Generation Z are a current challenge for many marketers trying to answer the questions: how do we define them? How do we market to them? What do they need?
So of course, many, many articles and studies about Gen Z are emerging (most of which the Access team and I have now read), but along with these studies come quite a few myths.
Some articles are brilliant and insightful, showing the differences within the cohort which is hugely important, especially as they want to be treated as individuals. But on the flip side, there are strong arguments to say that we cannot see them as a homogenised group.
As marketers we need to be careful not to take some conclusions at face value. We are at risk of going too far into looking at the extremes of Gen Z, for example going digital only and forgetting about marketing techniques that have always worked.
Gen Z are shiny and new, and there have been changes with every generation, but some things remain the same for all generations and we shouldn’t forget that.
So what are some of the main myths emerging around Gen Z?
TRUE: Gen Z all have something in common. They were born at the same time so they experienced the same things growing up.
NOT TRUE: Gen Z all share the same attitudes, behaviours and characteristics. As with the world at large, there are many tribes, individuals and groups that buck against the impression or view we have of this cohort. According to IPSOS MORI: “Lives are becoming more stretched and varied within a cohort group, and often it’s other things (like country, income, education) that are more important in explaining differences."
TRUE: Gen Z are digital natives. They were born into technology, compared to older Millennials and Gen Xers who were not. So, their approach to technology is unique and can be learned from.
- Gen Z only engage with digital media channels. A study by Kantar Millward Brown suggests that Outdoor is the channel they are most receptive to with 55% positively receiving Out-of-Home ads. Though they are also more receptive to cinema advertising than other generations. OOH, mags, TV and cinema marry with Gen Z’s preference toward visual information and also its mass appeal means that, unlike digital formats where you have no idea of campaign scale or reach, if a brand is advertising OOH, there is some perceived shared experience with many other people, increasing the saliency and status of the brand.
- Gen Z don’t read books any more. A study by Unidays found that 77% of the 22,723 student-age members of Gen Z surveyed read printed books.
- Gen Z prefer shopping online. A study showed that 60% of Gen Z shoppers prefer purchasing in physical stores, rising to 77% in the USA. 46% say they check in store to get more information before purchasing online. IPA suggest that online shopping is associated with negative feelings and in store with positive feelings.
TRUE: To engage with Gen Zers, you need to be authentic.
- Gen Zers are not influenced by influencers. The continuing rise of influencers is no coincidence; Gen Z are receptive to peer-to-peer and influencer marketing. As a whole, what is being called out is the onset of ‘fake’ influencers.
- Gen Zers don’t buy or use unethical brands. In 2018, despite unnerving stories around their bad treatment of staff, Uber still managed to grow their customer base and the Gen Z audience are clearly part of this growth, with 10% of their audience being 18-24-year-olds. Amazon continues to thrive despite its tax avoidance.
- Only Gen Z are calling for authenticity from brands. In a world that is changing constantly, and the rise of social media - which my friend’s gran is on - anyone can find out info and call out brands, politicians and celebs at the touch of a button.
TRUE: Gen Z are prolific on social media.
- Only Gen Z are prolific on social media. All generations feature many heavy users of social media, including the 65+ audience.
- Gen Z don’t use Facebook anymore. They absolutely are, however they are favouring ‘dark social’ where they can message and share content with friends privately and directly rather than publicly.
- Gen Z are obsessed with social media and aren’t bothered about interacting with people in real life. So we should focus on engaging them digitally. They are only on social media so much because they are obsessed with each other and desperate to connect with friends and family. They also need face-to-face time and to feel part of a community.
In summary, it’s important to be cautious about making huge generalizations and assumptions from some of the data presented on Gen Z.
One thing is definitely true - the focus on and coverage about Gen Z is only set to continue in abundance until we turn our attention to the Alphas!
Leanne Ledger is creative strategist at integrated and digital marketing agency Access.