Whether you call them Generation Z (Gen Z), the iGeneration, Centennials or kids, young consumers are a tough bunch for marketers to reach.
Born roughly between 1995 and 2010, Gen Z is effectively a sub-set of Gen Y. Its members are immersed and obsessed with social media, strive to be independent and have an entrepreneurial outlook on life.
Generation Z is the first mobile native generation
According to the ‘Centennial Shopper Study – Connecting with the Next Generation of Consumers’ report by consumer engagement technology company PowerReviews, this is the first mobile native generation. To them technology isn’t exciting, it’s expected, and the average Centennial has an attention span of eight seconds and can lose interest in brands quickly.
For Unilever, it seems that using technology mixed with strong audience insight is the recipe brands should follow to reach out to this YouTube generation.
Engaging with teenagers using film
The business’s 50-year old ice-cream brand Cornetto, for instance, the theme of love has always run deeply through its marketing veins. The marketing team accepts that younger consumers are unlikely to see its TV advertising, so it works with the Mofilm global community of young filmmakers to create video content. Last year the Cornetto Cupidity film series shot in different cities captured the real-life highs and lows of teenage romance.
Gülsu Erden, Cornetto’s senior global brand manager, says using a platform such as Mofilm ensures its brand remains relevant and authentic to Gen Z. “We wanted to promote active engagement amongst our teen audience and the films were supported by a 3D immersive live theatre event at Westfield Stratford City,” she says.
Using gaming to change habits
Centennials are also keen gamers, and one brand trying to reach 16-18 year olds using this medium is technology giant Philips. It decided to promote its Sonicare toothbrush through the Sims game after research revealed that many teenagers have bad brushing habits.
A Sim could brush their teeth for the recommended two minutes to improve their oral hygiene. While playing the game users were exposed to media banners and a video for the new Philips Sonicare toothbrush. If they clicked the media they could learn more about the products and receive a coupon offering an exclusive discount on the brush they were playing with.
Blake Cahill, global head of digital and social marketing at Philips, says 32% of Sims players were engaged and 7.2m Philips Sonicare Toothbrushes were downloaded within the game. “As a marketer you must think cleverly to reach Generation Z and think about where they are spending their time. This was an experiment for us but it reached a global market,” says Cahill.
Of course, young people still use traditional media, just in a different way to their parents and grandparents. It would be wrong to think they cannot be influenced by television or direct mail.
Using direct mail to ‘create lasting memories’
Premier League football club Arsenal has an active youth marketing strategy and is a big supporter of using direct mail. It has the paid-for Junior Gunners scheme aimed at Gen Z and younger, and fans are sent a supporter’s pack when they join or renew their membership.
The youngest children receive a rucksack including a special edition scarf, wallet and stadium tour voucher, while teenagers get a shoulder bag, scarf, Oyster card wallet, poster and smart phone pen. Fans are also mailed a printed magazine twice a year.
Arsenal marketing executive Anne-Lise Johnsen, who manages the club’s youth marketing strategy, says children decide at a young age which football club to support for the rest of their life, and any marketing must be fun and create lasting memories. “The items you send fans need to give them bragging rights at school, while our live events, such as camping on the pitch alongside the FA Cup, give them a chance to meet their heroes,” says Johnsen.
“Our strategy is to communicate with them in a way that keeps them engaged, although success or lack of it on the field has a massive influence on this.”
Combining direct mail and social marketing to get results
Among other brands effectively using offline media to target Gen Z despite this generation’s love of all things digital is the National Trust. Its Night Time Safari campaign was designed to get children outdoors and off their computers. A mailing was part of a bigger campaign, ’50 Things to do before you’re 11¾’ and was designed to also increase downloads of the organisation’s app and encourage more social mentions.
The Night Safari mailing included a magic bedroom wall poster which appeared to come alive at night. It resulted in an 11-fold increase in app downloads while dwell time on the website rose from two minutes to seven minutes. There were also many Tweets from parents praising the magic poster.
Of course social media is a vital medium to reach Generation Z, but this space moves incredibly fast and marketers must not be left behind. Facebook has already lost a significant number of under 18s who have moved to Instagram or WhatsApp (both owned by Facebook), Snapchat, Secret and Whisper, so marketing to this demographic must span different networks.
The eldest members of Gen Z are now entering the workforce and have money to spend but, if brands are to engage with them, marketers need to accept that this is probably the least brand-loyal generation ever and they’ll have to work harder than ever before to keep them engaged.