For a long time, “millennials” has been a catch-all term for young people. Millennials were the youngest group that marketers had to worry about. But now, millennials are growing up. The youngest of them are out of college now, entering their mid-20s.
The youngest generation to enter the world of consumer goods is Generation Z. The general consensus is that Gen Z was born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s, but generations have no hard and fast start and end dates. So who are Gen Z? And how do you talk to them?
Who Are Generation Z?
Gen Z are a larger piece of the US population than Boomers or millennials, constituting 25 percent of the population. They’re also the most racially diverse generation in the US — only 54 percent are Caucasian, as opposed to 76 percent of the general population.
Gen Z have seen their parents grow up in a tough economic climate — burgeoning personal and student debt, the aftermath of the Great Recession, a difficult housing market, and an unforgiving employment environment. As such, they’re more concerned about student debt and the income gap than their parents were before them.
Gen Z have also never lived in a world that didn’t have the Internet in it. From a young age, they’ve been exposed to advancing technology, mobile phones, smartphones, and computers in both work and school. They don’t remember dial tones, dial-up internet, or payphones.
Gen Z and millennials are both early adopters of new technology, and their behaviors with respect to digital, social, and mobile technology are very similar. But Gen Z is far more concerned with privacy than millennials are, and take much more care to manage their online reputation.
Come to Terms With Generation Z’s Buying Power
Don’t write off Generation Z just because they’re in their teens and early 20s — according to Forbes, Gen Z is bringing about $44 billion in spending power to the table. By 2020, Gen Z will constitute 40 percent of the population.
With that many people and that much money to spend, you can’t afford to wait on marketing to Gen Z. That doesn’t mean you should abandon your current strategies toward Boomers and Millennials — they’re not going anywhere anytime soon — but you need to start dedicating your attention to Gen Z sooner rather than later.
Say Goodbye to Traditional Marketing
Gen Z buyers want to feel that they can relate to the person behind the camera. They don’t want to feel sold to — they want to feel related to. That means that paid actors, stock photo models, and flashy advertising are likely to just bounce off them.
Instead, Gen Z buyers want to feel that the companies selling to them understand their struggles and share in their beliefs and values. They want to buy from peers — even strangers on social media whom they can empathize with are better spokespeople than talking heads on TV.
Use Content to Tell a Story
It won’t be enough to simply tout the empirical benefits of your product to Gen Z buyers — you’ll need to take a storytelling pitch that explains how your product or service can help them. The tricky part is that you don’t have much time to tell that story. For Generation Z, you’ve got about eight seconds to grab their attention.
Luckily, technology has come along for the ride. Snapchat and Instagram stories allow you to break your marketing down into bite-size chunks, telling stories one simple piece at a time. If the first short clip grabs their attention, they’ll watch the next. If they like that one, they’ll keep watching.
You can tell a longer story about a more complex product or service, but you have to adjust your strategy. Gen Z buyers aren’t reading hundreds of words of copy on a website to find out if your product meets their needs, they need the information right up front.
Set a Good Example
60 percent of Gen Zers want to positively change the world through their work, and they hold the companies they buy from to the same standard. They want companies to be environmentally conscious, use fair labor practices, donate proceeds to charity, and contribute to their communities.
Obviously, Gen Z buyers can’t hold every purchase they make to that high bar — they buy from the same massive conglomerates that the rest of us do. But the thing to keep in mind is that they do care — showing them that your brand is responsible and has a mission and a purpose is a real value proposition to them.
Marketing to Gen Z, just like marketing to millennials, will be a paradigm shift that a lot of companies have trouble adjusting to. But if you’re willing to put in the work to understand your new customers, you’ll be rewarded with their loyalty, their strong social networks, and their buying power.