Running a Gen Z consulting firm with Nick Jain and Jacob Chang (JUV Consulting)
This week, we’re excited to feature Princeton student Nick Jain and UChicago student Jacob Chang, the co-founder and Head of Marketing, respectively, at JUV Consulting. JUV is a Gen Z consulting firm run by high school and college students, with a goal of both providing brands with insights into youth culture, and giving teens the chance to have a voice in the business world. The firm has a nine-person executive team, more than 50 student consultants who work on projects for brands, and a network of 800 teens worldwide (representing more than 40 countries) who provide remote feedback.
Brands hire JUV to get more insight into Gen Z trends and opinions — the firm holds ideation sessions with clients to build products or campaigns that resonate with Gen Z, gives presentations to brands, and utilizes the JUV network of teens to get real-time feedback on almost any question. JUV’s client list includes established brands like Viacom, Unilever, and Axe, as well as startups like men’s beauty site Very Good Light. The JUV team also publishes Gen Z media and insights on their Twitter and Instagram pages.
We talked to Nick and Jacob about how they recruit consultants, the projects they work on for brands, and their thoughts on the biggest Gen Z trends.
What was the inspiration behind starting JUV?
Nick: I started JUV with two co-founders, who are also currently in college. Ziad and I went to the same school since seventh grade, and I met Melinda at Cornell Summer College after our tenth grade in high school. One day, we had a conversation about the terrible ads that brands were putting on Instagram. You would scroll through Instagram, see an obvious ad, and go right by it. Then we saw an ad from Gushers that looked like a meme we would see in our feeds — we were surprised that it came from a company.
A lot of brands are failing to create products and ads that appeal to Gen Z. You have a lot of people of older generations at large ad firms or in product development at companies, and they use quantitative data about Gen Z to make big decisions. We don’t think that’s the right way to do it—we can help you co-create products and ads that genuinely appeal to people in our age group, based on our real-world experiences of what our peers have reacted well or poorly to. Our overall message is simple: stop talking about teenagers, and start talking to teenagers. We are a platform to empower Gen Z with a seat at every table.
What’s your strategy for recruiting teen consultants, and how do you make sure you have a group that is representative of Gen Z?
Nick: Recruiting is one of the most important things we do as a company. If we are going to try to represent our generation, we need people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Once teens know about JUV, they usually want to be involved and want to have a seat at the table — it’s just a matter of letting them know that we exist. We do a lot of digital outreach, posting in college Facebook groups, reaching out to local high schools, and using social platforms like Instagram and Twitter that teens are already spending a lot of time on. We ask applicants to submit a 30-second Snapchat video speaking about something they are passionate about.
We’re working on creating programs to reach people who aren’t adequately represented within our team. Even to be in the position where you can devote time to JUV Consulting, you have to be relatively privileged. One of our team members, JaDa Johnson, is developing partnerships with organizations, non-profits, and schools in underprivileged and low-income areas. This will enable us to work directly with students that haven’t had the opportunity to join an organization like this. We want to empower them and give them a voice, so we’ll do public speaking and presentation training as well.
What can you share about the work you’ve done so far for brands, and what your process looks like?
Nick: Every project is different, but we often give brands a group of five or six consultants who fit their specifications. That group does a series of calls and meetings with the client to provide feedback on questions, usually around either a product or marketing campaign, and brainstorms with the client to make the campaign better. We take the final product and send it out to our network of 800 students to get another round of feedback—Gen Z has an attention span of eight seconds, so we keep it pretty short and basic. We then prepare a formal report for the client based on the data we’ve received.
With Edelman, one our of clients, we did a presentation for their brands where we talked about memes, finsta, and other topics that people outside of Gen Z don’t know about. We offer curated experiences as well. We represented Axe at an event with a meme booth — there were a bunch of press and influencers that Axe was trying to reach.
It’s hard to reach Gen Z via traditional media channels like TV and newspapers. What channels would you advise brands use?
Jacob: Twitter, Instagram, and even texting are all great channels. Using Instagram influencers is a great strategy — their power is underrated by many brands. They are basically mini-celebrities with very engaged followers. Facebook is helpful to an extent, but is kind of falling off in popularity. The landscape is constantly changing in terms of what people use, because new networks pop up all the time and then die off.
Nick: Gen Z loves stories (the Extra Gum commercial is a great example) and brands that aren’t just out there to make money. Patagonia is really popular with Gen Z — they’ve done a lot of work to be environmentally and socially conscious, and that’s something that we really respond to. We don’t read newspapers or watch news on TV, but we care a lot about what’s going on and are constantly getting notifications on our phones. When brands do things that are suspect, we are instantly less likely to use those brands.
Any other advice for brands?
Nick: We always advise brands that before they launch a campaign, they need to invest the time to understand the audience. For example, on Facebook there are meme groups that are unbelievably popular — Gen Z spends hours in them every day. In no circumstances should any brand ever post in a meme group — they will do it wrong and get kicked out immediately. But brands should be part of the group to watch and see what we laugh at or react positively to. The memes we like today are completely different than the ones we liked even three months ago.
This is a problem for traditional market research because it takes six months to do a study, so when a report about Gen Z comes out, it is already outdated. Most brands are marketing to teens with data that isn’t relevant. We can get you that information in real time. The only way to understand Gen Z and to effectively market to them is to talk to them regularly.
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