How Brands Can Engage Generation Z

Generation Z is quite different from Millennials and will be a major economic force in coming years. Understanding them is critical for brands looking to survive.

What Is Generation Z?

As a Generation Zer myself, I must start with establishing a clear definition of who we are. Often confused with our older siblings, Millennials, Generation Z was born from 1995 to 2012. We are a digital-native group, being the first generation born to the digital world. 96% of us own a smartphone, and we spend up to 10 hours a day online. We hold $44 billion in buying power right now, and will account for 40% of consumers by 2020. We are a very diverse group, the first non-white majority generation in the United States.

Getting Gen Z’s Attention

With years of experience on digital platforms, we have developed a sixth sense for advertising and aren’t very tolerant of its intrusiveness. This sixth sense is what many are calling an “8-second attention span”. Actually, it is more of an 8-second filter that lets us know if something is worth our attention. The internet and social media has become laden with ads and self-promoting brands, forcing us to make quick decisions about what we see, so we can continue consuming the content we are interested in. Many of us go a great distance to avoid, block or skip ads. This makes advertising more difficult for marketers targeting our generation. But, there are ways to get our attention.

Be Creative, But Don’t Sacrifice Quality

Developing aesthetically pleasing and creative content is a must. We have a pretty good idea of what graphics and videos should look like. Videos that look like they were made with a camcorder from our birth year will be ignored. Likewise, boring content will be ignored and likely reported (not really, but it’s annoying). Brands should film good quality videos, and consider adding comedy and music for better engagement. The use of technology like augmented and virtual reality, or 360-view are also good strategies. Due to the amount of content we see a day, we tend to build an affinity for the things that engage us most.

Connect, Don’t Sell.

Engagement is also hugely important. Because we were practically born with smartphones in our hands, we know the ins and outs of social platforms. We expect brands to be well-versed just the same. Brands should know what their audiences think and say of them, and engage with them. For Gen Z, this is how to make or lose a lifelong customer. Our favorite brands are such, because they engage with us authentically, and act more as a human-brand than machine-brand. Marketers should take advantage of social and messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and both Twitter and Instagram’s direct message, to engage with Gen Z, as they are more closely-related to texting and very natural for us. We repel brands that are just looking to sell their products to us. It’s similar to someone approaching you and asking something of you without first connecting with you, and it creates a horrible experience.

Gen Z Trusts Influencers

Influencer marketing is a great way to target our generation, because we trust the people that we follow. Using micro-influencer strategies and campaigns can turn big rewards for brands. Micro-influencers are almost always better than A-list celebrities, because we relate to them, trust them and have a more personal investment in them. Influencer marketing is a better way of advertising than the pop-ups and pre-roll ads we abhor so much. It is seamless and creates more experiences for us to connect with the things that we care about through the people we care about.

We Appreciate What We Love

Though our demands might be a little different than Millennials and Generation X, we appreciate the brands that we love. Creating memorable experiences and engaging with us creates greater return for brands, as we will likely recommend them to our friends — and no one wants to be the odd friend out of the group.