I’m the father of two young girls, and being around them usually makes me feel pretty young, too. I don’t know many guys in their 30s who really love Disney movies, coloring books, and storytime as much as kids do, so enjoying these things daily can make me feel I’m not so old, either. But then I connected with Deep Patel and Connor Blakley, and that made me realize how old I actually am.
Patel is a columnist for Entrepreneur and the best-selling author of “A Paperboy’s Fable,” and Blakley is a speaker and Fortune 500 youth marketing strategist — and they’re both high school seniors. These two 17-year-old entrepreneurs just teamed up to launch their youth-marketing venture, YouthLogix, and they’ve already gained traction from people like Jay Abraham, Daymond John, Brian Solis, Cameron Herold, and Adam Toren, the founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. I was impressed and wanted to pick their brains for trends and insights into how companies can appeal to Generation Z, or the “new Millennials.” Here’s what I learned:
1. Present your brand as simply and honestly as possible.
Marketing successfully to Generation Z means you’ve got to be open and honest — about everything. Sure, most audiences today expect transparency, but members of this generation demand it. It’s what they’re used to seeing from their favorite brands, and they can tell immediately when you don’t fulfill that.
While they may be hungrier for the latest technology and content than previous generations, they’re still highly sensitive to people and brands that don’t try to create win-win situations. This generation responds to interactive content that uses real, honest people and influencers they trust over celebrities.
2. Authenticity in advertising is necessary.
Even I think it’s pretty cringe-worthy when brands use “LOL,” “JK,” “WTF,” and “OMG” in attempts to look cool and trendy, and I’m in my 30s. Now more than ever, young people seem to act and behave like adults. They want authentic messaging, and they resent being treated like kids when brands resort to lame text abbreviations to talk to them.
Instead of gimmicks like this, brands will be better off paying attention to trends on the verge of going viral and finding authentic, unique ways to include them in their strategies.
Taco Bell does this really well on its Snapchat account. It uses humor in its videos and photos to announce new menu items and appeal to its audience authentically. Taco Bell isn’t “trying too hard” to look cool or trendy; it’s just using humor to engage members of its Generation Z audience.
3. Influencers build trust.
Telling your audience that your product or service is superior won’t be enough to persuade them to trust or buy from you — and telling the same to someone in Generation Z will really hurt your brand. But if you can help them see your brand through the eyes of a fellow member of Generation Z, you can build trust much faster.
This is where influencer marketing and user-generated content come in handy. This approach — connecting members of Generation Z to one another — is the perfect way to entice them to become involved with you and trust your company.
4. Create personal experiences with visuals and interactive content.
No one wants to feel like another faceless name on a marketing list; most of us want to feel special and important. Personal experiences make us feel like individuals, and if you want to connect with Generation Z, you have to provide those opportunities. That’s where visual and interactive content comes in.
This generation is especially sensitive to visuals. By including visual and interactive content in your strategy, you’re giving members of Generation Z chances to interact with your brand on an individual level. Take it a step further by creating multi-sensory opportunities for your audience to connect with you. Offline events, conferences, and even Krispy Kreme’s “Hole in the Wall” campaign are all great examples. Giving your audience the chance to interact and connect with your brand on a personal level will help you stand out.
5. Leverage bloggers and online reviews.
More than half the members of Generation Z report that they’d rather save money than spend it right away, so some suspect they’ll be more cautious with their money as they reach adulthood. Combine that with the fact that they’re more realistic (even pessimistic) and have greater confirmation bias, and it’ll take a lot for brands to convince them to trust, engage, and buy.
For this generation, like Millennials before them, traditional advertising doesn’t cut it anymore. Generation Z will rely on the opinions of others — friends, bloggers, experts, and influencers — to help them make purchase decisions. This is when a strategy to build a network of brand advocates and amplifiers becomes vital.
By cultivating fans who are excited enough to post their thoughts online, you’ll convey a sense of authenticity that Generation Z will find more trustworthy.
6. Engage on social networking platforms.
According to a survey conducted by EY, “unlike Millennials, who witnessed the introduction and rise of social media, tablets, smartphones and the mobility that allows them to access it all in an instant, Gen Z was born into it.”
This generation is full of actual digital natives. We’ve all heard it before, but take a minute to really let that sink in. They are the first generation to grow up completely connected, completely online. They’re instantly socially connected to all their friends, to businesses, and celebrities, and they rely on that connection daily.
Generation Z uses social media for everything: to learn new information, follow influencers, and stay in touch with family and friends. Brands that can engage them on social platforms, reward their loyalty, and remain consistent across channels will earn their trust.
7. Position your brand to make a genuine impact.
Eighty-four percent of Generation Zers feel they can make impacts on their local communities.
Brands can connect with these teens on a deeper level by demonstrating their support for the issues that matter to them. Coca-Cola, which used a Super Bowl ad to back anti-bullying efforts, is a great recent example of this.
It’s exciting to watch Generation Z come of age. They’re poised to transform companies, media, creativity, and our society as a whole. Taking the time to understand them now will position you and your brand to succeed when the time comes.
This article was written by John Hall from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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