For the past few years, advertising and marketing industries have puzzled over how best to target the millennials, but as this generation inches towards their thirties, Gen Z – that is, anyone born post-1995 – are the new consideration.
Speaking at Ark Group’s Marketing & Communicating to Today’s Youth conference, brand strategist in youth marketing, and former strategic client partner of Nike Europe, Dan Pankraz, said it’s all about “brand heat”.
Brand heat is “how you create cultural friction and ignite interest in a brand”, Pankraz said, and identified a few major differences between Gen Z and Y for marketers to take note of.
“Younger people just don’t care that much about brands,” he said. “They’re so in their worlds, their own newsfeeds – and you have to compete with that. As Optus, your competitor is not Telstra or Virgin, it’s all the social entertainment your audience is experiencing.”
Generation Z are “technoholics” that shift from the online and real world at warp speed, and while Gen Y was multi-device, Gen Z is hyper-device, meaning they’re moving between screens at such a pace that it all becomes just one screen, Pankraz said.
“For marketers, how are we designing our experiences and content for those kinds of experiences?” he asked.
“There’s also a shift from collaboration to open source,” Pankraz added. “What we’re now seeing is the growth of coders and developers – and brands need to create ecosystems that invite you in to help make it better.
“Yes, brands define the construct and who they’re going to go after, but the best brands allow an audience to create and shape the narrative.”
They’re also increasingly seeking intimacy over the oversharing attitudes of Gen Y, with Snapchat and Instagram leading the charge over Facebook.
An example Pankraz shared was a recent collaboration between Nike and Airbnb to announce the arrival of Kevin Duran to the Golden State Warriors NBA team. Rather than launch a massive campaign, they decided to give Airbnb users the chance to spend the night in a specifically curated gallery that reflected Duran’s world and San Francisco.
“It was that little idea of a cultural partnership that created mass heat around the brand because it was something new and exciting, and taps into the ‘new’ hotel experience for younger users,” Pankraz explained, adding that it was doing something big that maintained the essence of intimacy.
Pankraz listed Newness, Energy, Influence and Familiarity as essential for marketing to Gen Z.
“Align yourself with where culture is going,” he said.
“Culture is changing all the time and the best brands harness that when something’s on the rise and create new cultural narratives. And they do this by tapping into cultural moments that happen throughout the year, and creating content around news stories, events, sports.
“It’s also about social proof – the notion that people like me buy this brand – and that starts at a young age.
“People are social beings, we want to be part of brands that drive broader meaning in social groups.”