The Drum Awards for Design 2022

Live in - hours - minutes

Engaging Gen Z: Why digital marketers need to prioritise messaging apps

Global organisations including Coca-Cola, Evian, Unicef, BBC, Clarks, Groupon and Comic Relief are leveraging messaging apps to reach new audiences and engage with customers as Gen Z and digital natives leave traditional social media and opt for the likes of SnapChat and WhatsApp.

Over six of the top 10 most used apps globally are messaging apps, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Line, Viber, KakaoTalk and WeChat1, yet businesses around the world are still hesitant to incorporate this platform within their digital marketing and communication strategies.

“People are spending more and more time on messaging apps, and most businesses don’t have a voice there,” says Jonathan Waddingham, social product manager at JustGiving. “One huge benefit of social media is that businesses can be part of a conversation with their customers, and if a large number of customers are talking to each other on messaging apps, then it makes sense to try and reach them there.”

If this is where consumers are going, why aren’t businesses immediately rallying to join?

The world of messaging apps is still vastly unchartered and unmeasured. Many companies are still trying to figure out how to leverage now-traditional social media (Facebook, Twitter) for customer communication – let alone adding a new channel into the mix.

However, with research forecasting the messaging app universe to generate almost $25 billion in annual revenue by 20172, those who don’t quickly get a grip on these powerful communications tools will lose that much prized first-mover advantage, and risk being left behind.

Expect to experiment

Much like in the early days of Facebook and Twitter, during which success could only be measured by the number of fans and followers, there is much experimentation required to find the most relevant way of utilising messaging apps.

As one digital agency executive commented: “When people start winning innovation awards for partnering with messaging apps, then we’ll see a surge in confidence and activity in this space.”

For digital marketers, the principles are the same as when tackling any other new marketing channel – i.e. knowing what specific end results the business wants to achieve through the platform, understanding what capabilities each messaging app service offers and creating a framework or roadmap for success from one point to another. However, the most important factor when using for marketing is a relevant story, which seamlessly integrates the business brand message with the messaging app’s unique personality.

In addition to Coca-Cola, Evian, Comic Relief, The Co-operative Group and JustGiving, organisations who are already leveraging messaging apps include:

  • Groupon (SnapChat): Deal-of-the-day website, Groupon, utilised Snapchat in building an engaging content strategy aimed to reach the company’s target audience in North America.
  • Clarks (WhatsApp): British international shoe manufacturer and retailer Clarks worked with its social media agency, BBH, in leveraging the WhatsApp platform as part of a ‘transmedia’ campaign, used to assert its role as the creator of the iconic Desert Boot.
  • Valencia FC (WhatsApp): Valencia Football Club worked with WhatsApp for fan engagement as part of its integrated marketing and communications mix throughout Europe, working with digital consultancy Seven League.

Messaging app platform capabilities are evolving

“Messaging apps provide more than just straightforward messaging,” says Katie Ray, founder of SociaClubMedia ltd. “Many now are becoming ‘platforms,’ which offer these large audiences access to content, ticketing and gaming.”

Whilst messaging app platforms like WeChat, Line and Kakaotalk in Asia have already proved that there’s revenue to be made through third party content including games, ticketing, flight sales, hotel booking, grocery-shopping, messaging apps have not been used solely for commercial purposes.

Not-for-profit organisations such as Unicef and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have used them as reliable communication tools for natural disasters – and a substitute for compromised mobile networks. Most recently, the BBC World Service used Viber during the Nepal Earthquakes in April in order to communicate with users and to publish news, information, and tips for staying safe during recovery time.

Staying on top of messaging apps

Speakers from Coca-Cola, Evian, Unicef, BBC, BBH, Valencia FC, Groupon, Justgiving, NBC News and The Co-operative Group will be sharing case studies and insight into their messaging app campaign experience at the Messaging Apps Conference taking place in London this September.

Facebook Messenger, Viber, Skype, Kik and Tango Me will each present a technology demo on site to showcase their newest capabilities and to answer questions from the audience.

For more information on messaging apps and the conference, email us at

Sources: Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends Report; Macquarie Research, 2014

Kim Vigilia, Chief Marketing Officer, Kisaco Research

Tel: 020 3696 2920



Twitter: @futureapptech