Marketing to the millennial generation has stumped a significant number of companies. They are supposedly responsible for killing industries like golf and laundry detergent. Some businesses figured out techniques that worked, but now they fear they will have to start from square one when it comes to the younger crowd, Generation Z.
There is a popular joke circulating the internet: Millennials may be downtrodden, but Gen Z is outright nihilistic. The earlier generation grew up during times of extreme economic decline and now face billions of dollars in student debt with fewer opportunities for job growth and wealth accumulation. They are wary. Gen Z sees what their predecessors are going through, and they often express their cautiousness of the future with a dark brand of humor.
Let’s address something first, though: generations don’t exist. People live on this earth at the same time, but segmenting groups into baby boomers, Gen X, and so on is inherently flawed thinking. The eldest “Millennials” are in their upper 30s. Generation Z is the most diverse in United States history, so it’s impossible to make monolithic statements about them—or anyone.
Bearing in mind that due to the nature of individuality, there is no “trick” that will bring Gen Z kids to your business. Sometimes, it’s just time for an industry to die. Members of each “generation” do have things in common, though, such as new technological tools and shared media, so if there is a demand for your product or service, it’s possible to convince Gen Z you are worth doing business with.
The trend of saying “Millennials killed X industry” is a way for companies to avoid responsibility for their products failing to sell. Why is the jewelry industry in decline? It’s because while diamonds are beautiful to look at, they are functionally useless, and young people who entered the workforce during a difficult economic period cannot afford them. Millennials are not killing businesses; they are failing to adapt to consumers’ needs.
Gen Z sees the decisions Millennials are making and seem keen on expanding on them. Sure, there are Gen Z kids who love to play golf, but younger people are beginning to recognize that the amount of water necessary to sustain courses is ecologically detrimental. A few Millennials asked the question: is fabric softener even necessary? Even more Gen Z individuals are answering it with a “no.” If you want to hit it off with the younger crowd, you need to provide them with something they do not consider obsolete or an unnecessary expense.
Remember their caution
Not many members of Gen Z are eager to share personal information with their employers. They share their thoughts and glimpses of their lives on social media, but there they have the power to shape how viewers see them. Young people are particularly drawn to platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, which allows content to be impermanent. They are more reluctant to share serious information, however, possibly due to scandals like Wells Fargo and hearing about cyber attacks and data leaks.
If you are to market to Gen Z effectively, remember that they are cautious. They prefer to share information on their terms, not yours. Do not ask for much, and make sure your products and services (and paying for them) are as risk-free as possible. Perhaps it is time to update your business model, or even your payment processor to include safe options like eChecks.
Keep their digital nativism in mind
Millennials pioneered the social media age, but Gen Z has never known life without it. They see an abundance of personalized content all the time. Pop-up ads reek of scams, but visuals and video are the way to go. Remember to treat them as individuals: young people are wary of faceless corporations, so remind them that your business has people on the other end.
Gen Z has more access to media during childhood than any generation before them. As a result, they are exceedingly aware of terrorism, economic struggles, and prejudices (including those that some older folks convinced themselves were dead). Consequently, they do not want to do business with companies that are only out for their money when people throughout the world are suffering. They want to contribute—and you need to help them do it. For example, a company named Boxed Water plans to plant one million trees by the year 2020, which incentivizes young consumers to purchase from them because their money performs more than one task.
Millennials and Generation Z have common characteristics, but they are not the same. You’d better get acquainted with them, though—they possess a buying power of over $500 billion. How will you approach Gen Z consumers?