Forget millennials: brands need to be targetting Generation Z

The generation born between 1995 and 2012 have a completely different mindset that advertisers must work with

People use their smartphone to take photos of the L'Oreal fashion show on the Champs Elysees avenue during a public event organized by French cosmetics group L'Oreal as part of Paris Fashion Week, France, October 1, 2017.  REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Last week I received a call from a colleague who works in a very traditional media agency. By traditional, I mean that they still heavily depend on media outlets such as radio, TV, and newspapers to get their clients’ message out, even if their clients are teenagers and young adults. Until recently, they have not fully embraced, and do not fully believe in, the impact of digital and social media.

My colleague asked me to recommend him the top social media influencers in Abu Dhabi to invite for an event in the capital Abu Dhabi where an important announcement will be made and they want to appeal to the young demographics who are between the ages of 12-20. They finally jumped onto the wagon, and I was thrilled to see that.

I have not been paying that specific age group -  who are more referred to as Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2012) - any attention in my marketing consultancy work, because they have not been the target audience (generally millennials) of the clients I work with.

But then when I was going through my Instagram’s followers list, I saw how many of my ‘kid’ cousins are heavily using social media, and base all of their purchase decisions on what social media influencers advocate, or what they see as popular online.

Generation Z is expected to reach 2.56 billion people globally by 2020. According to research firm Marketing Charts, 85 per cent of Generation Z in the USA uses social media to learn about new products, and of course they do that through mobile phones. In addition, fellow research house Shoppercentric’s research shares how 50 per cent of Generation Z in USA uses Instagram, and 41 per cent of them use Instagram to contact retailers.

These Generation Z users are shaping how future retail and marketing will be conducted, and if your business does not adapt to ways of reaching them from now, you could be falling behind.

So what can you do to make your brand more Gen Z friendly, and appeal to them?

If you are not on social media you have to be.

Generation Z are mainly on channels such as YouTube, Instagram, and SnapChat. A study by Trifecta, a research institute in North Carolina, found that smartphones are used for about 3 hours a day by Generation Z users to consume TV shows, music, and social media. YouTube and media platforms such as Netflix are very popular among Generation Z users, who tune in to those channels to consume TV shows and vlogs more than TV. My teenage cousins, for instance, do not mind the absence of a TV set. Instead, they watch the latest shows on  their phones. In fact they like it more that way. TV is not convenient anymore. They want to hug their phone under the blanket while they watch their shows. Sitting on a sofa and watching a show played on a TV screen across the room is not as comfortable they say.

To plan a successful branding and marketing strategy, be sure to incorporate the social media channels that those Generation Z users are tuned into. If you plan on producing video content, it would be worthwhile to see what competitors or popular vloggers are doing, and produce something that your target audience would tune into. Keep in mind that their attention span is even shorter than that of millennials, and even the way that you edit your content will have to be different to appeal to them.

Mobile before web

Though Generation Z are heavy digital media users, mobile is a preferable option over laptops, so if you want to drive them to visit your website from your social media channels, ensure that your website is mobile adaptable, and optimized for different screens.

Know who they are tuned into

Though millennials and Generation Z are both 'young', who these two age groups tune in to are totally different. If you are interested in connecting with Generation Z, it will be smart to tune into those influencers to understand the psyche and the voice that appeals to Generation Z users. See what kind of content they relate to most, and what messages resonate with them most. See the comments they write under posts, and what videos/images are shared most.

Generation Z are shaping the future of marketing and how retail will be conducted; this age group is projected to overtake millennials in size and purchasing power according to 13D Research. Look at what appeals to them, and who they listen to, to better position your brand.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi.