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So much of the marketing persona work focuses on Millennials, leaving a Gen Z sized gap in the market. As the elders of this generation approach their late twenties, they are establishing their careers. And while the youngest approach their teens, their buying power cannot be ignored. But how can you create a digital marketing strategy for Gen Z if you have no idea how they behave online? We’ve put in the research so you don’t have to!

Understanding the digital habits of Gen Z helps predict the future of marketing. So creating a realistic persona for this group is paramount to staying ahead of the curve. There are a lot of preconceived ideas about them. While Gen Z shares some common attributes with Millennials, there are key differences. From the way they consume content, and their values, to how they engage on social media.

Gen Z is the first generation to grow up without memory of a time before the internet, resulting in a departure from traditional marketing tactics. With recent discussions surrounding Gen Z breaking the marketing funnel, there has never been a better time to re-evaluate.

Grab their attention, quickly!?

With the growing popularity of short-form content, you may think that Gen Z has a short attention span. According to Google, it’s 8 seconds, compared to the supposed 12 seconds of Millennials!

The reality may not be that simple. Gen Z has grown up in the digital age, saturated by (almost) every kind of content they could wish to consume. Because of this, they are super picky about what content they engage with and for how long.

Despite the growing trend for short-form content, long-form isn’t going anywhere. Done well, long-form content is still popular with its intended audience. YouTube has managed to retain the attention of Gen Z’s youngest members by continuing to offer quality long-form content as their main offering. Vlogs, podcasts, deep-dives, and series are clearly still resonating with Gen Z despite the explosion of TikTok. It will be interesting to see if the trend towards short video content continues or whether we see a transition back to more traditional social content such as images and longer videos.

There is no doubt shorter videos are favoured by many social platforms right now, but that doesn’t mean longer videos won’t succeed. It’s all about reaching the right people. Long-form video content can be repurposed into clips for the likes of Instagram and TikTok. Providing bonus content will drive traffic wherever your full version is posted.

Shout about your values

Gen Z care about brand values. A reported 75% of Gen Z are strongly influenced by the ethics of brands and their products. It bodes well to be transparent and vocal when it comes to social issues. Brands that aren’t honest about their stance on social issues can quickly find themselves in the talons of a PR crisis. 

Sustainability is a common ethical sticking point for this generation. Fast fashion brands like H&M have come under scrutiny for pushing sustainability narratives such as in-store recycling while a significant amount of their clothes have been found in landfills. They also had to remove sustainability scorecards from their products due to inaccurate assessments of their impact on the environment. Greenwashing not only breaks consumer trust but also makes Gen Z think twice about shopping with a brand in the future.

Gen Z are hot on corporate virtue signalling. Especially when it’s perceived to be a sales tactic, and they won’t be afraid to talk about it on socials. Aside from Greenwashing, this can also include rainbow-washing during pride celebrations without making a commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community and donating to charities.

Be bold, be personal

To break through the noise of content on social media, you can’t be afraid to take risks. While Millennials favoured perfection and aspirational content, Gen Z are big on authenticity and individuality. They respond best to brands who are experimental, acknowledge trends, and know how to leverage the platforms they’re using. Starface is a great example of this. They talk to their audience like a friend, and keep their copy fresh and fun with bold visuals.

Gen Z are more likely to respond positively to personalised marketing. Unlike Millennials who straddle life before and during the rise of the internet, Gen Z have only known life with the internet. They are generally open to sharing their data, provided it is used to improve their online experience. In fact, 41% of Gen Z would share their data in exchange for better personalisation. Rather than seeing it as creepy, they value it as a tailored marketing experience.

Spotify is the MVP of personalisation. From personalised playlists to the highly anticipated Spotify Wrapped, their fingers are very much on the UX pulse. Their daylist feature creates playlists based on your behaviour. It orchestrates your ideal playlist based on what you typically listen to at certain times of the day, and days of the week. Much like a user’s music taste, the playlist constantly evolves.

Omnichannel lovers

Gen Z are 2x more likely to shop online using their smartphone than Millennials. While Millennials are open to online shopping, they are more likely to jump between devices, with memes even acknowledging laptops for big purchases.

Yet Gen Z aren’t as glued to their phones as you might think. Even though Gen Z are incredibly active online, they are also keen on the bricks and mortar experience. Pop-up shops are a great way to provide this. Allowing online brands to provide in-store experiences. The temporary nature of pop-ups highlights a sense of urgency, motivating Gen Z through FOMO.

Omnichannel marketing allows you to target your audience at every touchpoint. Whether that is a social campaign, an email discount, an in-store QR code, or a pop-up activation. Physical in-person marketing may also benefit your digital presence. If the activation is creative enough, they will post about it. Who doesn’t love free marketing?

