Aisle Rocket ADstronaut Andrew here.
Last night, I read a great article on AdAge.com, Still Obsessing Over Millennials? Here Are 6 Rules for Reaching Generation Z, written by Bill Alberti. I’m not often a fan of thought pieces, mostly because they meander (as mine might) and don’t have anything of value to say except to the echo chamber of agreement. However, Bill gets straight to the point and offers a lot of great insight into a new and emerging audience with his list:
1. Show ’em your true (weird, quirky, funny) brand personality.
2. Have #NoFilter.
3. Find a cause, ’cause it’s important to make a difference.
4. Get social in the channels where Gen Z lives.
5. Find their tribes.
6. Break through the clutter.
Maybe I’m being contrarian here, but I feel like “6 rules” are almost too absolute for this group. Why? Well, even though Generation Z (persons born after 2000) is easier to find and is more active online than any other generation at their age, they’re still so new and still so often misunderstood, even by me. Many of them are still trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do, so trying to solidify any rules or strategies this early on could ultimately be pointless. We are at a Socratic paradox with Generation Z; we only know that we don’t really know too much about them.
This is an incredibly unique generation of buyers. For example, every one of my cousins under 10 knows how to use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and has his/her own iPhone or Android tablet. This emerging generation is even more deeply entrenched with technology than any other, including my own, and that’s going to be crucial to the future of marketing. However, this doesn’t give us any indication as to what they are looking for in a product, service or brand or how they want to be reached.
As a Millennial, I’ve been targeted lately by brand campaigns tied in with charities. Similarly, according to Bill, Generation Z “wants to know that what they’re doing, however small, is enough to make a difference.” While I think it’s a great and necessary step forward for brands, I’m not entirely sure that this is important to them. That’s not to say that I don’t think they care, but rather that it’s not as highly ranked for them. For decades, Baby Boomers and even Millennials have been driven by loyalty toward certain brands. It seems to me like Generation Z is more driven by the popularity of the brand, swayed more powerfully by trends than we were.
Although, sometimes even solid attempts to reach out to them with loud and colorful content can be ignored. Much like I’m sure any parent with a child can relate, sometimes even raising your voice will get their attention. When everything is loud, nothing can stand out. So it’s not about volume, it’s about strategy; how you approach and how you create loyalty. I’m certain that this is true for any generation: past, present and future.
A great example of a strategy I think works on Generation Z is Oreo. The famous cookie brand has stayed relevant by talking WITH Generation Z, as opposed to talking AT them. When the lights went out at the 2013 Super Bowl, Oreo was the first to respond on Twitter with a clever response. Oreo regularly updates their Instagram and works alongside their marketers when a new flavor comes out. So when Oreo S’Mores (“S’moreos”) were announced, the social media team helped keep people talking about them. Generation Z followed suit to the trend, and it seems to be a pretty successful campaign so far.
How your brand speaks to them and how you keep them interested in this “Age of Distraction” is the challenge, but it’s one we’re all figuring out. At the end of the day, the only absolute we can all agree on for now is that to reach Generation Z we will all have to be creative and take chances. Until then, they’re just a younger extension of the Millennials.