By: Megan Hardy
Though every new generation of consumers force change and innovation in the advertising industry, some present more challenges than others. Generation Z, the demographic of people born between 1995 and 2015 roughly, offer new and unique challenges for advertisers. Appealing to the short attention span of members of this demographic, which is an average of eight seconds, and the challenge of creating new and engaging digital content that will appeal to a generation of kids practically born with an iPhone in their hand is no easy task for a brand. However, with Generation Z expected to make up forty percent of consumers by 2020, engaging this segment of the market is vital to a brand’s success. What can advertisers do to stand out when it comes to advertising to members of Generation Z?
It comes as no surprise that a strong digital and social media presence tops the list when it comes to how young people prefer to engage with brands. In a 2019 survey breaking down the habits of this demographic, 45 percent of the 14 to 26-year olds surveyed said they were almost “constantly online” (campaignmonitor, 2019). Although social media was the top ranked way young people chose to interact with brands, email was a close second. Generation Z members are surprisingly responsive to email advertising when used in conjunction with social media advertising efforts and most reported checking their email multiple times a day. The effectiveness of digital marketing campaigns targeting Generation Z hinges upon a brand’s ability to use these different platforms without sending the same exact message. Instead, the key lies in pairing social media and email advertising so that they complement one another and create a unified experience for the viewer.
Gen Z’ers have grown up with the internet at their fingertips, so it’s no surprise that most are tech savvy Internet natives who want information in the quickest and most concise way possible. Long, wordy advertisements are ineffective. Instead, this generation wants to be provided with information quickly, mostly through visual and video advertising. 74 percent of this generation report that they watch more than 30 minutes of video a day, via their mobile devices (Felix, 2019). Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook Watch and IGTV are all highly visual platforms and have the highest engagement rates with members of Generation Z. The short attention span of this demographic is perfect for these platforms, which can provide them information quickly, without having to read large blocks of text or search for what they are looking for. Video content provides an organic advertising alternative where the content the viewer is watching doesn’t feel like they’re viewing an advertisement. Additionally, Gen Z skips the most advertisements, so invasive traditional advertising will not be successful with this demographic (Felix, 2019).
Like video advertising, influencer marketing is also highly effective when capturing the attention of the Generation Z audience. However, unlike the traditional heroes that baby boomers and millennials valued, such as baseball players and movie stars, the younger demographic seems to be more responsive to “micro-influencers”. These are people that they see as their peers, who are not famous in the traditional sense, but instead young people with large social media followings, often focused in certain categories such as gaming, lifestyle, travel and beauty. In a survey by GlobeNewswire, more than 60 percent of Gen Z’ers said they prefer ads with “real” people to those with celebrities (Pankowski, 2019). Brand endorsements from micro-influencers on platforms like Snapchat and YouTube can be very engaging to this generation. Though studies have found Generation Z to be the least tolerant of advertising, they are more likely to engage with a brand if the advertising includes influencers the target audience views as similar to themselves (Felix, 2019).
Arguably most important to obtaining brand engagement from Generation Z is their perceived image of the brand as a whole. Generation Z is the most diverse and multicultural in history (Felix, 2019). They are open-minded and crave inclusion, diversity and humanity. Generation Z interacts most with brands that humanize themselves and prove they are ethical and socially responsible. They resonate most with brands that are unapologetically unique. Gen Z, far more than other generations, researches brands marketed to them and passes information onto their peers. They care about what and who their money is funding. They do not want to see perfect models with unrealistic body standards or lavish displays of wealth, but instead flock to brands with dedication to bettering the world around them and encouraging the inclusion of everyone, no matter race, religion, sexuality or other point of diversity. A realistic and genuine approach to advertising is vital in capturing a Generation Z audience.
Felix, P. (n.d.). Gen Z: Why Native Advertising Is the Best Way to Reach them. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from https://nativeadvertisinginstitute.com/blog/gen-z-native-advertising/.
Pankowski, M. (2019, August 27). 4 ways to make your brand ‘lit’ to Gen Z, by a member of Gen Z. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from https://adage.com/article/opinion/4-ways-make-your-brand-lit-gen-z-member-gen-z/2193646.
The Ultimate Guide to Marketing to Gen Z in 2019 [New Research]. (n.d.). Retrieved September 26, 2019, from https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/guides/guide-to-gen-z-marketing-2019/.
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