Harry Styles’ brand Pleasing has launched multiple pop-up shops, giving fans the chance to shop in person. The Selfridges Pleasing pop-up quickly went viral on Tiktok, with fans desperate to get their hands on the products and crucially share their experience. Videos varied from filming content inside the store, to product hauls and reviews. 

While Harry Styles has his fair share of fans, his pop-up shops prove that online retailers can harness bricks and mortar. Using exclusivity and urgency as a driving factor, customers – and fans – sharing their experience only serves to build desire.

Emoji Literacy

Are you Gen Z emoji literate? Emojis and entertaining content humanise brands. Understanding how Gen Z communicates online will benefit your strategy. Nothing screams old and out of touch more than misusing emojis and acronyms.

Although the differences in how Millennials and Gen Z’s use emojis aren’t huge, there are some subtle nuances:

💀 The skull emoji was previously used by Millennials to describe being tired. Gen Z prefers to use the skull to signify dying of laughter. A great way to have fun with copy when sharing entertaining content on socials.

😅 The grinning sweat emoji is used sarcastically to highlight when they are stressed but coping (just about). This could be introduced playfully in social copy to highlight that a sale is finishing soon or deals your audience doesn’t want to miss out on.  

👀 The eyes emoji can be used to bring attention to something important/exciting/interesting. You may want to use this emoji when discussing a new product launch or product-related tips.

Community over coins

When it comes to Gen Z, it’s not enough to just sell anymore. They want community. Creating a sense of belonging helps develop brand loyalty through understanding. Listening and implementing feedback, as well as having an engaged social media manager at the helm, helps develop a customer base who are actively invested in your brand.

Although not a new concept by any means, adopting the mindset of quality over quantity is vital here. It’s not necessary to be on all platforms, especially if your efforts are half-arsed. Understand where your customers spend their time and adapt your strategy. It’s also important to create content plans that utilise entertainment. No one wants to feel like they are constantly being sold to and Gen Z is no different. Entertaining content builds relationships. Creating a “bond” with your followers builds value rather than more reasons to make you money.

Social media has allowed for the creation of user-generated content (UGC). 61% of Gen Z even prefer UGC over other formats. If you’re thinking about buying a product, someone has probably reviewed it online. And for this generation in particular, word of mouth is everything. It all goes back to authenticity.

Salad Days Market embodies everything that Gen Z loves: Indie small businesses, sustainability, fun branding, and TikTok hype! Coupled with constantly changing the locations and sellers of their London-based market, they are able to capitalise on FOMO, ensuring crowds for every event. 

Not only does Salad Days have a strong presence on TikTok, they also have the backing of their audience who create content about the markets. Salad Days are effectively tastemakers, offering a personally curated independent experience that cannot be replicated by larger brands. User Generated Content (UGC) legitimises Salad Days as worthwhile events to attend, recruiting new market-goers to contribute to the online discourse.

UGC presents an opportunity to show up for your community and encourage them to participate. Simple actions help: sharing video reviews, commenting on trending posts, or asking for feedback. Gen Z are often active with the brands they follow, contributing to the conversation through comment sections and tagging their friends. Expanding the community further with new eyes on your brand.

Influencer Authenticity

While influencers can play a key part in community building, do your homework:

  • Do their followers hold the same values as your brand?
  • Have they created content with your product or promoted something before?
  • Have you done your background checks to make sure there are no skeletons in plain sight?

Brand partnerships must feel authentic if they are to be successful. Celebrity is not enough to win over consumers. Micro-influencers with highly engaged, relevant audiences create meaningful connections with your brand.

Social proof is a powerful thing. The more people we see others engaging with a particular brand, the more likely we are to do the same. Some 40% of Gen Z look to TikTok over Google for inspiration and information. This could be anything from reviews on the latest beauty products to travel content for inspiration for upcoming holidays. 

Products and brands are legitimised by the amount they’re discussed on social media. All the more reason to link your website to your social accounts. Capturing the traffic of potential customers from the videos you are tagged in

So what are the key takeaways?

  • Short-form content is great but that doesn’t mean you should ditch long-form if the topic suits it. 
  • Don’t be quiet about what you stand for. Your social impact is important to Gen Z.
  • Personalisation matters. Gen Z will happily exchange data for a more tailored experience.
  • Authenticity matters. Virtue signalling will not stand.
  • Add a personal touch, be bold and show you understand your audience.
  • Community is key.

As part of our digital marketing services, we provide audience research and persona workshops. Allowing you to understand your audience on a deeper level, forming the basis of a marketing strategy that speaks directly to them.

If you would like more information about buyer personas, check out our digital marketing page or contact us below.

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