Born between 1996 and 2011 (approximately), Generation Z may not have reached full maturity, but they are sophisticated and nuanced in how they approach their world. To truly listen and communicate we have to put in the work and pay attention to these groups, learn their cultural specificities, and understand what they want and need. Only when we become skilled at tuning in and communicating on the frequencies of our brand’s targeted audiences, can we start to build the relationships with youth consumers that result in collaboration, brand loyalty, and success.
Consumers and brands communicate – or fail to communicate –with one another, in a multitude of ways: video, images, voice, text, virtual and real world experiences. Despite all this communication, however, it isn’t always immediately obvious what is and isn’t working, and why. Is your brand receiving positive or negative attention? Are you getting enough attention? Brands talk about being part of the conversation with youth culture, but the types of content, experiences, and channels deployed are ineffectual if you are not aligned with youth audiences. Alignment is the key to effective brand communication– especially with Gen Z – and it comes from listening in closely, and contributing to the conversation.
In the sections that follow you will find five directional strategies to help you effectively reach, align and build relationships with the tweens, teens and young adults of Gen Z.
1. Consider Strategies That Reach The Growing Global Generation
Data from Population Pyramid (2017) show that the current population of Gen Z is estimated to be a little more than 1.9 billion, or 27 percent of the global population. As of 2010, the population of Gen Z globally was 1.86 billion (Population Pyramid, 2017). With the exception of the United States, some of the most significant Gen Z growth is taking place in countries that are either developing or underdeveloped countries. With a majority of Gen Z living in developing countries, your brands future may depend on a mobile-only strategy to reach Gen Z consumers in India, Nigeria, and other emerging markets.
2. Embrace The Diversity Of Gen Z, Don’t Chase The Cohort
For Gen Z, diversity is more than a buzzword. It is their reality. The most current US Census noted that there had been a 50 percent increase in bi-racial youth since 2000, up to nearly 4.5 million (US Census, 2010a). The outcome of a sharp rise in multiracial marriages in the United States, Gen Z is the most diverse and multicultural of any generation in the United States.
Because of this new openness and acceptance of sexual orientations and gender fluidity, young people are feeling more comfortable to embrace the sexual orientations of friends, parents, family and, in many cases, themselves. The key takeaway for brands to remember is that marketing to these communities is not a right; instead, it is something that must be earned by listening and learning about the many facets of the community, being a brand upstander, creating opportunities for authentic connection and inspiring everyone to be more accepting.
3. Place The Focus On Consumer Engagement And Value Creation
Effective Gen Z engagement means actively contributing to youth culture and involving young people in the content, conversations, and experiences along the way – not treating youth consumers as passive message-recipients. We focus on this because authentic engagement is the only proven way for us to get on Gen Z’s wavelength, tune in to their frequencies and start forming the relationships that build brand credibility. Too many marketers and agencies merely look at data, observe culture and react, believing speed is the best practice. But, the brands that will win the hearts and wallets of America’s youth are the ones who find authentic ways to actively help make the culture. Ask yourself what your brand is doing to celebrate and support what young people are already doing, and how you are creating value.
4. Brands Can Invest In The Future By Inspiring Gen Z Today
If a brand truly wants to inspire Gen Z, it needs to create the potential beyond the moment of purchase, so that consumers imagine how an offering could impact their life going forward. One way brands do this is by helping their audience explore, learn about, and experiment with their world. To do, not just be. This creation of possibility can be a strong brand distinguisher. Every product has a list of features and benefits, but in a sea of competition it is the story around the product that resonates and gets remembered. If you can make consumers feel that new things are possible, and help them take action, you’ll leave a lasting imprint. Fill their minds with possibility, and they might choose your brand over another Amazon white label product.
5. Does Your Content Help Elevate Gen Z’s Status?
Perhaps the most important content goals, when marketing to Gen Z, is to attract and keep their attention, and elevate their status or make them look cool, especially to their peers. They demand instant gratification, ‘likes’, social post views and personal expression. In a time when they are being overwhelmed by information, and their screens are being filled with images of perfection and curated reality, Gen Z is also seeking interaction that feels real and authentic. In the age of social and digital media overload, provide them with a way to help build their personal brand and chances are, they will embrace yours.
Whether you are an educator, entrepreneur, advertising agency, brand consultant, manager of a charitable organization or part of a global brand targeting youth, we all have one thing in common: the need to get tuned in to the frequency of Gen Z. The Gen Z frequency is the voice of an individualized generation; one that is made up of the many distinct voices that represent its cultural groups, subgroups, and individuals. The frequency itself is the wavelength on which the generation and its converging subgroups communicate and interact with each other.
It represents their essence. For brands, tuning in allows us to listen to the unique voices within the generational cacophony, and realize that Gen Z is not simply one homogeneous whole. When we tune in to the Gen Z audiences that best fit our brand, we are enabled to create mutually beneficial consumer-brand relationships, based on the wants and needs of that audience.
Think through your Generation Z strategy with my new book The Gen Z Frequency.
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