When I first started studying the post-millennial generation my clients and readers were mostly interested in learning how to sell diapers, rattle toys and baby food to new parents and close family. As this generation is growing older, their needs are evolving too.
No generation the size of 2-3 billion can be fully described by a simple bullet point list. And yet there are some generational commonalities we should be aware of. Generational research is a sifting process, and the biggest job is to weed out the noise between the true signals. After discarding myths and spurious effects, a few nuggets remain. The following five points are some of those I believe represent true shifts that marketers should be aware of when reaching Generation Z.
- Price-Conscious and Frugal
Growing up in the shadow of the recession and with information technology to do price comparisons 24 hours a day, don’t expect this generation to do many impulse purchases. TD Ameritrade’s 2nd Annual Generation Z Survey discovered that if given $500 a massive 70 percent of Gen Zers would save part of it and 30 percent would save it for college. Such monetary dispositions might seem obvious to the adult reader, but rewind your memory back to a time before your pre-frontal cortex was fully developed and your life revolved around keeping up with your peers. In this context Generation Z’s cautiousness is quite astounding. The price of college weighs heavy on many Gen Zers’ mind these days and is a topic we will cover more extensively at After the Millennials in the near future.
- Keeping it Real
Why are so many Generation Zers ditching polished advertisement and professional entertainers for quirky amateurs on You Tube? Because they’re projecting an image which feels more real and authentic. And by being real and authentic, they are more relatable. And being relatable means that the general Gen Z audience feel that they have a vested interest in the message or product. In a way, the distance between the entertainer and the audience feels shorter and the viewer feels more co-creative in the final product. Cassandra Report and Deep Focus found that 63 percent of Gen Z prefers to see “real” people in ads, while just 37 percent favor celebrities. The same goes for movie scripts. Pragmatic and realistic, Generation Z don’t want to be lulled into a happy ending that doesn’t seem real. When the Pixar movie Inside Out became a blockbuster a few years ago, we learned that it was not perpetual happiness, but sadness who won at the end. With the world literally at their fingertips Generation Z is innately attuned to B.S. and can wrangle far more complex emotions than the reduced palette children’s entertainment has traditionally served them.
- Customize everything, but with data integrity
If you are sitting on databases full of customer insights and you are not mining this to provide customized offers, you are wasting your capital. Your customers’ data is your capital. While younger generations are more frugal with their green cash, they are quite willing to share their data with you if you can offer them something in return. The idea of harvesting data to create personal recommendations is less controversial to digital natives, but there is a catch. Data capital is earned via trust. Do not share with third parties unless explicitly stated in the agreements. Provide ample opportunities to opt out. Prevent hacks and treat personal identifiable information and purchasing history with discretion. At first glance it might seem as if this generation is “post-privacy” and will shrug off data hacks and breaches nonchalantly. Nothing could be further from the truth! While youthful indiscretions are temporal, digital footprint stay forever. This generation of future data scientists and cybersecurity analysts will remember the brands they could entrust with their data and shun those who didn’t take it seriously.
- TL;DR or Reduced Attention Span
Children’s shortening attention span has been the subject of psychologists and pediatricians alike since the introduction of the television. The incidence of ADHD is growing as has probably the proclivity to diagnose it. Neurologists claim that children who spend too much time with screens present with notable changes in brain chemistry similar to other addictions, particularly dopamine imbalances. While these trends are worrisome and could explain why content longer than simple GIFs are ignored, the infamous 8-second attention span has another very credible explanation: The amount of available content grows exponentially while total time remains the same.
- Don’t be Evil
Actually, being non-evil is not enough. Proactively care about what they care about. By all means, you don’t have to do a thing beyond day-to-day business if you’re ok blending in with the wallpaper. You can continue to be a greyish inconspicuous brand, and Gen Z won’t bug you. But they won’t hug you either. If you want them to hug you, you need to hug somebody or something else. Hug a tree, hug a near-extinct animal, hug and include those who history has traditionally excluded. In general hug the values that define this generation and hug the future they are trying to build. But only if you are truly feeling them. You can’t be Big Mean Corp one day and suddenly decide to project yourself as The Caring Commons by taking some ideas from Chipotle and Tom’s shoes. It will have to start with a corporate strategic re-vision or your target audience will sense that it is phony. Just like this article’s headline wouldn’t win you over simply by euphemistically replacing the word “marketing” with “engaging”.
Because in the end, marketing to generation Z is not about marketing at all. It’s about the deep driving forces that move them and the pains and pleasures they will experience in a disrupted future. Having cataloged this generation for years After the Millennials has found that during disruptive times it is not enough to understand the “whats” and the ‘hows”. To meet Generation Z in the future you will need to understand the “whys’. To learn more, please contact email@example.com