The days of Sears Roebuck catalogs and radio marketing are long gone. Today’s youngest consumers, aka Generation Z, are looking for a social and intuitive way to absorb the barrage of sights and sounds that make up today’s advertising industry. Called the “holy grail for brands” by Marketing Magazine, these consumers are a highly coveted yet hard-to-reach market segment.
If your brand or startup is trying to figure out how to reach Gen Z, start with these five tips:
1. Don’t fall into the Facebook trap.
In today’s business journals, it’s almost impossible to escape the many social media marketing articles telling you why you need a Facebook page — and how you should post on it incessantly. This is true if you are targeting an audience of 21+. According to a recent survey by Social Media Today, an astonishing 200 million Facebook users view the site strictly on their mobile device, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of those people are under the age of 18.
To be effective in this space, consider running mobile-only promotions. For no other reason than convenience, if I have a coupon on my phone I will be much more likely to visit that small business than one where I have to log onto my computer, open an email and print a coupon. Teens are glued to their phones. Why not use that to your advantage?
2. Facebook is fine, but Instagram is better.
In contrast to their perceived superiority, Facebook is losing a significant portion of their under-18 users to Facebook-owned Instagram. The popular photo-sharing app has recently added video to its repertoire of tools, which is opening the door for advertisers to make 15-second promotional videos to highlight new products and services.
Again, as with Facebook, marketers should consider running Instagram-specific promotional campaigns for consumers to either bring into a store or provide a coupon code for online retail. Gen Z’s video attention span has significantly decreased, from 15-30 minute YouTube videos to 2-minute videos and now to 6-15 second Instagram and Vine videos.
Take advantage of these new tools. Bonus: Content will end up being cheaper to produce!
3. Make cross-platform campaigns.
The best kinds of marketing campaigns are those that increase product awareness through a variety of mediums. Headphone pioneer, Beats by Dr. Dre, launched a campaign (#showyourcolor) that used social media, television, celebrity endorsement, and tangible materials to entice the young consumer.
First, television ads were run on major networks featuring popular sports, entertainment, and social figures posing with their Beats product of choice with a simple caption. Next, consumers were invited to like Beats by Dr. Dre on Facebook, where they would be able to design a custom ‘profile cover’ with the same design as the TV ads. The most creative were rewarded. Finally, Beats took over Times Square for one day, allowing pedestrians to take photos in a modified photo booth — posing, of course, with Beats products. Their photos and caption of choice would then be displayed on one of three digital billboards in Times Square.
As a result, Beats by Dr. Dre increased Facebook likes by 1.7 million, Instagram followers by 76 percent, and YouTube subscribers by 57 percent.
4. Go viral. (Easy to say, hard to do.)
Video is a fantastic way to reach Generation Z. Teens, however, don’t care about a new low price on a particular good or service. If they want that information, they will visit your website.
Instead, social video sharing should be clever and/or funny. Case in point: I asked 10 older teens to name as many insurance companies as possible. They responded with Progressive, Geico, and a few with 21st Century Insurance. Very few named any of the other top providers like Nationwide, probably because their campaigns haven’t been attention-grabbing enough for this demographic. Remember: If you think something is corny, so will the consumer. Be mindful of what you consider funny.
5. Don’t underestimate Generation Z.
The general stigma about this demographic is that they text with ‘LOL’ and ‘JK’ while going to the movies on their skateboard. But teens today are more like adults. They know more than you think, and they want to be treated like adults in return.
Don’t try to play down your marketing strategy. Refrain from using texting slang — and stay away from words like ‘YOLO’ and ‘swag.’ These are immediate turn-offs. Instead, try incorporating a humorous play on a current pop culture phenomenon like twerking (may not be the best for all businesses, but you get the point).
What other advice would you add to this list?
At a young age, Brian Barnett began working in the special event industry. Now, he has expanded his ventures to include a production company, a record label, and an artist management company under the name The Ekho Group, as well as consulting on marketing strategy for numerous companies. Most recently, he has ventured into the apparel industry, partnering with successful electronic dance music artists to establish Reverb Clothing.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Originally published on Dec 16, 2013 2:55 PM, updated Feb 17, 2016