Snackable Lesson 1 of 7:
WOOHOO! DAY 1 OF THIS MINI-COURSE IS HERE.
So come with me to the first day of your 7-day journey…
If you’ve seen me at conferences, you’ve heard me say this, but I can’t help it. I have to start by emphasizing that what you know about your customers right now, at this moment, is not enough to keep your business or your product alive. Your past research no longer applies!
Consider for a moment how you currently develop your marketing strategies, craft content and pay for advertising. This is all based on your assumptions about who your customers are. When you invest so much time and energy on this, and when you depend on these strategies to grow your business, your assumptions about your customers better be right.
Whether or not you are marketing directly to the youth segment today, they are without a doubt changing the behavior of all other generations. Generation Z is making a big impact on your business today, even if you don’t realize it yet.
Need proof? Ask yourself this: when was the last time you texted an emoji or took a selfie? Was it 5 minutes ago? Or 10 minutes ago? Today’s teens and young adults are influencing just about every other audience to do things differently.
Yes, this is true even if you’re in B2B. This generation will be your buyers and your sellers and your partners. You must understand this generation in order to keep doing business in the future. Their mindsets, thought processes, and negotiation strategies are incredibly different than what you might expect based on your research of young Millennials just a few years older.
Consider this statistic: 51 percent of the world’s population is under the age of 25. Over half! And if the stereotype is true: wow, that is a lot of brunch. 98 percent own a smartphone. This is a generation that truly prefers their phone to their laptop. What’s more, 85 percent find out about new products through social media. You have probably come across a stat like this before, but the interesting thing here is that most of their discovery is through people: friends and family and influencers, not typically through the sponsored ads that your company has likely been paying for.
We no longer have just influencers—those “Internet-famous” few with millions of followers), we now have microinfluencers—those with social media audiences ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands—and now, even nanoinfluencers. With as few as 1,000 followers, nanoinfluencers are some of the most sought-after by astute markers today. The New York Times says, “Their lack of fame is one of the qualities that make them approachable.” Not only are they easy to deal with and seen as more authentic by their followers, they will pretty much will say anything companies ask them to, in exchange for a small commission. It’s a win-win.
Your company may be investing heavily in millennial research. But if you are looking more than a year ahead in your strategic plan (as in, you want your brand to survive long-term), you are at a critical crossroad that demands a shift in focus.
HOW DIFFERENT COULD THEY BE?
You might be thinking, “How different could these generations be, really? These kids are just a few years apart.”
Ok, I’ll play. Let’s list out all the similarities between Millennials and Generation Z.
Here is your rundown: these two generations, only a few years apart, both embrace technology, and have become accustomed to on-demand services from transportation to food delivery to streaming television. They share an addiction to social media and the sleep deprivation that goes with it. They have few close friends but gratuitous networks of “friends.” They both have instant visibility into the lives of others, acquaintances and influencers alike, and they expect active engagement and co-creation with brands. They both want to do good in the world.
And that is where the similarities end. That’s right, just one paragraph!
The point here is simple: Generation Z is radically different than Millennials, and marketers require new, fresh research in order to connect with them, build relationships, and ultimately, count them as customers.
GENERATIONAL CHANGES THAT MATTER
Generational changes make for vastly different patterns in behavior and content consumption. While both Millennials and Generation Z are digital natives in the sense that they have grown up in a world of instant communication, they do not consume the same types of content. In contrast to Millennials, Generation Z was raised in an environment of economic instability and social change, churning out a generation of strong, resolute, earnest, hard working, entrepreneurial, responsible teens and young adults. As I write this, it feels strange and awkward to string “responsible” and “teens” together in a sentence, but for this generational cohort, it is true.
These two generations experience and interact in the world in very different ways, and I want to tell you about a few of the shifts that I find most compelling, and possibly most indicative of why these generations are so different from each other, even though they’re just a few years apart in age:
Shift in parenting styles from “helicopter parents” finding information, making phone calls and doing things for their children, to “technology parents” who taught their children how to find information for themselves online. They armed them with the tools to do things on their own, teaching them about search engines, social media, and the risks involved with having an online presence. This shift in parenting has raised a generation of more independent—and also more cautious—youth.
A “recession” mindset that has led to a generation of entrepreneurial doers, conservative with money, and big on education and career advancement. Generation Z is focused and hungry for work—even as teenagers. 61 percent of teens long to start their own business instead of working for someone else. Many have business-centered Instagram accounts that are already working to build them a following for a possible future business. All in all, Generation Z has high regard for money-earners. This generation is particularly drawn to YouTubers and Instagram creators who are paid and sponsored and making money for themselves online.
