Generation Z, born after the year 1995, are hardly a carbon copy of their millennial older siblings. Millennials were the star-struck generation, catapulting the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian to fame. But Gen Z? They want to hear directly from their friends and family. According to a study by the Center for Generational Kinetics, Gen Z “is redefining who is influential in today’s marketplace. Rather than hanging posters of TV celebrities or athletes on their bedroom wall, Gen Z is following influencers on social media.”
Gen Z could be labeled ‘Gen Zero-In’ because a whopping 82% ignore ads and more than 50% use ad blockers, meaning they’re hyper focused on the content that matters most to them. But we like the label ‘Gen Zealous’ even more. As a generation raised in a completely digital landscape, they’re much more in tune with the nuances of online messaging and, as a result, are unapologetically committed to authentic digital experiences.
So, how do you reach this new crop of z’ers who will account for 40% of all consumers by the year 2020? Meet them where they are. Real people, telling real stories — namely, influencers. Not the Lindsay Lohan type with her implants and fake accent, think: the kids who spoke out after the Parkland shootings. Gen Z wants to hear from its own posse. (Sorry, macro-influencers: they’re just not that into you.) The overwhelming majority of Gen Z’ers (67%) want to see real people versus celebrities in ads. Case in point: when beauty YouTuber Olivia Jade was accused of bribing her way into USC, her follower count dropped precipitously and she lost her sponsors to boot.
Despite the Gen Z wariness for the overpaid Instagrammer with a deceiving follower count, influencers are still the wisest, most organic way to reach these post-millennials. You just have to approach them differently than their older siblings. They are still seriously into their social media sites, with nearly half checking their profiles on an hourly basis. The trick for marketers is to pivot and approach Gen Z through the lens of their own passions and not our presumptions.
If you’re considering a Gen Z-targeted influencer campaign, take stock of these truths about this up-and-coming demographic, many of whom are nearly one-quarter of a century old.
1. Think nano over macro.
Gen Z is looking for a brand soulmate not a celebrity endorsement. Remember, they were raised by their skeptical Gen X parents who have an acute awareness of the recession. They’re more pragmatic about influencers than star-struck by celebs.
2. Get visual.
Gen Z’ers have curated an entirely new visual language, where a 280-character Tweet is way too long, and an Emoji expresses the most intimate form of endearment. They Facetime, Snapchat, Instagram, and get all the information they need via YouTube, not Encyclopedia Britannica. Use less words. A lot less.
3. Take a stand on issues.
Gen Z equates buying power with social activism and they support brands who align with their vision of the world. Think less about using influencers to sell your product and more about using storytelling to develop an alignment with this powerful purchasing group. Consider this: over 50% of Gen Z would purchase a product to show support for the issues the brand supports.
4. Be nimble, be quick.
Gen Z flip through data in 8 seconds or less. They’re the first fully mobile generation and they dart around their phones like a hummingbird in a flower garden. If you have something to say, say it in 8 seconds or less – otherwise, they’re on to the next best thing.
5. Focus less on brand and more on quality.
Gen Z prefers quality over brand names. They’re more likely to want to shop in a thrift store than a name brand retail store. According to a study by Saatchi, they’re far less likely to be wooed by clever brand names and will focus on price and quality over logo and status.
And finally, let’s not underestimate this new generation. We wrote millennials off as self-indulgent and entitled, and now they make up almost 50% of the workforce and spend 600 billion a year in the U.S. alone. Gen Z is demanding that marketers create content that evolves beyond the confines of the typical purchase funnel and truly speaks to their human experience. And maybe that’s a good thing for all generations.