Fear not avid reader, as it turns out, Gen Z are apparently harder working, less annoying and better employees than millennials. As someone who is currently 26, this may not have been a pleasant thing to discover whilst researching for this blog, but hey, I’m from the generation who expects everything to be handed to me on a plate (apparently), so I’ll try and not expect to be liked too much.

We received an email recently from a 17-year old offering their expertise in targeting his generation. At first this seemed somewhat funny but when thinking about it, really that’s both pretty brave and entrepreneurial.

It got me thinking, what is it that makes Gen Z so different from those who came before them? Well, first off, they don’t get two day hangovers (yet). Most of them can’t even drink yet, with the birth range starting in the mid 90’s and ending in 2010 - the oldest of their lot are still only around 22 today. That means that a large proportion may still be in education, whether that’s highschool, further or higher education.

Despite their youth, research shows that Gen Z are quite the driving force. There is something pretty intimidating about reading a blog and finding out that there’s a 16-year old “job creator”, an 11-year old helping to save honey bees from extinction and a 13-year old whose life motto is already “If you can think it, you can do it”. Really though, intimidating is good. In fact, if this is what it breeds, its great! What should be taken from that is that we need to learn to embrace these do-gooders, whether we are selling to them or employing them.

So, according to my research, here are some top tips on how to get all ‘down with the kids’ (note to self: you’re a terrible excuse for an under 30 year old for using that phrase):

Never refer to your audience as Gen Z

Yes, I know it’s what sucked you into reading this in the first place (and I’ve already used it circa 4 times in this blog so far), but whether it’s this generation or the next, no one likes to be patronised or labelled, so avoid actually calling your audience Gen / Generation Z. Besides everything else it sounds like some sort of weird zombie movie.

Instead, I recommend you treat all your audiences as individuals and people (no s*** Sherlock). Just because someone falls into a specific age range doesn’t mean they will have all the attributes I will go on to discuss. But, for the purposes of distilling the knowledge I have gained from my research I will continue to present my ‘top tips’ for some more broad brush tactics to employ.

Display your sense of purpose and meaning

They’ve been born into an era where a focus on human impact on our planet has been high on the agenda. So, there’s a sense of drive for implementing change and being more conscientious about environmental issues. This generation, it seems, are keen to associate themselves only with brands that reflect their own ethos, strengthening their personal brand in turn.

But, don’t fall into the trap of thinking a quick line about recycling in your company about us page will do. A highly digitally savvy generation, Gen Z are known for doing their research and you’re likely to be found out if your message doesn’t match up with your output.

So, what to do?

  • Be clear about who you are and what you stand for
  • Ensure that you substantiate your words with actions
  • Don’t try to be something you’re not

Be human

Forbes (OK, so they’re not exactly ‘down with the kids’ themselves, but they do collect excellent data) reports that 63% of Gen Z prefer to see real people, rather than celebrities in advertisements. They want to engage with someone that looks like it could be someone they actually know, that’s relatable and, therefore, feels more trustworthy. Just look at how badly some recent celebrity endorsements have tanked - Kendall Jenner and Pepsi comes to mind (although there was so much more wrong with that than just an unrealistic ‘role model’).

This need to show your human side is reflected in the types of content that data suggests Gen Z like to consume. A recent study suggests that there’s demand amongst this demographic for real stories, day in the life style pieces and insights that show ‘behind the scenes’ types of content.

So, what can be done?

  • Focus on brand ambassadors that can be seen as realistic peers to your audience
  • Avoid sounding overly scripted in either your writing style or video content - they don’t want to be ‘marketed’ at
  • Take an access all areas approach and show what you get up to behind the scenes
  • Make sure your presence across the channels they use is consistent and up-to-date. If you want to be seen to be a market leader, act like one. Poor mobile sites and absent social profiles just won’t cut it.

Be ready and waiting

When you’re part of a generation who have grown up operating across an average of 5 devices (I know...5...I didn’t even know that many existed!), you expect content to be accessible and context appropriate. With research showing a tendency to reach for their phones in moments of boredom, there’s a mixed result of an audience whom are both highly connected and, at the same time, difficult to engage. You need to be able to satisfy their immediate requirements and be relevant if you wish to impress.

Now, take into account that they will be using an array of channels from Snapchat to Instagram. Oh, and of course, they will take 8 seconds or less to dismiss you. That’s right, you may have heard that this is the length of their attention span but what it actually means is that their BS detectors only take that long to decide if you’re worth it…

So, what can you do about it?

  • Be responsive - it’s a bit depressing that we still have to say this nowadays, but if your website doesn’t cater to all devices then you’re seriously missing a trick.
  • Ensure your site is speedy. If it won’t load quickly (check across devices), they won’t wait around.
  • Having an omnipresent (what a word) approach to social media marketing. Be on the right channels (don’t just jump on board any old thing) and ensure your brand is consistent across them.
  • Don’t let over activity dilute your identity. Send out the right type of marketing for your brand and ensure it’s up to date and relevant to your market. If it’s not of value to them, or you can’t sustain it, then don’t bother.

This lot are due to make up 40% of the market by 2020. That’s shorter than your average business plan, so it’s about time to get your activity into gear.

But, it’s not just their masses which makes them important. They are the next drivers of industry. They are a generation who will never have not had technology at their fingertips and unprecedented levels of connectivity.

Are you a ‘Gen Z local’ (sorry) and want to school us on what us old yins are trying to get our heads around? Maybe you’d be the right fit for the After Digital team? Find out more and get in touch: https://afterdigital.co.uk/about/jobs/