Recently, for work, I was asked to explore my generation's perspective on brands and marketing.
Edit: The original blogs now can't be viewed as the website for the company was taken down after the closure in December 2019.
Understanding Gen Z / Part 1
Gen Z, Centennial, “Millennial on steroids”—my generation has been called a lot of names. We can’t summarise an entire generation’s values, experiences, and opinions, however, it is clear that myself, a nineteen-year-old in 2018, exists in a very different world than the one a nineteen-year-old in 2008 grew up in.
Gen Z has been shaped by the time we were born into; we don’t remember a world without the internet and mobile phones, learning how to use a computer was as important and necessary as learning how to read and write. We’re the true digital natives.
For Gen Z, though, the world has always been in constant crisis. Childhood and teenage years filled with political upheaval, climate change, terrorism, and economic disorder have made us an incredibly informed and empathetic generation. We’re constantly forced to evaluate our futures and how we fit into this complicated world.
The Ultimate Brand Curators
Social media plays a huge role in how we curate our personal and professional brands in the midst of this. We’ve seen the mistakes that Millennials made, uploading their entire lives to the internet, then being fired by bosses for calling in sick whilst their Facebook documented a drunken night out on the town.
We also consume media constantly and value information and connection, evident by our high consumption and use of YouTube, Google, and Netflix. The “8-second attention span” statement is thrown around a lot when talking about Gen Z. I find this frustrating. It’s not so much a lack of focus, but a selective filter.
One look at a brand's crappy Instagram feed with some try-hard #omg captions and we’re not interested. You say you’re about female empowerment, but your clothes aren’t ethically made? You’ve lost me.
We download ad-blockers. We’re wary of being sold to. So, when we do engage with a brand, we expect a lot. We want that brand to meet our values. We want the products we buy and the services we use to be tied to our identity. We want to be able to support every aspect of what we’re buying into.
We want a company to LIVE its mission.
In Part II, I’ll explore how to get through to the discerning Gen Zs through social forms of brand engagement.
Targeting Gen Z / Part 2
In Part 1, I looked at who Gen Z are and the expectations that they have for brands. Now, I’ll explore how to get through to Gen Z in their fast-paced technological world.
Listen and Deliver
Take Glossier for example. A beauty brand with a cult following built entirely online into a multimillion-dollar business in just a few short years. They will regularly ask what beauty product their audience most want. A sunscreen was developed over two years from comments on their Instagram about what their customers most wanted when buying a sunscreen.
They listened. They delivered.
Listening is more important than ever when targeting Gen Z. We want to be a part of the product creation process. We’ll suggest improvements, we’ll Tweet our feedback, complete Instagram story polls, and then expect those adaptions.
Quality Over Quantity
In such a fast-paced technological world, it might seem surprising that Gen Z value quality
over quantity. But we’re incredibly selective. We don’t want to be easily duped. Coming of
age during a financial crisis has made us frugal. We’re not the stereotyped “avocado toast”
Millennials, headed to university with big dreams and stars in their eyes only to be met with
debt and little job prospects.
We’re the pragmatic and prudent Gen Z who have seen these prospects and mistakes and
want to avoid them. Where we put our money is taken seriously. We read product reviews,
we search TripAdvisor for the best restaurant on a road trip, we find alternatives to an
overpriced jumper on various fashion sites. We seek out the best version of whatever
product or service we’re looking to buy.
Get Through To Me
So how do you get through to Gen Z? Focus on meaningful interaction. Build relationships.
Engage with them on various platforms. Give value to your product. What made Glossier so
successful? Not just their aesthetic, not just a fantastic blog, not just the high-quality
products. It was that they became friends with their customers, that they worked with
them, and in return, their customers became loyal brand ambassadors.
So, don’t talk at me. Talk with me.
Don’t try to be “cool”, we can smell fake a mile away. Instead, be honest. How are you
creating your product? Who works for you? What social good is your brand implementing?
At Bray Leino CX we often talk about how important it is that the more digital we become,
the more human we have to be. Gen Z sees this. Gen Z has grown up experiencing this, and
now they want that human connection from brands. Don’t just show me flashy ads and
pretty pictures—show me that you care.