Have you mastered Gen Z talk? Many “big thinkers” predict this group will fundamentally change marketing and advertising, now and in the coming years. Want to find out why? Read on.
Marketing and advertising folks love to talk about population “cohorts.” These demographic groups are organized by researchers and given cute names to differentiate them from each other. Most likely, you’ve heard about the low-key, long-suffering “Silent Generation” (born between 1928 – 1946), those insufferable, know-it-all “Baby Boomers” (1946 – 1964), the enigmatic “Gen X” (1965 – 1976), and the current big kahuna of generations, the “Gen Y / millennials” (1977 – 1995).
Just when you think you’ve figured out this whole “cohort” thingy, along comes another generation that may be the most interesting of all that have come before. If you’re currently toiling in the marketing profession, hold onto your storyboards because Gen Z (1997 – 2012) is about to be either your best friend or drive you nuts!
Authenticity in marketing rules for Gen Z and this puts immense creative pressure on still images, video footage and messaging. Fortunately, at SuperStock, we get that every picture needs to feel relevant and representative of their way of living. Click here to see what we mean.
Not too long ago, the young men and women who make up Gen Z were the boys and girls to whom the Baby Boomers were screaming, “Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!” Now, they’ve grown up. Who cares?
You probably should. This is especially true if you want to have employees and coworkers in your business, or you want to get your candidate elected.
Sources note that “Gen Zers will soon be the biggest U.S. voting cohort, and they vote in record numbers. Plus, they’ll make up 27% of the workforce in three years, according to the World Economic Forum.” The numbers don’t lie, Sparky. This is a juggernaut waiting to happen. And, oh yeah, they’re not waiting.
What’s Up With Gen Z?
Several news sources, including Axios, presented a snapshot of Gen Z. “The report, from the Walton Family Foundation and Murmuration, paints a picture of a generation that prizes family and well-being over money-making, isn’t afraid to job-hop, and sees civic participation as vital to advancing their values.”
The report also found:
- Gen Zers have low expectations that the government, corporations, and other institutions will prioritize them or take their needs into consideration.
- They’re less conservative than previous generations and take a more progressive stance on issues like social justice and climate change.
- Gen Zers are not happy with the way their elders are running schools and workplaces.
- They want a sense of purpose in their work.
- They don’t think their education is preparing them for the kind of future they want.
- Gen Zers want educators “to find more experiential, immersive ways to connect.”
People try to put us d-down
(Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around
(Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold
(Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old
~ Pete Townsend
(Insufferable Baby Boomer)
Let’s Double-Check This Research, Shall We?
The general conclusions of this research on Gen Z, while fascinating, need some specificity to give it the certain je ne sais quoi that readers of “The Magnet” demand. Therefore, we have enlisted the very creative mind of an honest-to-Instagram Gen Zer.
Her name is Isabella Poscente, and she is a summer intern and production assistant at Stewart Cohen Pictures, a nationally recognized advertising and marketing photography studio. She is planning on pursuing a career in the film industry.
Here are highlights of her responses to questions raised by the Murmuration research.
Does Gen Z value family and well-being over money-making, isn’t afraid to job-hop, and sees civic participation as vital to advancing their values?
Isabella: I am extremely family oriented. I have two older siblings that double as best friends and two amazing parents who support me through it all. My family is definitely one of my talking points when meeting new friends or on first dates. They are what ground me and keep me centered. My track record shows that I care more about the experiences than the money. Around this time last year, I did a work trade at a hostel in Maui in exchange for free accommodation. My classes at CU Boulder were remote and I took the opportunity to move to Hawaii and live my best life. I cleaned toilets to be able to surf every day. In my mind, it was totally worth it.
I think civic participation is vital in the Gen Z community. We get out in the streets to protest what we believe in. We make cardboard signs that go viral on Instagram. And we get out and vote. I feel like a lot of Gen Zers keep each other accountable and make sure people are doing their part to make the world a better place. Social media even keeps us accountable. Instagram notifies you which of your friends are donating to a non-profit such as Black Lives Matter movements or abortion funds. When we see a problem, we take action.
Are Gen Zers less conservative than previous generations and take a more progressive stance on issues like social justice and climate change?
Isabella: Gen Zers are definitely more progressive and are moving further and further away from religious and conservative ideology. We believe facts and science above all else. I think social media, specifically Instagram, TikTok and Twitter have influenced millions of Gen Zers to be more progressive and politically correct. You must be politically correct nowadays if you have any kind of platform, because if not you’ll be canceled. I think Gen Zers are pros at canceling. R Kelly – Canceled. Harvey Weinstein – Canceled. Kevin Spacey – Canceled. Gen Zers aren’t afraid to speak up and call people out on their BS or unlawful ways of acting.
Do you think education is preparing Gen Zers for the kind of future they want to have and that educators need to find more experiential, immersive ways to connect?
Isabella: College is a little bit of a waste of time and money. Our diploma is almost like a check off on our resume. Don’t get me wrong, I love college and the experiences and relationships it has brought me, but there is definitely work to be done to make the education system better.
I think ‘experiential’ is the key word in this question. Experience is so much more valuable than reading it from a textbook or listening to a lecture about how to do it. Actually going out and learning firsthand, in my case, how a film set works or how to direct a short is so much more impactful than hearing about it over an online zoom lecture. I feel like Gen Zers and humans in general can learn more efficiently when it’s happening right in front of them.
From your perspective, what are the dumbest marketing and advertising tactics companies use in trying to appeal to Gen Zers? How would you fix this?
Isabella: The dumbest marketing tactics for me and other Gen Zers are ads. For example, whenever I listen to podcasts, the first minute is always the host advertising their sponsors. I skip through the whole ad until the host gets to the real content. Another example is on Instagram. When I’m scrolling through my feed, and if I see that it’s a sponsored post, I just scroll right past it, not even giving it the time of day. These ads feel inauthentic and forced and it’s obvious to the viewers.
I would “fix” the current way companies attempt to attract Gen Z by making their strategies more authentic. I would do authentic influencer marketing. Gen Zers are so impressionable, especially with people they love and look up to in their online community. It has to be done in the right way though, because if it feels at all inauthentic, we’ll just go on to the next post or skip through the ad on Spotify. For me, if you can tell the influencer is passionate about the product or company, then it will leave a lasting impression and actually will have us consider buying it.
I also think that purchasing with a cause is super impactful. For instance, I am more likely to buy from a company that treats their employees fairly and gives back to the community in some way. Patagonia is a great example of consuming with a cause. They help preserve rainforests and support many social causes like BLM and women’s rights.
How Your Brand Can Stay Relevant
Gen Z is a fascinating group, and more importantly, they will be running things long after we are gone. This is important for brands that hope to be relevant now and in the future. Gen Z is passionate about authenticity in all forms of communication and has powerful BS-detectors. Marketing and advertising teams who choose to ignore this, do so at their own peril.
They are also optimistic, in a time when the world seems to be holding its breath for the next tragedy. Isabella says it best. “I think that Gen Zers hope for a fair and equal world. We care about the environment and what our world is going to look like in fifty years. Gen Zers are passionate about learning about other cultures and respecting the people around them.
“It’s a cool world we live in today, and I think you can live the dream.”
Is your creative ready for Gen Z? We have the digital images to help you communicate authentically and our FREE RESEARCH makes your job easier.