In a post-COVID world, people are using content to fill their time and find daily satisfaction, thus creating a greater need for content creation. This gives marketers a real opportunity to reach their target demographic in an engaging way.
If you are looking to market to the under-30 age group of Millennials, Gen Z, and upcoming Gen Alpha, then TikTok and its 800+ million worldwide active users is a great place to explore. TikTok has only been running ads for under two years, which means less oversaturation for marketers and lots of room for creativity in future ads.
Key TikTok Advertising Methods
TikTok has created a few different engaging advertising methods for marketers to choose from. Marketers partner with TikTok advertising reps directly to select the best options and ensure a smooth execution. The choices are:
Top View and Takeover Ads: This is an ad that is displayed as soon as a user opens the app on the home “For You” page. It can be a photo or video, and has 100% share of voice.
Hashtag Challenges: Brands can create a hashtag challenge that encourages users to follow an action, trend, dance, or something else that users can post on their feeds (and encourage their friends to do the same).
Creator Marketplace: These are the content-creator royalty on TikTok. Brands can work with creators that have demographic-relevant followers to promote a brand or product on the creator’s page with custom videos.
Branded Filters and Effects: These are branded 2D or 3D camera effects users can add while creating videos in a fun and interactive way.
Infeed Video Ads: This is the widest, most direct advertising method on TikTok; it includes an in-feed video ad whose appearance is native to the platform.
Now that we know the TikTok advertising methods, let’s talk strategy. The platform is a unique world that brands must familiarize themselves with before entering. Since marketers are just becoming accustomed with this new advertising landscape, it’s easy for ads to look out of place or even worse, “cringy.” Here are seven engaging ways to advertise to the upcoming generations on TikTok:
1. Know the culture
Before advertising on the platform, take some time to understand the unique characteristics and the popularity of different voices and content types. Whether it be a prank, dance, sound bite, or skit, TikTok content that performs well is all about authenticity and having fun. Right now it’s truly about showing people’s everyday lives during this unusual year, making for very entertaining video content.
2. Be in with the trends – and start some of your own!
TikTok is very “in the moment” driven, and trends come and go. Get to know what’s trending and hop on! The platform is a community and everyone can join in on the fun — even brands. TikTok also offers brands the opportunity to create paid hashtag challenges, which is great for starting trends that audiences can participate in. Make sure your content is fun, engaging, and that it truly aligns with your brand’s message.
3. Follow the rules
TikTok is new to advertising, so many marketers are still getting familiar with its layout and best practices. It’s great to stand out from the masses, but standing out because of a mistake could have negative consequences. Know the guidelines of the vertical feed before creating and publishing. To up your engagement, make ads specifically tailored for TikTok; an ad taken off of a different social media platform and recycled for a new one can come off looking out of place on the feed, causing people to skip right past it.
4. Create content-like ads
TikTok offers in-feed video ads that can look like a post that users see on their For You pages. Other than a very small, opaque “Sponsored” button, everything else looks exactly the same. Use this to your advantage to create content similar to what people use TikTok for: sharing entertaining content with friends. Try creating a short, amusing video that intertwines with your brand or product messaging.
5. Tell a story
Storytelling is huge on TikTok, but you only have 60 seconds to do it. Ads should only be nine to 15 seconds anyway, so quickly tell your brand’s story in a way that catches a viewer’s attention. Create a scene with a few likable characters partaking in an action that will relate to your targeted demographic.
6. Include characters
The majority of the videos on TikTok, especially now, are at-home videos taken of individuals, their family members, or their close friends. Lean into that and do the same, with either a TikTok creator partnership engaging with your product/brand, or existing footage you have with people.
7. Be unique, but be quick to standout
Gen Z and Millennials love to try new products and test out new trends, so consider what you can offer to the content community, and how your brand or product can improve someone’s life. The goal is to make them stop and watch your 15-second ad while bringing value to their day, thus captivating them to click the “Learn More” button and engage with your brand further.
So what are you waiting for? If you don’t have TikTok downloaded, take a moment to get the app and start exploring the world and culture that awaits.
Depending on their age and stage of life, the nation’s two youngest generations are getting a first taste of what it’s like to be a remote worker, home-schooling parent, or web-only shopper. Within a very short period, the way Millennials and Gen Zs buy products and consume media also has changed dramatically. And while many of these shifts — such as the changes to their media habits — can be attributed to the global pandemic, some of them may be here to stay.
“When U.S. advertisers pulled back spending dramatically in March, one of the earliest noticeable effects on the display ad market was falling CPMs (the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on a single webpage),” eMarketer reports. Concurrently, marketers were lowering their demand for ads and consumers were spending more time on social and traditional media properties, thus increasing the supply of impressions.
