Gen Z is the consumption generation of tomorrow, because Gen Z already represent 26% of the population with a spending power of US150 billion. Clearly, this means that we are a key demographic for any brand and brands need to start listening to our wants and needs today. But be aware – our generation is different than our Millennial siblings, our Gen X or Boomer parents: We are digital natives and spend our days scrolling through TikTok (Gen Z’s favourite social media platform), messaging each other via Snapchat or expanding our network on LinkedIn. Even more importantly, we are coming of age during the climate change crisis, as well as a global pandemic, which means that we expect brands to be contributors to a better tomorrow and demonstrate their commitment to the values that matter most to us (sustainability comes to mind).
Naturally, what makes Generation Z different from other generations, has consequences for brand engagement, even brand loyalty, so brands need to rework their marketing strategy to account for their Gen Z audiences – to avoid what could be potentially high cost of not effectively engaging with us. Remember: “This is Gen Z’s world now. We are just living in it.”
How brands can engage with Gen Z
Engaging this new generation might be a daunting prospect for many brands, because how do you engage a generation that has an attention span of mere eight seconds when scrolling on their smartphones? Fear not, we have identified three key pillars that brands need to execute well to engage effectively with Gen Z:
- Producing relevant content 📱
- Diversity in all senses 🧬
- Being a part of something bigger 🪐
Producing relevant content 📱
Gen Z are digital natives and brands should not hesitate to make Gen Z’s native digital creativity a main pillar of their engagement strategy. Today’s participatory social media allows brands and their Gen Z audience to create relevant content together, ranging from user-generated content (UGC) to interactive social media content. UGC can help brands to ensure that the ‘word of mouth’ that Gen Z relies on, is fulfilled – because what we care about most is recommendations from our peers or trusted influencers. Magnum is just one of the brands to have benefitted from UGC lately: Gen Z creators have been posting about the opportunity to get a customized Magnum in Rome and the videos went viral, drawing Gen Z’s attention to Magnum worldwide.
Interactive content, on the other hand, can help foster a brand’s relationship with their Gen Z consumers, because it allows Gen Z to connect with brands as part of expressing who they are. An increasingly popular type of interactive content is social media challenges, particularly on TikTok. Challenges are issued by (TikTok) users, individual or brand, and encourage other users to participate in the challenge, film themselves while trying to complete the challenge and share the results with the corresponding hashtag of the challenge. A fun example of a challenge issued by a brand is Coca-Cola’s latest global #ZeroWords campaign, designed to challenge and encourage Gen Z customers to interpret the taste of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar with digital stickers and GIFs across different social media platforms. The hashtag has so far been viewed by more than 1.5 million users and shows how straightforward it can be to engage Generation Z on products they enjoy, and employ their digital native creativity for organic, authentic brand marketing.
Diversity in all senses 🧬
I have said it before, I will say it again: Gen Zers are all about values, in the brands we choose and the content we consume and create. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that Gen Z value brand campaigns that put an important cause at the heart of the content they are producing. This holds particularly true for diversity and inclusion as key values that Gen Z want to see embedded in the brands they buy and invest in – because their investment is in a belief system, not just in the products a brand has to offer.
Gen Z is the most diverse generation yet, and we want to see our reality reflected in marketing and advertising, which means celebrating individual gender expression, sexual orientation as well as diversity of body shapes and ethnicities. Gen Z’s quest for authentic diversity and inclusion, however, stretches further than just ‘real’ advertising. Gen Z want to see evidence that a brand’s effort for diversity and inclusion are not limited to an inclusive ad, but are integral to the brand, from start to finish. Indeed, Gen Z are turned off by a lack of transparency and accountability and need brands to be forthcoming with information across the full brand journey.
Why is this so important? Because Gen Z do not only scroll through TikTok to watch funny videos (of challenges albeit), but to watch out for evidence that brands are not walking the talk – and there is little that will have Gen Z consumers turn on brands more quickly than deceit and inauthenticity. Cocokind, a skincare brand from the US showed that they have well-understood that their Gen Z consumers will fact-check the brand’s integrity on matters of diversity and inclusion, so the brand announced that moving forward, they will publish data on their team’s racial and ethnic makeup so their community could hold them accountable.
Being part of something bigger 🪐
Speaking of community. Gen Zers are always looking to connect with each other, with like-minded peers across various platforms, to talk about shared values, interests and activities. So, if brands want to spend time and engage with this generation where we preferably spend our time, it is vital that brands curate immersive, digital communities of their own. Brands can build a community by seeking an active exchange with their Gen Z audience, asking their feedback on new products or celebrate brand loyalty. Likewise, brands might consider tapping into already existing communities through partnerships with brand ambassadors or influencers who share the values at the heart of the brand – and Generation Z. Demonstrating authentic support for these communities is more likely to assure young people that a brand is seeking a conversation and connection with them for the right reasons, not because it is opportunistic.
But which platforms are the ones where Gen Z communities exist? Unlike what you might think, it is not Instagram or any other of the traditional social network apps. The younger generation increasingly seeks out so-called ‘digital campfires’ which are defined as more intimate online destinations where they can connect in micro-communities. These campfires are, for example, Twitch or Roblox: Twitch is an interactive livestreaming service for content related to anything ranging from gaming to music, and Roblox is an online gaming platform and game creation system. A great example of a brand entering a digital campfire with the intention of positive impact is Dove. The brand recently launched a Roblox game to help women and girls combat negative self-esteem. Developed by women-founded gaming studio Toya, Super U Story is part of a broader set of commitments Dove is making to challenge the representation of girls, women and beauty in gaming.
The TRFF Next Gen Fit Score
There we have it! Gen Zers are a complex generation and expect brands to take a stand and engage them in ways that make them feel unique. We have identified just three pillars to effectively engage Gen Z respondents, such as producing relevant content, embracing diversity in all senses and ensuring that Gen Z consumers feel they are part of something bigger. But there is more:
- Do you want to learn more about brand engagement and brand loyalty?
- Do you want to understand how your brand is performing with Gen Z?
- Do you want to find out if your brand is ‘fit’ to engage with Gen Z?
At The Red Flower Factory, we have developed our Next Gen Fit Score to help your brand answer these questions and provide you with the tools your brand needs to identify potential gaps and areas of strength when engaging with Gen Z. Find out more here (link to website page). We can help you explore areas of disconnect with Gen Z and formulate solutions tailored to your business needs.
Let’s talk soon!