The Instagram aesthetic is over

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Generation Z is demanding increasing authenticity in its marketing

It’s all over for the colour-corrected avocado toast, heavily filtered selfies and perfectly-placed French bulldog wishfully eyeing up that sumptuous pink wall. According to those born between 1995 and 2010 (dubbed Gen Z), it’s not cool to be manufactured anymore. Instead, they’re loving a messier, more unfiltered vibe. But how do brands now take advantage of this?

If you’ve attended a marketing conference or even sat at a roundtable discussing Gen Z, you will no doubt have heard received wisdom such as ‘Gen Z have a shorter attention span than a goldfish’ and that ‘they are exposed to more content than they can ever digest, therefore it’s impossible to reach this generation of ad-blockers’. But is it?

Gen Z’s attention span is smaller than generations previous because they are the most hyper-connected generation of our time; they are empowered by having choice. They can hide, remove, block and delete with the tap of their thumb, or they can choose to engage and follow.

New engagement opportunities

When we take a look at the influencers who Gen Z are following, there are noticeable differences when compared to the social stars that Millennials flock towards. Let’s take 22-year-old YouTuber Emma Chamberlain. With 7.7 million followers on Instagram and 7.9 million subscribers on YouTube, she has earned an affinity among Gen Z. Perhaps it’s because she too falls into this generation or maybe it’s her style of content. We believe it may very well be the latter.

Take her Instagram for example. This social sharing site is favoured amongst Millennials to showcase them living their best lives with perfectly shot flat lays of brunch and colour coordinated outfit-of-the-day posts. Gen Z creators like Emma, however, are taking a very different route and create content frequently seen on Snapchat. For every ‘stylised post’ on her feed you’ll find five make-up free, witty snaps paired with relatable captions. Emma is the definition of being aspirational yet accessible.

Its clear relatability is a huge factor. It’s this ‘raw’ content that has led to the introduction of ‘Finstas’ or fake Instagram accounts. We’re not talking bots, but rather a secondary Instagram account that Gen Z create to share ‘real life versus Instagram’ posts with close friends. The posts they upload are filter-free, loaded with personality and remove any chance of their followers feeling inferior, which is common when following ‘perfect feeds’.

For brands that want to tap into this group of people - who, it’s reported, will account for 40 percent of all consumers by 2020 - it does appear like a minefield. In reality, it doesn’t have to be.

Brands need to be mindful that Gen Z are opinionated and expect the same from the brands from which they purchase. Nike successfully targeted this generation when they used Colin Kaepernick as the face of their Just Do It campaign. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will only purchase from brands of a similar mindset, rather they applaud companies with a voice and, more importantly, a CSR strategy that is clearly portrayed online.

Authenticity over all

When it comes to content creation from brands, they want the content that brands post to be aligned with the content that already lives in their news feed – raw, funny and relatable. This generation has grown up with the term ‘fake news’ and are extremely savvy, which means that brands can’t work with influencers or create content in an in-authentic way.

For example, one-off paid partnership posts on Instagram with an influencer is not going to resonate; long-term brand alignments are key. They are extremely familiar with brand ambassadors and associate influencers with the brands they work with and visa-versa. They believe, and rightly so, that the creative onus should lie with an influencer if the content is to successfully target Gen Z, as it needs to be easily recognised as a post from their favourite influencer if it is to stop their thumbs from scrolling past.

In light of the difficulties brands face when recruiting the correct influencers for various campaigns and various target audiences, Found have created an e-book on 'how to find the perfect micro-influencer' which you can access here.

Brands need to have a voice, loosen the reigns when it comes to creating heavily stylised shots working with influencers, and above all, be empowered by the fact that this is a generation full of questions, opinions and a passion for social media as a means of communication, a feeling of community and as a genuine news source.

Is your brand ready for the challenge?

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