The next frontier: Marketing to Generation Z

Imagine millennials who are never offline and who are unburdened—for now, anyway—by college tuition debt. Try these approaches to court this emerging cadre of consumers.

The new target demographic is Gen Z or iGen, those born between the mid-1990s and 2009.

They are a unique bunch, with unique tastes and habits that brand managers and marketers should get up to speed on.

Some marketers are already rolling; others have to play catchup. Here are some of Gen Z’s principal characteristics and how brands can reach them:

First, they have more available funds.

Members of Gen Z are in their late teens or early 20s. About half support themselves; the other half rely on their parents for financial support. This duel dependent/independent status makes them influential in household purchases, and some are consumers themselves.

Millennials are the most weighted down by student loan debt; Gen Z’ers aren’t quite there yet. Of those with student loan debt, three-fourths have not yet begun paying it off, so they have disposable income for purchases.

Second, Gen Z is an idealistic bunch.

They want to help make the world a better place and are more concerned with doing so than they are with making money. Don’t ignore this generation’s desire to sync up with “brands on a mission,” such as Toms Shoes, which implements a “one-for-one” giving model. For those who grew up in a time of instant gratification, the immediacy of giving back while making a purchase is very satisfying.

Add a charitable incentive or movement to your efforts. Make your plans to give back clear, and—equally important—make it easy for the buyers to give back. They want to change the world but don’t want that to be a complex process.

Last, they are online all the time.

Gen Z doesn’t know life without social media, smartphones and instant access to just about everything online. Unlike millennials, they don’t remember a time when being offline was a thing.

When targeting this cohort, marketers must make campaigns that worked for millennials must more persistent and technologically sophisticated. Go beyond Facebook and Twitter—your brand should have a Snapchat presence and a robust YouTube channel.

McDonald’s beefed up its Snapchat marketing efforts, and who followed? Gen Z. Filters enable the user to interact directly with a brand. Brand managers should tap into the platform’s geo-tagging filter opportunities.

Also, enlist a more relatable spokesperson or brand ambassador. Consider a YouTube star or Vine personality rather than a traditional celebrity. Most of us may not have heard of MagCon or know who Lele Pons is, but Gen Z knows who they are. They may not be “mainstream famous,” but members of Gen Z value their opinions and follow them online.

Phil Ahad is a senior vice president at Toluna QuickSurveys. A version of this post first appeared on iMediaConnection.

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