Gen Z’s Big Reputation: Why Marketers Need to Stop Buying the Hype + Start Investing in Researchback to all NEWS

Insights | Aug 13, 2018

Twenty-two years young and “Gen Z” is already building a reputation.

There’s the “millennials on steroids” tagline, which implies those born after 1997 have a similar mindset to their generational predecessors – just deeper and more pronounced.

There’s the “minority majority” catchphrase, suggesting racial and ethnic minorities will comprise over 50% of US children ages 18 and younger by 2020.

And then, there’s talk of the infamous “side hustle,” where young adults opt out of traditional teen jobs to freelance, study up for higher education, or pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

Gen Z are digital natives, industry disruptors, and social justice warriors. Or so the top-line research goes.

As we gear up for 2019 planning across the communications and marketing disciplines, a question lies before us:

How well do you, as a marketer, truly know your Gen Z audience? How do these authority-wary young adults feel about your brand today? What is their outlook on your brand’s future?

While understanding Gen Z may seem like a long-term priority, the reality is there is growing pressure to win Gen Z today. According to a recent report from Barkley’s, Gen Z’s earnings may be close to $153B, with overall spending of $100B ($143B after account for teen and tween allowances).

Move over, Millennials. Gen Z’s purchasing power outshines you by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

Here are a few tips to make the most of your Gen Z research program in the 2019 planning season:

Invest in Audience Segmentation

Similar to their Millennial counterparts, all Gen Z adults, teens, and tweens are not the same. While the oldest members of Gen Z are entering the workplace, others are just entering high school. There are important nuances to consider, based on their demographics, their cultural – political affiliations, and their attitudinal motivations. Segmentation will help you unlock your Gen Z base, your persuadable targets, and your detractors.

Get Offline, Talk to People

While Gen Z is known for being “digital first”, there is much to be learned by having a conversation with today’s young people. How many 19-year olds don’t want to talk about themselves? Online focus groups akin to Skype chats or Google hangouts are the perfect platform for Gen Z; you and your client can easily log in from home – and Gen Z can log into from their bedroom, coffee shop, or cars (Trust me, I’ve seen it happen!). Tapping into digital-first interventions with emojis, social media profiles, and vision boards are a great way to unlock research gold about their beliefs, value structures, and motivations.

Get to Know Gen Z as Employees

While Gen Z has implications for your brand as a marketer, they also have implications for your workforce. Gen Z is thought to be more independent, entrepreneurial, and places more emphasis on the day-to-day work experience. 61 million Gen Zers are entering the workforce this year. Understanding their needs as entry-level employees is key to building a successful team. Online employee communities, ethnographies, and workforce analytics are all essential tools to listen to what this new generation of talent expects of their employer.

As Gen Z grows up, it’s our responsibility as communications and marketing professionals to truly understand them. Don’t believe the headlines or the hype. Instead, empower yourself with proprietary research and use analytics to shape a narrative and message that successfully reaches and engages this next powerhouse of consumer marketing.

Kristen Coughlin is the Head of Edelman Intelligence Chicago.

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