An infographic depicting the values of the Gen Z generation up top and hands holding up phones down below.

How do you grab the attention of a generation that has a permanent “adblocker” in their minds?

Millennials have been at the forefront of every marketer’s mind for years now. Making them the most expensive demographic to advertise to, with advertisers spending 500% more to reach them than all other generations combined. Millennials get older, a new generation emerges into the spotlight. It’s time to shift some of the focus and optimize plans to accommodate a generation that will make up 40% of all consumers in the coming years: Generation Z (Gen-Z). They will be a powerful consumer force with their buying power reaching $44 billion. Yes, you read that right, that’s billion with a B. Sure, we will still need to market to Millennials for years to come, but we have to start planning for Gen-Z. 

Who is Gen-Z? They were born between the years of 1997 and 2012. Ranging from the ages of 8-23. This is a generation that is vastly different and contradicts the previous generations. They’re better known as the iGeneration, with most of them being born into the world connected by smartphones. They don’t remember the world without the internet, unlike some Millennials. To unlock their full potential, marketers must understand their attitudes and behaviors are being sculpted by an environment that keeps changing daily.

Taking a look back at the world that Gen-Z grew up in and what they are facing now is important to recognize. The oldest of Gen-Z was only 2 when the Columbine shooting happened. This resulted in schools never being seen as a safe zone. 9/11 happened just as they were starting school and now the fear of terrorism has been embedded into them. Gen-Z also watched their family members lose their jobs, homes, and livelihood when the Great Recession happened in 2008. Now, like everyone else, Gen-Z is living through COVID-19. A pandemic that will have a lasting effect on their attitudes and behaviors.

Gen-Z is a complicated group and shouldn’t be placed in a one size fits all approach. They are a diverse generation with a range of personalities. Marcie Merriman, an American Cultural Insights and Customer Strategy Leader at Ey, categorized Gen-Z into 5 segments: The “Stressed Strivers”, “Big Plans, Low Energy”, “Authentic Activists”, “Carefree Constituents”, and “Secluded Perfectionists”. By breaking them out into these categories, it allows you to focus on their attitudes and behaviors. It’s key to understand the differences existing within the demographic but to also understand what brings them together. Collectively, they share similarities that marketers must focus on when trying to grab the attention of Gen-Zers. 

With 89% of Gen-Z using social media daily, social media will be a key factor when optimizing your strategy. YouTube has soared to the top as 85% say they use this platform multiple times a day. Instagram comes in at a close second with Tik-Tok on the rise. Video content has become the go-to source for entertainment and learning. With social media, ad placement won’t be as simple as placing an ad on their feed or having a skippable ad. 83% said they choose to skip over ads or do something different while the ad plays out.  They grew up in a world where they have been targeted with ads constantly, training themselves to block out native ads.  Marketers will have to work twice as hard to grab their attention especially since their attention span is only 8 seconds versus the 12-second Millennial attention span.

That leads us back to the ultimate question: How do you grab the attention of a generation that has a permanent “adblocker” in their minds?

The answer isn’t that simple. Do you remember when I stated that Gen-Z is a complicated bunch? They crave experience and will only buy into a brand that aligns with their values. It’s more important now than ever that your brand stays honest about their values and beliefs.Interacting with your consumers online allows them to feel engaged and adds a sense of authenticity to your brand. 76% of Gen Z consumers have stated they want brands to respond to feedback and view this as a way of determining the credibility of a company.

Social influencers have played a big part in being the middle man between “Gen-Zers” and the brands they represent. This generation is on board with the idea of being sold to when it’s done by an influencer. This goes back to the authenticity that they desperately want from brands. According to Kantar, almost half of Generation Z has made a purchase decision based on a recommendation from a social influencer, compared with 26% of the general population. Advertisers spent a whopping $1.8 billion on social influencers last year and could see the same in 2020.

As Marketers, we will forever be faced with trying to appeal to the generation that emerges into the spotlight. Unlocking their full potential will be completely up to how you optimize your strategy to cater to them. The key to success will not come from knowing how to put ads in front of their eyes, but how to fully understand them as consumers.

Dailon Smith – Strategy Storyteller