Gen Z

Marketing to Gen Z: What You Need to Know

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MJ2 was recently invited by Big Lots to attend their Fireside Chat with Gen Z experts, Connor Blakley and Madison Bregman. These two were impressive to say the least. Both 20 years old, the pair has consulted with brands such as the NFL, Johnson & Johnson, DSW and Chipotle to understand how to adapt their business and marketing strategies to the unique traits of their generation.

Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) is the first digitally native generation with technology readily available to the masses, therefore you’d expect the generation to be obsessed with everything digital. But, you’re in for a surprise. There are many misconceptions, and with Gen Z holding 32% of the U.S. total population, marketers need to adapt strategies in order to target such a populous buying power.

Gen Z Marketing

Since Gen Z’s traits are far different than the millennial generation, here are a few interesting tidbits we learned at the chat:

  • Their defining event was the 2008 recession, which has made this generation among the most fiscally conservative and innately entrepreneurial in spirit.
  • Gen Z actually prefer face-to-face conversation, and with that, they value authenticity as well.
  • Although Amazon is having its boom, Gen Z prefer to shop in a physical store
  • Hanging out with friends means, “getting food” with a group of friends, heading to their local Target and walking around, grabbing snacks and making purchases. They want the experience.
  • They spend their money on food and experiences, which is why places like Target are a go-to and Amazon is used less.
  • They like curated, throwback, vintage items.
  • They’re growing up in a time where diversity is applauded and technology is global.
  • On the flip side, bullying is high so they turn globally for acceptance and support.
  • Video is their medium of choice, think TikTok and YouTube.
  • Hence, influenced solely on others (friends, influencers) rather than brands.

With ALL of that being said and a better insight into this upcoming generation – where does that leave businesses and marketers? 

As a brand, how do you connect with this massive buying power when they simply don’t listen to brand voice?

The answer is influencer marketing. Connor and Madison used the word influencer frequently during the fireside chat. If you plan on marketing to Gen Z, you will need to shift your marketing dollars to paying an influencer, say $50k, to causally promote your brand. Think more pull marketing vs. push. 

What does that look like? 

Connor was asked to consult with Sprint to brand their new unlimited cellular data plan to Gen Z. He suggested paying a few influencers to go out and create videos of ‘living unlimited’, simply asking “How do you live unlimited?” While that may not seem like a direct tie to their data and family plans, the Gen Z viewers will associate ‘living unlimited’ with having fun and creating experiences and therefore Sprint, a large corporate communications company as a way for them to reach that experience. 

You may be thinking, “How do you expect my corporate board to sign off on paying a teenager $50k?” 

Well, influencer loyalty far surpasses brand loyalty. This means their voice is valued ten fold your brand’s tv ad or direct mail coupons. Gen Z will view an influencer’s TikTok or YouTube page for personal entertainment, lending your brand a holistic opportunity for a point of discovery for potential customers. And although our world is constantly changing, you’ve now secured brand visibility and hopefully loyalty from that experience – even when that influencer is no longer the hottest trend. 

With so much to digest, the biggest takeaway MJ2 had from this fireside chat is the significance of an influencer’s voice and loyalty to that of a brand. For those brands looking to target marketing to Gen Z, a new brand strategy is needed.