Allow us to introduce you to Gen Z: a new generation of consumers who were born between 1995 and 2010 and who have become a shiny new target audience for advertisers.
This is the generation that doesn’t know a world without a cell phone. Without Google. Or without selfies. But there’s so much more to them than that.
Gen Z is light years ahead when it comes to the adoption of social platforms and technologies. They present one of the biggest marketing challenges yet, as industry bests struggle to stay relevant and connected to each changing generation. But they’re worth the challenge, carrying a large influence and buying power.
Gen Z demands complete personalization and expects instantaneous validation in any form of self-expression. These folks also look for affirmation from their peers, something society has come to expect from tweens and teens. Odds are, believe it or not, Gen Z is even more digitally savvy than we give the group credit for. In a recently conducted custom survey with 1,000 parents of Gen Z kids, we at redpepper found a plethora of data to inform our work with Claire’s, a leading speciality retailer of fashion jewelery and accessories. We also found a few things every marketer should know about this growing army of empowered consumers.
Big-Time Buying Power
While their wallets may be small (not empty, just small), Gen Z’s influence is huge. A March 2013 POPAI study on tween shopping behavior indicated that the nearly 21-million-strong group of U.S. 9- to 13-year-olds wields about $43 billion in annual spending power.
The second most powerful form of currency? Persistence. Better known as begging.
The "nag effect" is a powerful persuader. In fact, 62% of the parents we surveyed said this is exactly why they buy things for their kids. If your campaign talks to parents alone, you’re skipping the opportunity to put the nag effect to work for you.
Pictures Are Priceless
Apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube are magnetic to Gen Z. These selfie-addicts love to see themselves and see one another. Graphics-driven design will catch and guide their eyes faster than text, and while imagery rules their world, aesthetics need not apply.
In fact, interfaces and experiences that most of our UX and UI designers would consider shame-worthy are the very indicators for this generation that a Web site, app, or game was made just for them. If you leaf through any teen magazine or catalogue--or visit their online counterparts--you will quickly see that somewhat disorderly, hyper-visual stimuli is the way to win their attention.
Influencers Are The New Brand Ambassadors
Popularity never goes out of style. Peer validation is a core need for this generation, differing from generations past only in how and where that validation is sought and given. Tapping social media influencers who align with your brand’s core values and who can create natural opportunities for providing said validation to your audience can get you miles further--and faster--than advertising on those same platforms alone.
Parents told us that YouTube is the social network where their children spend the most time, with 32% indicating it’s their top choice. Watching a YouTube video by an influencer is equivalent to chatting candidly with the most popular kids in class, having them recommend their favorite products and ideas for you to then make your own. This influence is powerful in not only the pre-purchase validation parlayed through these self-made stars, but also in the authenticity of the communication.
Popular, online personalities can be a more authentic substitute for one-on-one conversations or television ads, but keep in mind that Gen Z is still influenced by real-life friends more than anything else. Our research revealed that 58% of Gen Z kids are attracted to products and brands simply because their best friends have them.
Conformity And Customization: They Want Both
This generation, like most, craves its own unique experiences. On the other hand, because they’re still human, they want to blend in.
Brands need to strike a balance between customization and conformity to provide an opportunity to be both unique and fit in at the same time. How can you position what you have as special, yet similar to what others are doing? A whopping 45% of those surveyed shared that a brand’s name or "cool factor" is the second most important influencer in Gen Z’s desire for a product, second only to a best friend having it.
If your brand is already well-loved, simply strategizing a way to let them express individuality as they engage with you is a promising path to interaction. If your brand isn’t on their radar, start there.
The Grand Prize
People in this group crave their 15 minutes of fame. Reverse-engineering of a few promotional case studies designed by some of Gen Z’s favorite brands revealed a trend: experiential grand “prizing,” a concept that puts winners in the spotlight in some way. Brands like Forever 21 have satisfied Gen Z’s fame craving by encouraging social sharing on Instagram, awarding creativity publicly--and on a daily basis.
Other brands mentioned as favorites by the parents surveyed included Apple, Justice, Lego, Nike, and Target. These iconic brands' interactions with Gen Z can be used as inspirational launchpads when designing promotions for this generation.
Growing Up Z
If your brand is ready to pull up a seat at the cool kids' table with this group of savvy digital natives, you should keep a few key insights top of mind. Don’t ignore Gen Z’s growing buying power, toss aside clean UI and UX design principles, and seek out social influencers who will become your brand ambassadors. Remember the tween that you once were, help Gen Z to fit in while still standing out, and think outside of the prize box. Short-lived celebrity and overall experience mean far more than cash.
As Gen Z grows into cash-carrying consumers, their habits will continue to evolve, taking shape at the speed of technology and making for an exciting, ongoing study. They are sure to keep marketers and brands on the edge of their strategic seats for years to come.