Why marketing to generation Z isn’t as easy as you think

Generation Z, the age cohort directly following Millennials who were born after 1992, is the first wave of true digital natives. They’re growing up with iPads at the dinner table and Facebook profiles before they are even born.

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Most of us might struggle to remember a time before smartphones and tablets controlled everything from our fitness routines and navigation systems, to our budgets and day-to-day communication…but we can still remember. Generation Z, on the other hand, won’t. Generation Z, the age cohort directly following Millennials who were born after 1992, is the first wave of true digital natives. They’re growing up with iPads at the dinner table and Facebook profiles before they are even born. As digital marketers, this may seem like a golden opportunity to attract potential customers before they are even consumers; but getting this generation’s attention might be a lot more difficult than you think. Here’s why.

While the “always on” mindset has made it easier to communicate, learn, and share information, it has also had some unintended effects. The more information we have, the more our minds need to filter out. Many studies have shown that the constant barrage of information, and subsequent choices that go with it, reduce our collective happiness. In Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book on decision making, Blink, he suggests that unlimited options lead us to doubt decisions we’ve made by trading the gut feeling or rationale we originally used for a barrage of “what if’s” and “might have been’s.” Other studies show similar results when patients are faced with too many medical treatment options when investors are faced with too many stock options, when consumers are faced with too many selections at the grocery store, and when eligible suitors are faced with too many dating prospects online. Quite literally, digital natives are spoiled by choice.

Our brains seek to correct this cognitive dissonance by filtering out information faster. Attention spans have become shorter and decision-making has become truncated by the constant mental jump between clicking, reading, watching, sharing, and acting on the information in front of us. As Pulitzer Prize runner-up, Nicholas Carr puts it, “the redirection of our mental resources, from reading words to making judgments, may be imperceptible – our brains are quick – but it’s been shown to impede comprehension and retention, particularly when repeated.” Members of Generation Z likely do not even need to think about the filtering process as they switch between devices or channels, and flawlessly overlook or absorb certain information — but it is changing how they learn and make decisions.

By filtering out larger quantities of information faster, this generation is losing a degree of depth when engaging online. Content that wins this generation’s attention is pithy, memorable, and short … not nuanced, detailed, and thorough. While this isn’t inherently “good” or “bad,” it does present a unique challenge for digital marketers. Video clips, snack-sized content, and catchy taglines that are easy to remember and share are replacing the white pages, case studies, and product catalogs that older generations know and love.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that one of the best ways to reach Generation Z is through YouTube. According to a recent AdWeek study, more than 95% of Gen Z said they can’t live without YouTube. Of those, nearly 80% said they have a favorable attitude toward celebrity endorsements. In other words, they are looking for someone to tell them which products or experiences to spend their time and money on. In a world with nearly unlimited research potential, sometimes it’s nice to just let someone tell you what the right answer is. And YouTube does that in a very compelling, digestible, and entertaining way. In a similar study by Business Insider, Generation Z ranked YouTube reviews, product demos, and unboxing videos as some of their favorite forms of content, suggesting this insight is especially relevant within the consumer space.

YouTube is one of the most powerful tools for digital marketers when trying to break through the information clutter. To guide your YourTube content strategy, we recommend asking whether your videos pass the “M.I.S.S.” test. Are they: Memorable? Informative? Short? And shareable? These four principles will help craft content that Generation Z will engage with and enjoy. That isn’t to say that your video content shouldn’t also be accurate and insightful. While Gen Z’s attention span may be shorter than previous generations, that doesn’t imply that they don’t have the intellectual breadth or depth to synthesize complex ideas. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Because Gen Z has grown up with floods of information, they are more adept at scanning for accuracy than previous generations. Fluffy jargon and obtuse information won’t get past these consumers. Use this knowledge as a challenge to distill the most critical information about your products and brand in a transparent, crisp vision of what your organization is all about.

If you are unsure how to boil down your brand value proposition to the basics, or create videos that will delight and inspire potential customers, we’re here to help. Contact us to learn more about how to leverage YouTube to your advantage and attract your next generation of brand enthusiasts. It’s easier than you think but more important than you ever could have imagined.

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