“Where we’re getting the demand right now is from people who are driving sort of more online conversions, direct response, so it’s not like we’re seeing a shift of reach and frequency dollars to us,” Facebook’s Dave Wehner said in an April earnings call. “I think what we’re seeing is people who are driving the kind of direct response actions taking advantage of low prices.”
Feeling the Impact
With COVID-19 affecting all facets of everyday life, it’s no surprise that marketing is also seeing the dramatic impacts of the pandemic. And while some of the changes simply solidify what was already happening in the market, COVID is definitely adding more fuel to the fire. For example, TikTok has become a household term in a world where just a few months ago the typical parent was unfamiliar with the short-form mobile video platform — a platform that has become a viable channel for reaching younger consumers. The youngest Gen Zs are likely getting as much socialization as possible on platforms like TikTok and Snapchat, all while binging on Netflix as they wait out the COVID-19 threat and state shutdowns.
The crisis is going to change consumers across all age groups, and no one knows for certain what the total impact will be. What we do know is that the shifts are already starting to happen, as evidenced by the TikTok videos featuring parents and their children dancing together, and the fact that Instagram Stories usage is up 15% since the outbreak. These and other platforms are keeping people connected, and they’re also presenting new opportunities for marketers that need ways to reach their youngest consumers.
TikTok added over 12 million U.S. unique visitors in March, reaching 52.2 million, according to eMarketer. “TikTok has been on a growth spurt for several months, even before the pandemic,” the firm points out, adding that as of October 2019, TikTok’s app and websites had 27 million unique visitors, with the app alone accounting for 18.6 million. “But the month-to-month growth between February and March was particularly notable in comparison with previous monthly gains.”
What Are Gen Z and Millennials Up To?
In surveying Gen Z about its routines, media habits, and lives during the viral outbreak, Brainly found that most are turning to social media to pass the time and stay connected, with Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook getting the highest marks from this generation.
Here are other important, COVID-related trends that Hawthorne Advertising has been tracking internally:
In terms of social media, Millennials are gravitating toward Instagram and Reddit.
There’s also been a big uptick in Twitch usage over the last two months, with live performers among the most active participants on that platform.
More Millennials are using YouTube as an information source during the pandemic.
Zoom has emerged as the videoconferencing platform of choice for Millennials.
Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are popular “binge” targets for both Gen Zs and Millennials.
Fans of Instagram, TikTok, Hulu, and the Amazon Firestick, Gen Zs are receptive to pre-roll ads and other targeted advertising approaches on these platforms.
Gen Zs are also using GoToMeeting, Zoom, Houseparty, Facebook Messenger, and FaceTime to stay in touch with friends and family during this period.
In assessing Gen Z and Millennials’ post-quarantine media habits and content consumption, YPulse says Netflix will be their must-watch TV platform of choice, but notes that social media content could begin cannibalizing the time these younger generations spend on streaming services.
“While streaming services are reporting massive numbers of new subscribers, our data indicates that the real winner of quarantine viewing is social media,” YPulse reports, noting that a recent survey found that 48% of 13 to 39-year-olds are watching more videos on social media during quarantine, and 40% are now watching videos weekly or more on Instagram (compared to 34% in November 2019).
Get Ready to Turn on the Dime
For marketers who are trying to wrap their arms around these shifts, the best strategy is to embrace the changes and take careful note of their pace of acceleration.
Understand that when we emerge from this crisis — whenever that occurs — you’re not going to be operating in the same world that was put on pause in early-2020. Marketers also need to consider more targeted and customized messaging, as well as dynamic creative optimization, to maximize the engagement with Millennials and Gen Z audiences.
Consider this: In a recent DoSomething survey, 75% of Gen Zs said the top action they wanted to see from brands was ensuring employee and consumer safety, with 73% wanting brands to protect their employees financially. Brands that share positive messages on social media while failing to support their staff are being noticed, Vogue Business reports. “If you’re not authentic, Gen Zs will be the first to raise a red flag. If you are trying to take advantage of the moment, you will lose them so fast.”
Educate yourself on these changes, test out some new strategies, and strap yourself in. It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride filled with both challenges and opportunities, the latter of which will be most available to the companies that stay flexible and fluid enough to turn on a dime right along with their target audiences.
Generation Y, or better known as Millennials, has been the apple of every marketer’s eye with 73 million strong, and spend a collective of $600 billion annually in the U.S. Now this group who is 24 to 39 years in age and a formidable force across all consumer markets, has another generation at their heels, Generation Z. And it is crucial for marketers to hone their strategy for communication with both Gen Y and Gen Z consumers.
As marketers continue developing and refining their Millennial-targeting strategies, they are now shifting their focus to Gen Z. This group of anyone 23 and younger is now coming to financial maturity, and consists of a massive and influential cohort made up of 65 million individuals. According to Gen Z Insights, as of 2020, this generation makes up 40% of all consumers in the U.S.
