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5 Guiding Truths For Marketing To Generation Z

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5 Guiding Truths For Marketing To Generation Z

Generation Z, the cohort aged 13-22, is the first generation to grow up surrounded by mature technology and platforms (social and entrepreneurial). Their foundation of digital capabilities and hyper-connectedness is unleashing tremendously fluid and vibrant creative expressions. In the US alone, a report from Mintel in 2013 estimated the purchasing power of Gen Z to be $44 billion. Tapping into that market means brands have to understand what this generation means when they say “be yourself” (which, according to a research report from JWT Intelligence and Snapchat is the top phrase this group used to describe itself).

Molly Logan, cofounder of gen-Z run think tank Irregular Labs, says in the report, “You have to completely remove any sense of binaries or rules—there are no contradictions for gen Z, it’s just all raw material.” Last November, Deja Foxx, a 19-year old women’s reproductive rights activist who co-founded the Gen Z Girl Gang community, partnered with Samsung to present the “College Access for All” campaign as part of Samsung’s Galaxy Innovator Sessions. They used their platform to discuss inclusivity in education and a new mentorship opportunity and collaborated with the tween-focused wellness brand Blume for a self-care workshop.

Clothing retailer American Eagle has been growing a reputation for their dedication to inclusion and diversity in their product lines and marketing campaigns. They created the AExME Council earlier this year comprised of important voices in teen activism, including Delaney Tarr, the co-founder of March For Our Lives, mental health activist and founder of the Buddy Project Gabby Frost, and Saaneah Jamison, founder of dance fitness series Curvy Confidence. Each member is paired with an American Eagle “mentor”, and they meet about once a month to brainstorm new product and campaign ideas and messages, as well as discuss social responsibility efforts.

When aligning your brand and business with Generation Z, keep these five truths in mind:

1. They are fearlessly fluid. It’s a bit of a contradiction. For a group that seems to resist labels and definitions, they are also into exploring any identities and ways to express themselves. Logan says, “They’ve grown up understanding that there’s all this stuff out there that you can integrate to make something original, but it’s not really yours. They’re constantly borrowing and recreating, and then passing it on.” This melts borders, both aesthetic and cultural.

2. They are authentic. Unlike the hyper-polished Instagram-famous generation that precedes them, Gen Z is more spontaneous and real. Their social profiles are a mix of curation and reality, but they won’t be taking 30 photos of their food to find the perfect shot to share. Spontaneous live videos, hilarious (or embarrassing) Tik-Toks, even old school photography is fair game. As reported in the survey, “A fifth of survey respondents strongly agree that their social accounts represent the real, everyday version of who they are, so it’s safe to say they’ll expect a similar authenticity from brands.”

3. They thrive on entertainment and humor. They don’t seem to get offended as previous generations. No meme, emoji, or digital wordplay is deemed inappropriate or unprofessional when it comes to getting the message across, whether it’s a social cause or an inside joke. This can be unsettling to some people.

4. They are driven by causes. This shouldn’t be a surprise. They’ve grown up during a time of severe economic, social and political shifts. Access to information has also put many issues in front of them with a tap of their device. Causes like LGBT+, climate change, body positivity and mental health are some of the top trending topics.

5. They are mindful of too much social media. While social apps remain a top creative space, you’ll find many in this group taking their creativity offline. Film photography, making music, even drawing and crafting are other outlets for creative expression.

Gen Z is certainly interesting. I think brands, in trying to connect with this group, need to walk a fine line not unlike being a parent, where the creative energy is encouraged and fed, but not a free-for-all. Take for example, the issue of body positivity. For countless decades, many brands have been promoting unhealthy and unrealistic expectations of what people look like, especially women. But celebrating someone who is 300 pounds as a beacon of wellness, isn’t responsible.

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