Learnings from YMS SFO and How to Reach the New Youth

Gen Z is now the largest population segment. Surpassing Millennials, Gen X and now Boomers, Gen Z makes up 26% of the population according to Nielsen. But unlike the generations before them, Gen Z is bucking trends and forging their own path. They’re smart, informed, connected and can smell bullshit from a mile away. They also have a collective spending of $600 billion, and 96% of parents say that their Gen Z child influences their purchase.

If you want to market to them, you’re going to have to rethink your strategy. Because what worked before, isn’t going to cut it for Gen Z.

The Stereotypes about Gen Z are Wrong

The biggest Gen Z stereotype is that they can’t pay attention to anything for more than a few seconds. To argue this stereotype, I’ll quote a teenager that I recently spoke to. “It’s not that I can’t pay attention for more than 10 seconds, it’s that you have 10 seconds to win my attention.”

In a world with so much going on and so much information being shared, you can’t blame them. Today’s teenagers are spending about 9 hours of their day with media (19% on social and 18% watching video), so how do you break through? How do you catch their attention? As I mentioned earlier, teens can smell bullshit from a mile away. They know when they’re being marketed to, but they don’t mind when it’s being done in the right way.

Be entertaining. This seems like a no-brainer, but it often goes overlooked. If you want people to stick around and give their undevoted attention to your campaign. Make them want to. Use music, great visuals, and language that speaks to them. According to Snapchat’s director of Insight, Amy Moussavi, 59% of teens say that they’ll watch an ad as long as it’s entertaining.

Speak to them. Previous generations have followed the trends to help make them appear “cool” or “with it” to their peers. Teens of Gen Z on the other hand, are on a different path. They see themselves as individuals – following their own interests, creating their own trends and deciding for themselves what’s cool. As a teenager today, the more unique you are, the more normal you are.

To speak to this, 62% of teens prefer unknown brands and 82% would rather trailblazer than follow a path. (Archrival)

If you want to reach this generation, you’re going to need to speak to how you or your product can help them be better at being themselves, while being authentic yourself. The moment you begin to project something that you’re not is the moment that you’ve lost their attention.

Give Back and Stand for Something. Unlike any other generation before them, Gen Z is voting with their dollar. They care what you stand for, what you’re doing to give back and if you share their beliefs. As a teenage panelist at the YMS SFO conference said, “Tell me why I should buy something from you. What have you done for me or anyone else in the world?”

Teens today are driven to make the world a better place. What was once polarizing to past consumers, isn’t to younger generations. They’re looking for humanized brands, and instead of “Rebels without a Cause” like the generations before them, they’re starting rebellions with a purpose. Look no further than teenage activists Malala or Emma Gonzalez.

Brand Loyalty is Still Alive. Another stereotype about Gen Z is that they have no brand loyalty. And like the stereotype about their attention spans, this just isn’t true. According to Snapchat the best time to capture brand loyalty is between the ages of 21-25, so there’s still time to before a majority of Gen Z chooses their allegiance. But be prepared to work it. Teens aren’t finding loyalty to just one brand, and the brands that have found loyalty amongst younger demographics have had to constantly be creative and constantly blowout the paradigms.

Other interesting facts from YMS SFO:

  • Gen Z is the first generation to not prioritize the “body image” or “sexiness”
  • The most popular apps to Gen Z are:
    • Snapchat
    • Instagram
    • Facebook
    • Discord
    • music.ly
  • 61% of teens claim that their friends are their biggest influencers
  • Social platforms you should be paying attention to:
    • Facebook Watch
    • Discord
    • Twitch

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Gen Z: A Generation Like No Other, Anvil Media | Portland, OR