Studies differ on the exact year Generation Z was born, but generally speaking, most sources tend to agree that it was around the mid 1990s.
As each generation ages, their elders seem to form what is usually an unfavourable opinion of ‘the youth of today’, but these are often misconceptions and inaccurate generalisations. Nonetheless, this can be very confusing for brands looking for clues on how to best engage with this demographic.
Here we address 5 common assumptions about Generation Z and discover the true characteristics of this age of consumers that marketers should take note of.
1. Generation Z demand funky office environments and quirky facilities
Don’t get hung up on the beanbags and the foosball tables themselves… it’s more about what these items represent – interaction with others, a balance between work and leisure, collaboration and an informal setting to share ideas and bounce off each other.
Browser Media’s resident Generation Z’er, Will Greenwood, explains why companies need to ‘get the basics right before thinking about installing a slide in the office to be quirky”.
“A comfortable, relaxed, friendly work space is far more likely to attract the next wave of employees over flashy gimmicks that actually cover up what could be a rather sterile working environment… getting the right office culture should be a priority”.
Okay, so how does this relate to marketing? Well, the Gen Z audience enjoy topical discussions with others about shared view and experiences. Therefore creating a community around your brand is a great way to tap into this generation of consumers, encouraging them to share opinions and inspiration – all centred around your brand.
2. Generation Z will be just like millennials when they get older
Generation Z are not just the new wave of millennials.
Whilst millennials are typically more inclined to seek out designer labels and swanky scenery, Generation Z are far less brand conscious and therefore many companies are not going to be able to sit back and let their logo do the selling for them anymore.
Will comments: “Each generation always has key differences from the previous as the world around them is changing so are their habits and actions, and this couldn’t be any more true about Generation Z. Society has changed massively in recent years and Gen Z’ers are the first ones to adapt to that change… they are far more tolerant and accepting of other people’s differences compared to the previous generation. Social norms have changed and marketers need to ensure they are staying up to date to ensure they are appealing to the new generation”.
The diversity of this generation of consumers makes it particularly difficult to define and therefore all the more difficult for marketers to target. They are also fast-movers; what was relevant and engaging last month could now be old hat so marketers have to be reactive. Rather than spending time and money trying to appeal to everyone, use newsjacking techniques and create topical content in response to a recent headline or political issue. That way you can be sure your content is relevant and will encourage engagement through opinion and discussion – two things that Generation Z just love sinking their teeth into.
3. Generation Z’ers have a shorter attention span than a goldfish
Yes, many scientific studies have suggested that our attention span is declining with each generation, however, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Whilst millennials were the digital pioneers, Gen Z are digital natives; they don’t remember a time without technology. They are impressively adept at skimming through large volumes of information at a faster pace as they do it everyday on their mobiles, tablets and other devices, often simultaneously.
In the same way a young person today would struggle to engage with a long, static piece of information, a person of the same age just 30 years ago would have the same difficulty keeping up with today’s endless streams of updates. The way consumers retain messages in today’s market has evolved, it doesn’t mean to say Generation Z are any less focused but it does make it harder for marketers as we have a much smaller window in which to capture their attention.
Browser Media’s Will gives his views on this Generation Z assumption:“Social media has made it harder for brands to attract the attention of Generation Z as they are constantly being fed tonnes of information in a matter of seconds. Therefore it is more important to make sure brands stand out and keep up to date with the buying habits of the new generation. They need to look past the idea that Gen Z has a short attention span and develop ways to cater to the new wave of efficient buyers”.
The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab asked 2,440 participants what factors they consider when evaluating the credibility of websites they were shown. Over 46% said the site’s design, for example content layout, colour scheme, navigation, was most important.
There’s a reason people budget generously when it comes to website design – strong visuals will increase your company’s credibility and a user-friendly website that is easy to navigate will retain the focus of a young consumer. It’s also much quicker and easier to retain information from images and video footage than heavy text so these are crucial elements to include in your content strategy. Plus, people are more likely to share images and videos on their social media feed. But not on Facebook, that’s for old people; Generation Z are all about Instagram and Snapchat which favour images and short visual content.
4. Generation Z are easily influenced to buy
True, they lack the brand loyalty of their predecessors but this has been replaced by a stronger concern for the quality of the product and the values of the company behind it – rather than the company name itself. Therefore, it could be argued that they are more easily influenced to swap between brands but only for the right product or service.
Generation Z are also more influenced by a company’s ethics and whether their values align with their own. A digital front row seat to what’s going on in the world around them has created a generation of activists eager to send a message and make a change.
Suzannah Weiss, freelance writer and contributing editor for Teen Vogue and Complex told BrowserMedia, “Members of Generation Z are extremely passionate about social justice and improving the world around them, perhaps more so than any other generation.
For brands, this means transparency and corporate responsibility is now a powerful marketing tool and addressing political topics such as ethical production and your efforts to go green cannot be avoided anymore.
5. Generation Z are only interested in what they look like and how they are perceived by their peers
It’s true, that there is a definite increased desire – and in some cases craving – for the appreciation of others, and people are sharing more and more aspects of their personal lives on social media platforms in return for adoration from a virtual audience. But is this vanity culture really exclusive to the youth of today? Will gives us his insight from a Generation Z perspective: “… I feel that an increased concern about how others perceive us is a trait of all generations, everyone is looking for acceptance and acknowledgement from their peers, it is just far easier for Generation Z to find that out”.
Will continues: “While I can’t disagree that Generation Z is obsessed with the number of Likes they are getting this shouldn’t be seen as a negative. The new generation is starting to build their own audience online, and starting to build a brand for themselves. They have the ability to work out what their ‘audience’ wants to see and what they don’t, from there they are adapting and changing their approach to help boost their personal ‘brand’. While this is all on a very personal level it is a transferable skill that can be taken into the world of digital marketing and is a very important talent to have as the rise of social media marketing looks to continue growing”.
It would seem that a lot of what we believe to be true about the buying patterns and behaviours of Generation Z is largely based on conjecture and maybe a little bit of cynicism.
Here’s a run down of the main points to take away:
- Build a community and an experience/feeling associated with your company that consumers can share and be a part of will be invaluable to your brand
- CSR and transparency are more important than ever- honest, ethical business is the way to win hearts – and wallets
- Take advantage of news stories and poignant topics to ensure your content is relevant and emotive
- Create shareable content such as videos, memes, hashtags that resonate with individuals and therefore will encourage them to share with other, like-minded consumers