The next generation has arrived. With Gen Z we’re beginning to see a fascinating new cohort of teens and young adults who are part traditionalist, part exceedingly modern tech-natives. The eldest Z-ers are now 22 and entering the workplace, and the youngest already influence billions of pounds of annual spend in the UK through their parents.
The burning question for many brands is ‘how can we create brands and messages that resonate with them?’. Marketing agency Jaywing is publishing a new report this month based on 2017 research that looks into the attitudes and behaviours of Gen Z in the digital space.
Gen Z update their private social channels (Snapchat, messaging status) more frequently than they do their more public ‘broadcast’ channels, such as Twitter and Facebook. They are switched on to adjusting their privacy settings on each of the apps they use. Three in four only allow location sharing for apps that require it for functioning and only 18% would be happy to share their location information with even their favourite brands.
This doesn’t mean they do not want to share and co-create with brands, it simply shows that this generation are savvy about protecting their personal data.
Gen Z wield the power of technology in a way no one has before. They were born and raised on touchscreens and YouTube. They have never known a world unconnected by the internet. Gen Z aren’t going to be told what to do – their attention is in prime demand from all directions and they know it.
They are creating the perfect balance of offline and online interactions to best meet their own consumer needs. While it would be easy to assume Z-ers do everything online, in reality they utilise a far more balanced measure of online and offline channels.
More than half of those surveyed would prefer to manage private or sensitive information (such as banking) in store or over the phone; most would use a third party website for product research; and more would prefer to submit a complaint online than in person.
Brands need to consider this when reaching out and understand how they utilise different channels for different purposes. Mostly, Gen Z accept that they are going to see brand ads on their social channels. Only 5% of those asked would pay for an ad-free social media experience. But their receptivity to ads varies by channel; they prefer to see brand adverts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube over Snapchat.
There’s no point in being lofty and overcomplicated on social media. Seventy per cent of Gen Z prefer a colloquial, friendly tone from brands they see on social. As part of their realist nature, they know that behind the brands there are real people too. Part of this is simply down to the nature of social as a platform. They’re on social to be relaxed, entertained and/or informed, not to be lectured and surrounded by ads. Know your audience, but know your platform too. If you’re going to invest time and money in a social strategy (which, let’s face it, you would be more than a bit remiss if you didn’t), you need to ‘read the room’.
Keep it real
This generation have grown up through an era peppered with harsh reality – the financial recession, acts of terrorism dominating the global news – and many have watched millennial siblings try and fail to fly the nest. As a result, they’re realists and pragmatists. They value real people and stories over contrived brand messaging and airbrushed supermodels. But at the same time, they live in the present, they want to have fun; it’s cool to learn again, and to be different. In fact, to Gen Z, diversity is only notable where it is absent.
Gen Z have a strong desire for equality and fairness in the world. If you aren’t authentic, Gen Z are going to notice. The brand experience is about so much more than the product; it’s about brand stories, sustainability and responsible operations.
Video is still king
Over half of respondents (52%) spend at least one hour a day on YouTube. Good video content is key to Gen Z’s attention. What makes video good? Two things Gen Z enjoy are being informed and being entertained. If you bear these in mind (though they may not always go hand in hand), you won’t go far wrong.
Here’s the crux – you have only got 1.2 seconds to grab their attention.
This generation is markedly different from its predecessors, and to engage them, your brand needs to understand this. What worked with millennials will not cut it. It’s still early days in the arena of fully understanding Gen Z, but they are going to own the next 15 years with unprecedented population and spending power – so you’re going to want to know about them if you want them to know about you.