Talking ’bout the generations, again – how to really reach Gen Z and those to come soon after

The chatter has been all but deafening on how marketers should be approaching the arriving generations. In fact, Mark Randall is stunned to hear that some are already discussing plans for the so-called ‘Gen Alpha’ – those born after 2010.

Mark Randall 150 BWBy now, marketers should know about Gen Z. They have long been ‘the next big thing’ in the industry. The rise in influencer marketing, which has recently come to a head with the Fyre Festival scandal, is further proof that the attention of marketers has shifted to these digital natives. But forget about Millennials and Generation X at your peril.

Undeniably, Gen Z is a hugely important part of a modern marketing strategy. Born into a mobile-driven and digital-first world, they are beginning to enter the workforce and with every passing year their purchasing power grows – it’s estimated to be $143 billion globally.

Over the past five years, industry events and bylines alike have hypothesised the best way to reach this youngest generation. From the digitisation of media and the focus on video and short-form content to the recent fetishisation of influencer marketing, reaching Gen Z-ers has become an industry obsession.

Related: Why YouTube creator Hank Green wants to kill the influencer »
Hank Green Presentation

While this is not without sound reasoning, some perspective is lost with this single-mindedness. The furore around the Fyre Festival, ‘the party that never was,’ and its influencer-led campaign that duped thousands of would-be customers, shows that these techniques are not a holistic answer.

Brands and marketers should be wary of shifting their focus wholesale. Gen Z is undeniably important for any marketing campaign, but the industry must fight the urge to gravitate towards a ‘shiny new toy’ philosophy. Recently, I have even seen articles setting out the importance of Generation Alpha, those born since 2010, and declaring ‘move over Gen Z!’ But if Gen Z is old news, what about older generations?

Millennials haven’t gone anywhere. They are the largest generation in the world of work, and are expected to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. They are currently the second most powerful generation by purchasing power, behind Gen X, which is projected to hold the title until 2020.

According to a global study carried out by the Center for Generational Kinetics and commissioned by WP Engine, Millennials are just as digitally dependent as Gen Z; 53% of Australian Millennials admitted that they can’t last more than five hours without the internet (55% of Gen Z-ers said the same).

Although older than their Millennial counterparts, Gen X-ers are also not only digitally literate but also digitally fluent. When forced to consider a choice between having unlimited access to the internet or a university education, Gen X said they would choose digital access in a higher proportion than any other generation, with three quarters opting for the internet. Digital campaigns that are targeted solely at Gen Z risk alienating a larger potential audience of those who command bigger budgets and greater decision making influence within businesses.

Creating an integrated campaign that resonates across generations is one of the greatest challenges facing marketers today.

For a start, expectations vary from generation to generation. Because Gen Z views and uses digital experiences differently than the generations that preceded them, there are very real implications for marketers who want to successfully reach this demographic. If Gen Z is always on, it follows that your brand must always be on as well. If always on is not enough, finding new ways to connect with this generation is of the utmost importance.

Social media is undeniably a more important part of life for Gen Z and Millennials than it is for Gen X. Likewise, experimentation with new technologies, like voice interaction, AI and machine learning must be top of mind and part of your budget if you’re going to reach Gen Z. Across the four generations, Australians prefer to be informed rather than entertained when interacting with a company’s online content. However, we are seeing the start of a reversal of that trend, as a quarter of Gen Z say they prefer entertainment.

A holistic marketing campaign must therefore be informative above all else, but with serious consideration given to providing entertainment. This can be through incorporating video and audio content, integrating new technologies such as VR or tailoring content to individual consumers with hyper-personalisation.

But as you tailor your campaigns to meet the growing preferences and demands of Generation Z, remember that there are other generations in this digital world of ours.

Mark Randall is the Australian country manager for WP Engine

 

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Image credit:Colin