Members of Generation Z, born after 1996, are anything but a carbon copy of their millennial older siblings. According to a study by the Center for Generational Kinetics, Gen Z “is redefining who is influential in today’s marketplace. Rather than hanging posters of TV celebrities or athletes on their bedroom wall, Gen Z is following influencers on social media.”
This younger group of buyers doesn’t consider celebrities to be their role models. According to a Think With Google report, “70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTube creators more than traditional celebrities.”
Add to that the fact that a whopping 82% of Gen Z teenagers skip ads and more than 50% use technology to block ads, and you could almost dub them “Gen Zero In.” As a group raised in a completely digital landscape, they’re in tune with the nuances of online messaging and, as a result, are unapologetically committed to authentic content and meaningful digital experiences. They’ve adapted to their duality of limited time and endless buying options — and that means they’re scrolling right by traditional advertising to laser focus on content with a foundation of integrity. It’s earned them the other term we use at our agency: “Gen Zeal.”
So how do you reach this new generation who now has $44 billion in buying power? Meet them where they are. Despite Gen Z’s weariness with the celebrity Instagrammer, influencers are one of the most effective ways to reach them — you just have to approach them differently than their millennial older siblings: through the unwavering authenticity and transparency of everyday people sharing real, consumer-first experiences.
Many Gen Zers are seriously into their social media sites. According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens have smartphones and nearly half are online “almost constantly.” The trick for marketers is to pivot and approach Gen Z through the lens of their own passions and not our assumptions.
If you’re considering a Gen Z-targeted influencer campaign, take stock of these five tips:
1. Think Nano Over Macro
Gen Z is looking for a brand soulmate, not a celebrity endorsement. Remember: They were raised by skeptical Gen X parents who have an acute awareness of the 2009 recession, making them more likely to be pragmatic in the face of advertising. Nano-influencers have smaller followings, but they’re highly engaged, loyal and targeted — all varieties of social proof that can support the Gen Z desire for authenticity.
2. Get Visual
Gen Z is fluent in visual language. A single emoji can encompass the most nuanced endearment for them. They use Snapchat and Instagram and get a lot of the information they need via YouTube rather than the encyclopedia. Use fewer words and more imagery. Invest in quality photography that reflects their place in the world, trendy infographics and illustrated video. Try IGTV for long-form content that reaches them where they are and Instagram Stories for added bite-size interactivity.
3. Take A Stand On Issues
Consider this: Over 50% of young people have purchased a product to show support for the issues a brand supports. Many Gen Zers equate buying power with social activism, and they support brands who align with their vision of the world. Think less about using influencers to sell your product and more about leveraging them to tell human-first stories that help build loyalty and alignment with a Gen Z audience.
4. Be Nimble; Be Quick
Gen Zers flip through data and make decisions in eight seconds or less. They’re the first fully mobile generation, and they dart around their phones like hummingbirds in a flower garden. Catch their attention using quick, interactive elements like Instagram Stories stickers that let them engage. Try sharp, short videos with subtitles, and build a strong brand presence that cuts straight to the chase.
5. Focus Less On Brand And More On Quality
According to a study shared with Marketing Dive, Gen Zers are far less likely to be wooed by clever brand names and focus on price and quality over logo and status. Try leveraging influencers to provide and share honest testimonials via targeted shopping platforms like Instagram, where a five-star rating can quickly inspire a split-second decision to purchase.
Finally, let’s not malign this generation. We wrote millennials off as being self-indulgent and entitled, and now they make up 35% of the workforce and spend $600 billion a year. Gen Z is knowingly challenging marketers to create innovative content that evolves beyond the confines of the typical purchase funnel and truly speaks to their human experience. They are newly empowered buyers whose endless product options mean they can be selective. They know it, and they’re not apologizing for it. And maybe that’s a good thing for all generations.