7 Steps to Advertising to the Emerging Gen Z Consumer
Generation Z, the post-Millennial group of digital natives born after 1997, is arguably the most unique generation to come. Advertising to emerging Gen Z consumers, who have an insatiable desire for instant gratification and personalization in all aspects of their lives, is both as challenging and simple as it has ever been — an oxymoron in itself. But it perhaps explains the complexity of this 32% of the global population, which is edging out Millennials.
Before we get into methods for marketing to Gen Z, it’s important to understand who this generation is and the qualities that make them unique. Generation Z has never lived in a world without the web. The Internet has always existed for Gen Z; life without an online presence is but a vague and distant memory to them. About 96% of Generation Z members own a smartphone and, on average, they spend more than three hours a day perusing their devices. Social media is the beast that lies within these smartphones and has proven to be a powerful tool for this generation.
For some, reaching Generation Z may seem difficult for this very reason — from the outside in, they are seemingly out of touch with the real world. For advertisers, however, it has made Gen Z more reachable than any preceding generation. Making a connection has a whole new meaning in advertising, due to the realm of social media and smartphones.
Here are best practices on how to reach and engage with the Gen Z audience:
Reaching the Gen Z Audience
While Gen Zers have earned a reputation as arduous customers, there are various methods advertisers can tap into to successfully sell their brands/products to this tenacious bunch. As a well-informed and arguably opinionated generation, they generally respond well to brands that earn their loyalty as customers. This differs from other generations who have typically chosen what they consume based on tradition.
And just how can advertisers earn Gen Z loyalty? Sell the all-encompassing brand and its story to give it a sense of relatability.
When determining how to best reach this demographic, one word should be kept top of mind: authenticity. Research shows that 63% of Generation Z want marketing from “real” people, as opposed to celebrity endorsers. I put “real” in quotation marks, because this category does not stop at trusted friends and family of Gen Zers. A trusted source or friend can be found anywhere from an inner circle to their favorite social media influencers and bloggers.
Influencer marketing has proven successful with Gen Z because hearing about a product from an average, everyday person (with 10,000-plus social media followers, that is) resonates more deeply with them than seeing a high-profile celebrity endorse everyday items.
Influencers are more trusted by Gen Z because they don’t seem like they’re trying to persuade; rather, they’re just filling their audience in on something they enjoy. In turn, influencer marketing feels less like corporate manipulation. Furthermore, their followers are just that: people who follow and are invested in their lives. They are already sold on the influencer, which makes it easy to trust that person's opinion.
Keep Reaching Out/Retargeting
Online retargeting is key to engaging this generation and staying top of mind. Once Gen Zers begin researching a brand, it is vital to remain relevant to them, and retargeting is one of the easiest ways to take them through the buying process. As a generation obsessed with fast-paced, instantaneous moments, it can be easy for them to forget about something if it’s not reinforced. Retargeting — by means of social media and banner and display ads — is paramount to success with Gen Zers.
With the power of online retargeting, however, it is important to put a cap on the frequency to prevent fatiguing potential buyers. If a member of this group sees an ad too frequently, it can make them lose interest. They may feel it is being pushed too hard on them — which is quite the opposite of feeling authentic and caring.
Online reviews are another important factor when Generation Z considers a product. Creating a space where they can hear from people of a similar background in a written or spoken testimonial to the product can make all the difference. Reviews get customers involved and allow their voices to be heard, tying in an element of personalization.
In order to receive genuinely positive and highly regarded reviews from Gen Z, it’s important a company is honest, maintains the quality it guarantees, and makes customers feel special throughout the process. They don’t want to be considered another number; rather, they’d like to feel included and impactful.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Generation Z also cares deeply about brands that have a positive social or environmental impact. It is of the utmost importance for a brand to come across as one that cares — in all aspects. Though Gen Z's smartphone use may make them seem disconnected from the world around them, they actually have a tendency to express their values online and want to vocalize their beliefs. Therefore, they appreciate when a company does the same.
Voicing inclusivity, social justice, and sustainability can majorly impact a Gen Z target while they determine whether a brand is worthy of their purchase. Typically, members of this generation look at a brand from a holistic standpoint before deciding to become a customer or not. This is why a company’s social media presence is one of the most important upkeeps. Serving as a place to express oneself, it’s the prime method to communicate a brand’s progressive values.
Ultimately, the best way to engage with Gen Z and make them purchase is to foster a connection that does not feel contrived. They love realness above all and prefer that a company is upfront with what it has to offer and what it values holistically. With technology at the tips of their fingers, Gen Z members have almost always done their research before purchasing. This is why marketing to them is more crucial than ever: The way a brand portrays itself online and the decisions it makes can make or break its profitability.
Advertising geared toward Gen Z should always pique their interest and keep that interest alive until they decide it’s time to buy. The initial point of contact in getting this audience’s attention will push them to look further into a brand to ensure it’s something they’re interested in putting their money toward. As such, it is vital to a company’s success to maintain strong marketing and advertising tactics — from start to finish, throughout the buying process.
Brands: Show You Care about Gen Z
The bottom line of advertising to the Generation Z audience is that you should always sell the brand as one that cares not only about its own success, but also about the success and ultimate happiness of its customers. Maintaining happy customers, at the end of the day, is the main driving force behind the success of any Gen Z-focused company.
Hanna Anderson is a marketing coordinator at Hawthorne, responsible for online programs, generating business growth using websites, email marketing, online advertising and promotions, SEM/SEO, and social marketing. Her blog is intended to serve as a space to inform and discuss advertising and how it corresponds to Gen Z — written from the perspective of a Gen Zer, herself. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.