Increasing diversity that has bred liberal views on fairness, inclusion, and social justice. Today’s youth have never known a world without a black president, female presidential candidates, and legalized gay marriage in most states. Multiracial children are one of the fastest growing segments of the United States. In fact, the last three decades have seen a 400 percent increase in multiracial marriages, with a 1,000 percent increase in Asian-white marriages. Today in 2019, roughly 1 in 3 teens know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns. Given these stats, it makes perfect sense that this generation would epitomize liberal views on race, gender, identity, and sexuality.
Endless visual stimulation which has increased multitasking, shortened attention spans, and has physically altered the brain to enable faster processing of visual inputs. On average, Millennials juggle 3 screens at once, meaning they could be playing a video game, reading a Reddit thread, and snapping photos to friends on Snapchat. This means that in their short-term memory, they are able to hop between 3 different contexts with different information and keep it all straight. Now, if you think that being able to hold information from 3 different contexts at once is incredible, keep on reading. Because those are the stats for Millennials. Generation Z is a whole new ballgame. On average, this slightly younger group juggles 5 screens at once instead of 3. This is a shift that commands attention because it is a 67 percent increase! Between kids who are only a few years apart in age, it seems unimaginable that the numbers would be that different. That means that while Generation Z is playing a video game, commenting on a Reddit thread and keeping up their streak on Snapchat, they are also FaceTiming one group of friends, and texting another group of friends. I am not making this up: this group of teens is something straight out of a science fiction film. Generation X and Boomers get dizzy just thinking about it. Of course, there are two sides to the coin. Because of this meteoric increase in attention flexing , the attention spans of this younger generation have decreased considerably. In fact, attention spans have plummeted from 12 seconds (Millennials) to 8 seconds (Generation Z).
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU, AS A MARKETER?
I’m sure your brain is buzzing already!
#1 Shift your strategy toward capturing attention
As a marketer, you know how important it is to capture attention. Well, unfortunately, this just got harder for you as this generation is flooded with visual stimuli. Though, to be fair, the deluge of information that caused their brains to shift in the first place likely included your company’s social media posts and sponsored ads to begin with.
However, there is hope for you yet, my marketer friends. As it turns out, members of this young generation can hyper-focus once they decide they are interested in something. More to come on that in Lesson 2—I guarantee that this is going to change your marketing outlook and shift your strategic goals to a slightly new metric. As marketers, we must be more strategic in terms of how we capture attention, or we will see a lot of wasted money on social media campaigns that do not stick with this audience.
#2 Offer choice: Generation Z is more independent than generations that have come before. It will be important to give this generation choices to find inspiration, and opportunities to control how their experience is personalized.
#3 Align your brand with values of hard work and career advancement: A recession mindset has led to some serious hustle among Generation Z. This group spends time envisioning a future career then takes immediate action to meet their goals. So what you can do is to associate your brand with values of hard work, with stories of inspiring entrepreneurs who have succeeded by using your product or service, or with learning new skills for their future. All of these methods will help you resonate with this generation’s mental model.
#4 Speed and convenience: Generation Z has grown up with constant connection, and in an unprecedented time of emerging tech: cars that auto-adjust speed and stay in their lanes; drones that deliver products to our doors; robots carry lunch to the office; same-day delivery of products they order online. This has fundamentally changed their perception of convenience, and they expect a lot more from your business.
#5 (the final takeaway from Lesson 1) is to work to create invisible experiences: For brands today, loyalty is tougher than ever to earn. As someone who does a lot of usability testing, I often ask companies what their goal is, and more than likely they tell me they’re striving for “true omnichannel” experiences. What does that mean, though, to a member of Gen Z who has grown up with brands designing specifically for just this? What it boils down to is your experience does not just have to work, it has to be so seamless that any sort of technological integration must be completely invisible to the user. If your Gen Z customer notices the technology, it means you’re doing something wrong. Seamless experiences aren’t a differentiator anymore; they’re expected.
Ok, so you learned a lot today! These are the fundamental trends you need to understand this new wave of customers before you can begin to figure out how you’re going to pivot your marketing strategy. So let’s talk about what you need for the next step: take a few minutes to think about your target audiences are today, and who they are going to be 5 years from now. And tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to catch attention in a visual-crazed space, and once you have attention, how to transition into a learning experience that keeps them hooked. So inspiration and learning is tomorrow and I look forward to helping you out in the next lesson.