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Generation Z: How should brands target and engage them?

Generation Z: How should brands target and engage them?

What you need to know to ensure the future of your brand’s survival

Just when brands had thought they had figured out millennials, we now have a whole new generation of consumers to deal with: Generation Z, which typically refers to the generation that was born between 1996-2010 and succeeds the millennials.

This generation has been raised on technology, the internet and social media and will soon represent the largest group of consumers – estimated at 40 per cent of global consumers – this year.

And yet, many companies are woefully behind in preparing marketing strategies to engage with this very powerful and idiosyncratic demographic. Marketing to a younger demographic is not as easy as it sounds, especially as one needs to throw out the traditional tried-and-tested marketing techniques that have worked so far.

A whole new generation requires a whole new way of thinking. However, not all is lost – the fact that they are perpetually online and their purchasing and browsing patterns can be tracked and analysed, helps greatly in demystifying how to best market to Generation Z customers.

Here are a few of the best techniques to engage with this predominantly online audience:

1. ‘Stop ’em in their tracks’ video content
Having been born at a time when social media and the use of technology is the norm, Gen Z are used to consuming short-form content delivered via video snippets. Instagram stories, TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube are the medium of choice, with attention grabbing visuals, musical backgrounds, visual effects and filters being the standard modus operandi.

Anything bland or visually mediocre will be passed over, in favour of a trending video or viral challenge.

2. Never sell a product – sell the benefit
Having grown up with the internet, Gen Z is very familiar with online marketing and selling tactics. They are very aware customers who can spot inauthenticity and a ‘hard sell’ a mile away. Instead, they seek an understanding of the benefits and experiences that a product (or service) will give them, and respond well to content that is aimed at offering something experiential and value-oriented, over simply showcasing a product or offering. Advertising, in the traditional sense of the word, does not work on them.

3. Be creative, interactive and engaging to capture their attention
Gen Z has grown up on social media as a way to get entertained, as well as stay informed – they are not passive consumers of content but active participants and expect to be able to tap, swipe, comment or click. Brands that are seeking to engage with this audience must ensure some element of interactivity or engagement, whether through a poll, quiz, question, the use of filters, music or stickers on their videos or posts.

4. Instant response is a must
Gen Z is not patient – it wants an almost instantaneous response to queries, feedback and comments. In many cases, the speed at which a brand responds is considered a barometer of their importance – a faster response makes the follower feel important and validated. Negative feedback is a very important area and plays a critical role in the success of any brand. Hence brands must ensure timely and personalised responses to any and all complaints that are shared on social media.

Twitter is one of the leading platforms for sharing complaints and many brands have even gone as far as creating separate accounts for customer complaints.

5. Influencers are ok – but not the ‘inauthentic’ ones
Gen Z is used to being marketed to via its favourite influencers – whether it is through Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok ambassadors or YouTubers. Studies indicate that Gen Z is more likely to discover a product on social media, especially through Instagram.

Additionally, they are less susceptible to digital ads and more inclined towards ‘authentic’ content that isn’t covertly promotional and instead, is openly endorsed or clearly a paid promotion. Micro-influencers, in particular, are a great way to engage with Gen Z, which responds well to ‘real’ content, which is less curated and less orchestrated to perfection.

Zaib Shadani is the founder and managing director of PR and social media agency Shadani Consulting

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