Generation Z – Tomorrow’s Complex Consumer

Understanding your audience and grabbing their attention has never been more important than it is today. With the ever-increasing use of social media, being able to reach millions by the touch of a finger and influencing a target audience’s buying pattern is a very powerful tool for marketers. But it can be equally powerful in a negative way. Targeting the right audience and sending a message that not only conveys you as a brand and your product, but avoids alienating or even offending your audience isn’t always as easy as it seems. Many marketers have learned the hard way, sparking controversies such as Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or the Dodge Ram’s Super Bowl spot featuring a Martin Luther King Jr. speech.

Although in hindsight it may seem easy to see where those spots went wrong, there was certainly lots of smart people reviewing the campaigns before they were launched.  It’s not easy to get it right, and today’s social media users are quick to let companies know when they got it wrong in LOUD and CLEAR voices, and in some instances spreading it like a wildfire on the net in mere seconds.

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But this precarious and volatile environment isn’t likely to change anytime soon, and thus keeping an eye on your future buyer is equally important. For many companies, their future (and in some cases current buyer) is Generation Z. Generation Z includes those born in the mid 1990s to the early 2000s.  They are today’s teenagers and the fastest growing hobnobbers of tomorrow’s trendsetters. Something unique about Generation Z and what sets them apart from any of their predecessors, is that they have never known a phone that wasn’t smart or an ad that wasn’t targeted. They make up 25.9%  of the U.S. population and when you factor in their influence on parents and home purchases, they have a buying power that is close to $200 billion making them very hard to ignore.

Here are some interesting facts on what made Generation Z tick:

  • They want highly personalized interactions
  • They are protective of their privacy
  • They give feedback
  • They prefer to browse anonymously and use aliases on sites such as Instagram and Twitter, and they love Snapchat for its privacy.
  • 85% of Generation Z learn about new products on social media
  • Instagram is the preferred social media for discovering brands, while YouTube is the preferred media for shopping recommendations
  • They’re influenced by Vloggers and internet stars more than celebrities.
  • They have a high tolerance for digital ads, preferring skippable ad formats. Marketers have a mere 9.5 seconds to get their message across.
  • They welcome ads with incentives
  • They’re the most culturally and socially diverse generation, and they expect marketers to be the same
  • They enjoy voice-activated ordering. Anything that makes shopping seem faster is appealing
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I decided to interview a group of budding Generation Zs to get a first-hand view on their favorite social media platforms and why.  As you read through their opinions, you will notice they are not talking a lot about making purchases through social media.  But you will learn which platforms they like the best, and how they use them. This should provide some insight on how to start to building brand awareness with them.

TPM: What social media platforms do you like and why? And do you ever watch the ads?

Bailey (a Freshman): I like Instagram best. You can chat with more people than on any of the other medias. You can post photos and watch videos. Instagram also has more functions than the other social medias. I follow certain celebrities and I like looking at the ads on Instagram, especially ads with cute clothes. Sometimes I buy stuff that I see on Instagram. I don’t post stories on Instagram. I prefer Snapchat for that. I also like Snapchat for group chats and streaks.

Annika (a Sophmore): I like Snapchat best. I like texting with my friends on Snapchat, and I like its privacy and that nothing stays there for long. I send photos to my friends using the filters or the stickers. I have streaks going with my friends and I post stories almost every day.  I also like that you can do group calls and groups chats on Snapchat. I don’t usually spend much time on ads, I prefer to just swipe them. Instagram is more the place where I like looking at ads. I follow celebrities and internet stars on YouTube, and I get some of my news feed there. I also like to get the news from Twitter.

Lorryn (Middle School): I prefer YouTube to all the other medias. I watch videos on vloggers and internet celebrities that I follow. If I see a product they like or they advertise, and it has my interest, I will buy it. My second favorite is Snapchat. I like to send my friends photos using the filters or the stickers. Sometimes I like to post a story if something cool happens in my day. I always watch the ads on Snapchat because I think they are interesting, and because it’s usually on stuff that I like. I use Twitter to check in on my community and to get the news.

Magnus (Middle School): I like Instagram best because I can see what my friends and family are doing. I also check out celebrities and internet stars that I follow, and I like the memes. I also like looking at the ads on Instagram. I recently bought a hoodie that I saw advertised on Instagram. I don’t post much on Instagram. I mainly post on Snapchat. I really like YouTube too. I watch comedy or horror movies, and vloggers that I follow. I like watching the ads, but the food ones I skip. I use Twitter for the news and to tweet random stuff.

Quin (Middle School): I only go on YouTube. I mostly watch other people’s gaming strategies and people playing games. Sometimes I watch people prank other people and movies. I also follow celebrities and vloggers on YouTube. I mostly go on YouTube when I want to relax.

Colton (a Junior): I primarily use Snapchat. It’s more personable than any of the other social medias. I use it for chats, to post stories and I have streak with my friends. I also use Snapchat for group chats and group calls, and I follow internet stars, vloggers and celebrities there. I never watch the ads. They’re boring! If the ads had an incentive they might catch my interest. My interest in a product is usually peaked through an internet star or a vlogger that I follow. My second favorite media is Instagram because it has a lot more variety of stuff. I post photos and follow celebrities there as well. I will send my friends messages on Instagram, but Snapchat is primarily where I go to connect with my friends. I go on YouTube for entertainment. I watch gaming videos and stuff on cars. I’ll watch the ads here, but I skip through all the girlie stuff. I mostly watch ads on trailers for movies or games.

Tor (Middle School): I just use YouTube. I like watching the videos. I watch a variety of stuff. Anything from people talking with other people to National Geographic videos to gaming and tutorial videos. If an ad takes a long time to load, I will skip it. But if the ad has a bit of suspense it will usually keep my interest.

TPM: None of you mentioned Facebook. Why is that?

Unanimously: Facebook is for old people. That’s where parents hang out (said with scrunched up faces indicating a huge dislike of said media).

And there you have it: Generation Z in a nutshell and tomorrow’s diverse buyer. Getting it right with your target audience can be tricky. If you need help reaching your audience, don’t forget we’re just a call away!