The joys and perils of the digital generation: seven rules for targeting Gen-Z

Generation Z is the first generation to grow up in a somewhat mature digital ecosystem. The flexible and speedy technology at their disposal has shaped their worldview and consumer behaviour, for better or worse. As their purchasing power keeps growing, brands want to leverage it, but often fall flat by failing to understand the key drivers behind Generation Z’s differences. Here are some of the things you need to consider to avoid this fate and market to segment of the population.

Keep up or go down

Few things changed as much in the last decade as the way we consume media. Our handheld devices offer us a world of instant gratification and enable the 24 hour news cycle, in which everyone gets their Warholian five minutes of fame - no more, no less. Generation Zers are apt at processing this high-density stream of stimuli, but they do this at the expense of long-term memory. The moment something is not stimulating enough, it’s over. To account for short attention span, don’t rely on making a lasting first impression - keep yourself relevant instead. And, don’t try to chase the latest fads - unless you are agile enough to pull it off in time. An untimely or outdated reference on the part of your brand will make you look old and icky.

Don’t waste your time on banner ads

Generation Z hates traditional ads and the ads themselves are to blame. They stand out like a sore thumb against the colourful backdrop of online content. If earlier generations have gotten used to being blatantly targeted, the younger audience isn’t having any of it. That’s why Generation Zers avoid ads in their daily lives and block them online.

However, while they don’t like being treated like consumers, Generation Zers are still interested in having their problems solved. If you publish an engaging piece of content in its own right they will take note of it. There are many ways to go about this task; some do content marketing, others involve influencers. The key is not being boring or the interest will be lost and they will move on.

Lose your marketing BS

The internet is a distorting mirror that cannot be relied on to perfectly understand our society. Generation Zers understand this better than anyone else because they learnt not to trust it early on. Just like they see through the magic of Photoshop, they see unrealistic ‘aspirational’ advertising for what it is. It’s hard (and unnecessary) to sell them a perfect vision of a perfect world. Generation Z will not hesitate to complain if your ad is too ‘sterile’ because they are disillusioned with this world from the get-go. They prefer knowing exactly what they’re getting, even if it means losing some of the layers of mystery behind the product.

This is why D2C brands have seen so much success online - they have earned trust by demystifying traditionally luxury markets (like watches and skincare).

Let’s face it, someone who’s looking to buy a 50-dollar diver watch is not likely to own a yacht. So why picture them on a yacht in your promotional material? Be more realistic in how you present your product and highlight its real benefits instead of creating an elaborate fairy tale.

Don’t expect loyalty, but work towards earning it

Brand loyalty is a thing of the past. The youngest generation has learned not to become too invested in a specific product — lest it goes offline (like Vine) or downhill (like Twitter). Instead of sticking with a brand through thick and thin, they judge products by their merits and pick the best option available. First and foremost, they are looking for meaningful interactions. Once the brand loses its authenticity they will not hesitate to look elsewhere. This means that you can no longer get unconditional loyalty. However, they can still be enthusiastic about your product and contribute to its success. But that relies on your ability to keep the quality of your product high.

Influencers are called influencers for a reason

As we have already explained, Generation Zers have problems establishing trusting relationships with brands and businesses. Which raises the question, who do they trust? The answer is: regular people, aka influencers, that embody Generation Z’s values of transparency and authenticity, that earned this trust by broadcasting their entire lives online and hiding almost nothing.

People who have followed influencers for years know them intimately, like a close friend or a relative. This bond, of course, can be leveraged for business purposes. If you can convert an influencer, the genuine love they have for your product will be the best ad you can possibly make. Check out our app, MNFST, to find the perfect influencer for your marketing campaign of any scale.

Ethics are key

The higher you climb, the further you have to fall, and this is especially true of internet fame. If you breach the trust of your Generation Z customers, they will not hesitate to ‘cancel’ your brand and damage its reputation.

Ethical concerns are at the forefront of their minds, so if a well-kept secret about your company’s shady practices gets spread around, you will notice the immediate backlash. Some brands try to overcompensate by parading their inclusivity and social awareness, but this can backfire if you stray off the straight and narrow.

The best thing to do is to give your brand a healthy dose of authenticity and unpretentiousness. Don’t pretend to save the world, but also don’t pretend that the world is perfect as it is. Be clearly aware of the ethical issues in your field and do something in order to tackle them.

Inclusivity is not a luxury

Generation Z is the most diverse generation yet. According to Pew, almost half of all American ‘post-millennials’ belong to a racial or ethnic minority. Failing to be inclusive will have consequences, because by doing so, you’re neglecting an astonishing number of customers. Adopt your marketing strategy to fit people of all colours, ethnic backgrounds and religions. Doing so will not only pay off in the long run, but also raise the quality of your feedback. Micro- and nano- influencers can help you reach out to minorities. They share a greater bond with their audiences, and have cheaper rates — which, again, helps you diversify your promotional activities. We at MNFST specialise in connecting advertisers to micro- and nano- influencers, so feel free to reach out if you want further advice on targeting small communities.

Misha Sokolov is the co-founder of MNFST

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