Meet Generation Z - Marketing to digital natives

June 6, 2022

Jayde Robertson

Everyone wants to reach out to Generation Z. They are, after all, the new generation of consumers, with a combined spending power of nearly $140 billion. Those Gen Zers, on the other hand, are a difficult group to work with. They hold brands to high standards, and they don't advertise through traditional methods.

Generation Z (otherwise known as Gen Z, iGen, or centennials) refers to the generation born between 1997 and 2012. Following their millennial predecessors, this is a generation that has been raised on the internet and social media - they just don’t skip a beat.  As its older members reach young adult­hood, Gen­er­a­tion Z has emerged as a pop­u­la­tion increasingly deserving of attention. While they share a number of char­ac­ter­is­tics with Mil­len­ni­als, their forma­tive years were sculpted by a dras­ti­cal­ly dif­fer­ent world, resulting in important dif­fer­ences in atti­tudes, ten­den­cies, and out­look.

Let's take a look at the features of this generation of "digital natives."

Generation Z is progressive, more racially and culturally diverse than previous generations, and of course - expected to be the most educated - and wealthy. This generation also rejects labels, is radically inclusive, and spends time weighing all of their options before making a purchase decision - education or otherwise.

But first - why is traditional marketing becoming outdated? Because of the emergence of smartphones, Gen Z is no longer bound by location. They have complete freedom to view whatever they want, whenever they want. With the sweep of a finger, Gen Zers can access a broader range of content - most of it created by their peers. (Ads should be shorter to cut through the noise and fit the bite-sized nature of the material consumed via social media). They’re inherently resistant to traditional marketing techniques - simply because they’ve been exposed to them for so long, they can see right through any attempt to be sold.

As education marketers, it's crucial to fully understand this generation and their preferences before tailoring a campaign that will speak to them.

What do they care about?

What do they care about?    Social issues are the word of the day. They care - and so should you.Millennials and Generation Z are taking action to make the world a better place. They are becoming more politically active, making an informed effort to spend their money with companies that share their beliefs and advocating for societal change. They believe in their ability to make a difference on their own, but they also expect corporations and governments to contribute to a brighter future.

  • Access to healthcare
  • Mental health
  • Economic security
  • Racial equity
  • Gender equality
  • Sustainability

Perhaps most notably - Gen Z places immense value on higher education! More Gen Zers are pursuing higher education than previous generations.

  • 59% of 18- to 20-year-old Gen Zers were in college in 2017, compared with 53% of similarly-aged millennials in 2002;
  • More than half of Hispanic Gen Zers (55%) and African-American Gen Zers (54%) were enrolled in college, compared with 34% and 47% of their respective millennial peers; and
  • Two-thirds of Gen Z women were enrolled in college, compared with 57% of millennial women.

How do we market to a generation that cares more than any before it?

Marketing to younger customers has always been difficult. It can be tough to keep track of demographic data. Trends in marketing come and go. However, Gen Z's outspokenness and constant online presence make predicting their buying patterns much less of a guessing game. Treating Gen Z as though it were a single entity is a definite way to appear out of touch. It's also critical for brands to figure out how to bridge the generation gap between Gen Z and other generations, such as Millennials. Despite the similarities between the two generations, understanding Gen Z's online behaviors and social preferences are the first step toward interacting with them.

Here are 5 strategies that you can use to market to Gen Z!

  1. Emphasize the visuals
  2. Marketers should consider combining visual platforms into their strategy and generating bite-sized content like Instagram Stories, given Gen Z's desire for short-form video content. Remember: You have 8-seconds to make an impact!  
  3. Make content easy to consume
  4. Instagram Stories, Snapchat Stories, and Facebook Stories all allow you to share content, whether it's a video or image, that appears for a few seconds and stays on your profile for up to 24 hours.
  5. If you can practice creating video or photo advertisements that last eight seconds or less and, more importantly, speak to your Gen Z audience, it'll become easier to engage with Generation Z.
  6. Focus on the UX
  7. When it comes to Gen Z, they know a good UX when they see it - and they’ll quickly forget anything that doesn’t fit their expectations.
  8. From a higher education marketing perspective - consider your application and enrollment process. Is it simple? Is it fun? Is it engaging? Make sure that the process is seamless and always focused on the prospective student.
  9. Leverage the world of influencer marketing
  10. They’re comfortable with influencers and they care about the social context of their products. Gen Z is a different breed - they don’t just like influencers - they aspire to be like them.
  11. They ‘consult’ with their influencer of choice before making a purchase decision - meaning that influencer marketing is fast becoming the new norm for marketers targeting this contingent.
  12. Always be authentic
  13. Emphasis on always! Gen Z grew up watching their parents be sold to - so they’re well aware of traditional marketing tactics. The more authentic your institution is, the more likely they are to be successful when it comes to selling to this Generation.
  14. According to research, just over half of students (57%) believe their education has adequately prepared them for their future careers. You want to demonstrate how your school can help people take charge of their careers, volunteer work, and personal lives.

Marketing to younger clients may take some finesse, but it's not just for the "cool" firms on social media.

More visual? More bite-sized? More storytelling? From what we know so far - Gen Z values all that is real. The more authentic your institution is, the more likely you are to find success in this growing psychographic.

Are you a marketer curious to learn about the aspects that affect our industry?

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