, and the more technologically savvy the customer, the easier they spot poor content. Your quality content should maintain its focus from the top of the funnel to the bottom. Know what you want your content to do and make the end goal is the same every step of the way.
Here are a few of the most impactful marketing tactics that should be taken into consideration when creating a marketing strategy specifically for this profound, fascinating, exceptional group of digital natives.
Craft a Multi-channel Strategy
Generation Zers don’t just have content options, they also have tech options galore. In fact, the average Gen Zer regularly utilizes as many as five different screens, including:
With so many devices available, it’s important to craft a marketing strategy that includes multiple marketing channels. Create mobile-friendly content that can be displayed on tablets and smartphones, but also have desktop, laptop, and television-friendly versions of your ads ready to be displayed when you cross paths with a Gen Zer on their television or computers.
Get creative with your multichannel strategy and build a narrative that spans more than one device: a campaign that begins with a TV commercial that shares a hashtag. Customers can then search the hashtag on YouTube to see a long-form video version of the commercial telling more of the story. They can then search Instagram for the same hashtag that leads them to Instagram Stories created by other customers in response to the video and so on.
Give Them Substance
Again, this one is a no-brainer, but it doesn’t change its importance. Generation Zers are aware of their options. They know that if they can’t get a quality result in one place, they can find it in another. Thus, any time you want to get GenZ to engage with you, it’s important that you provide something of substance in return.
Sometimes, the substance can be literal. For instance, if you want to grow your email list, offer them a free giveaway in exchange for their information.
Reach Them with Videos
As should be abundantly clear by now, videos should be a key part of your marketing strategy. They have become the bread and butter of Generation Z’s online content consumption. If you want to speak to the next generation, you must translate your marketing messages into a video format. With that said, though, don’t just purchase television ad space. You want to create online video content. In other words, both video content and video ads for platforms like YouTube and TikTok should be heavily integrated into your marketing strategy.
Varying your video content will also draw the attention of Gen Z and hold it. Offer behind-the-scenes videos of your business — these are easy to create and can be shared on your Instagram Stories and linked to Facebook. If you are concerned about cost, one of the top tips for creating social media videos is to use whatever cameras you have available to you. If you only have a phone camera, this will bring a more personal vibe to your work.
Once completed, your videos can also be shared on TikTok or vice versa and longer form BTS content can be posted to YouTube in order to educate your target audience. For more detailed education content, create animated videos to explain a product or process you provide.
Most of Generation Z was born with a smartphone in their hands. They are, in every sense of the word, a mobile-friendly generation. In fact, over 40% of transactions by all generations occur via mobile. As such, it’s absolutely imperative that your marketing content is presented in a mobile-friendly manner in order to lead to capture that conversion percentage. What does that look like?
What it doesn’t look like is your desktop site. Your mobile site should consider user experience above all else. It will do that if its design is responsive. Responsive design is web design that changes and adapts to each user’s device. Layouts, font sizes, and more will flex and move as a user accesses your site on a desktop, a tablet, or a mobile phone.
When creating a responsive design, consider the text. How does it look when it loads on a mobile screen? Is it easy to read in manageable chunks? In other words, can your audience read any text on your mobile site at a glance? What is the ratio of video to text? Each design will and should be different depending on the industry as well as the device.
Consider Your Load Time
One of the most important aspects of responsive mobile design, and one that deserves its own spot on this list of tips, is load time. If your site doesn’t load quickly, it will not hold the attention of consumers. According to research, a site that loads slower than 3 seconds loses more visitors than one that loads faster. Yet, most sites load in around 22 seconds.
Obviously, then, slow loading time can be the death of a website, but instead of looking at this as an issue to overcome, look at it as a chance to grab the highly savvy Gen Z customer who waits for no website. If you want to attract and retain Gen Zers online, you need to maintain a fast loading speed that is ideally under 2 seconds at all times. Mobile load time optimization takes a lot of technical skill, and one step is to ensure that server response times are minimized.
Show Some Respect: Marketing to Digital Natives
From quality content to multi-channel marketing, videos, staying mobile-friendly, and more, there are numerous ways to properly promote your products and services to those who hail from GenZ.
The important thing is that you remember to balance that knowledge of how Gen Zers are different from past generations and how they’re the same. On top of that, it’s absolutely crucial that you treat this fast-maturing group with the utmost respect. Generation Z is profoundly self-aware, and, as with all human beings, they don’t like to be talked down to.
As you craft each piece of content, make sure to address your audience with dignity. If you can do that, you’re much more likely to have them reward you with their patronage and loyalty.
We have the awesome Luke Smith to thank for this article.