Altruistic. Political. Entrepreneurial. Just a few of the many adjectives that have been used to describe Gen Zers. They may be a difficult bunch to define which only means that they're an even more challenging sector to market to.
Should brands take time to understand this multi-dimensional audience? The simple answer is yes. Gen Z will count for 40% of the world’s shopping population by 2020 so it’s important to factor them into your marketing plans if you want to future-proof your brand.
Who are GenZ and how can brands best engage them?
Members of the Gen Z brigade are typically classified as people born from 1995 onwards, according to McKinsey.
Like all generations, it is dangerous to take a one-size-fits-all approach to this audience. Brands that are doing it well are looking into the micro segments of this audience to better understand the different values.
Benefit put together a global panel of Gen Zers and spent two years asking them what matters most to them. Lou Bennett, head of marketing at Benefit Cosmetics, shared the main findings from this project at the Festival of Marketing last month:
“They want to feel empowered for themselves," she said. "They don’t want to be marketed to, to be told, to look better for someone else. It’s all about themselves. They want to see themselves represented in campaigns. They want to see women who they term “girl bosses” like they see themselves as girl bosses.”
Nike is also sitting up and paying attention to this sector by integrating Gen Z into the customer experience. Through their sponsorship of Serena Williams, they have created an apprenticeship programme whereby they will invite ten emerging designers to take part and ultimately help create the new shoe and apparel collection for 2020.
On a panel dedicated to GenZ mythbusting, Vivane Paxinos, general manager EMEA at UniDays, agreed with Nike’s approach, “The best way to engage Gen Z is to involve them as much as possible. Run competitions where they get to design the next T-shirt or appear in the next campaign.”
The big watch out with this generation is inauthenticity. Brands need to be careful to not jump on the ‘social purpose bandwagon’ because this audience will be the first to take to trolling if they think a brand’s social commitments are flawed. Having grown up in an era of fake news, their tolerance for BS is low and thanks to social media, brands need to be prepared to have a two-way conversation - as summarised in a We are Social report.
However, executed in the right way, brands can strike a homerun with this caring and passionate generation who want to do good. An effective way to do this authentically is through partnerships. The Co-op have successfully navigated a sensitive social issue of knife crime by partnering with the anti-knife organisation, Steel Warriors. Together they plan to build 20 gyms around the UK with recycled knives. In an interview for London News, Steel Warriors founder, Ben Wintour, said: “It’s about encouraging young people to talk more about knife crime, while also providing a healthy diversion away from it.”
As corporate social responsibility is high on the GenZ agenda, it provides the perfect opportunity for brands to think about how they can partner differently with cause-related bodies.
What are the key takeaways for tackling the Gen Z crowd?
- Don’t broad brush stroke a generation. Look into the micro-values of the Gen Z audience
- Get them involved as much as possible. Integrate them into the customer experience
- Be authentic. Partner with a cause that supports your CSR stance
Isobel Finlayson, account director at Mando-Connect.