This youngest generation will soon outnumber the Millennials, and graduate from allowance-based buying power, bringing their own likes, dislikes, and opinions with them. But if there’s one thing that marketers should know about both Gen Y and Gen Z, it’s this: Don’t assume these are just huge, homogeneous groups who will respond to generic marketing messages.
The Millennial who turns 40 next year, for example, will have decidedly different media consumption and buying habits than, say, a 25-year-old who is just beginning to sort out life’s intricacies. Geography, gender, education level, income, and other individual attributes all have to be factored into the equation when targeting these broad, generational segments. Skip this step and you could find yourself wasting money, time, and energy chasing down way too large of a potential customer segment.
Apple, Xerox, and Nike have all found innovative ways to carve out specific niches within the larger context of both Gen Y and Gen Z. According to YPulse’s latest “youth brand tracker,” for example, YouTube, Nike, and Snapchat are the top three “top cool brands” for Gen Z, while Nike, Netflix, and Savage x Fenty claim the top spots for Gen Y.
Let’s dive into exploring generational segments, identifying some incorrect assumptions marketers make when tailoring their messages to Gen Y and Z, and highlighting some of the most effective platforms for getting messaging across to the nation’s two youngest generations.
Effective Platforms for Messaging Gen Y and Gen Z
Here are the main platforms that marketers use to deliver very targeted messages to Gen Y and Gen Z:
Connected TVs and Devices. This includes any TV or device that’s connected to the Internet and allows users to access content beyond what’s being shown on screen at the time. Connected advertising is an extension of the traditional TV buy that complements a brand’s existing presence on a specific platform. The connected nature of this medium allows companies to measure their reach and frequency across all devices, drill down into specific audience segments (i.e., iPhone users between a certain age range) and gain insights across the full customer journey.
Instagram. Not limited to celebrities who upload their well-posed vacation photos to the platform, Instagram’s photo-and video-sharing social network is actively used by nearly three-quarters (73%) of Gen Z adults (ages 18 to 23 years old). This presents a major opportunity for marketers who want to get their products in front of these young consumers, and who start forming bonds and creating brand awareness with these young adults early in their lives.
TikTok. A social media app where Gen Z vies for 15 seconds of fame on the small screen, TikTok is the fastest-growing social media app, with about 500 million regular users. Users post 15-second videos on the app, which is estimated to have been downloaded more than a billion times on app stores. Marketers can use TikTok to create a channel for their brands and then use it to upload relevant, engaging videos. They can also tap into the platform’s large “influencer” base and leverage it to expose their content to a broad, yet well-targeted, audience of Gen Z consumers.
YouTube. This well-established video-sharing platform has 2 billion users who log in on a monthly basis, including the 81% of American 15 to 25 years old. Among 18 to 34 year-olds, the platform is the second most-preferred platform for watching video on TV screens. With people uploading 500 hours of video every minute, the platform is pretty cluttered. Standing out and growing a YouTube channel requires a targeted approach that includes a unique channel name, a good viewing experience across all devices, calls to action (i.e., to subscribe, share videos, etc.), and incorporating the channel into emails, blog posts, and other social media posts to improve its ability to be discovered.
SnapChat. With 51% of Gen Zers viewing their generation as more creative than any of its predecessors, social apps like SnapChat give them the space they need to be creative in the digital world. They use it to create videos, share images, communicate with friends, and share moments throughout their days. Marketers can harness this platform to post their stories, push out user-generated content, and connect with influencers. For example, Taco Bell was an early SnapChat user that leveraged the platform’s storytelling capabilities to spread the word about new products.
Additional Social Media Channels. As a whole, social media has opened the doors for marketers who can creatively use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to connect with their audiences, build their brands, drive website traffic, and grow their sales. Because each platform has its own mission, goals, and user base, the companies experiencing the most success on social media are the ones that take the time to segment their audiences and use very specific targeting strategies for those consumers.
The Power of TV and Mail
In the rush to select platforms that they think Gen Y and Z naturally gravitate toward, marketers often overlook the power of TV, direct mail, and other mainstays. They wrongly assume that these channels don’t work with younger audiences, but they shouldn’t be overlooked.
In a world where Nielsen says U.S. consumers spend nearly 12 hours daily across TV, TV-connected devices, radio, computers, smartphones, and tablets, the opportunity to engage the younger generations from different angles definitely exists.
Americans aged 18 to 34 watch a daily average of just under two hours of traditional TV and spend an additional hour per day using apps and the web. Consumers aged 12 to 17 watch about an hour and a half of TV daily. Craving personalized, non-digital experiences, younger generations spend about 9.7 minutes reading mail daily (versus about 8 minutes for both Gen X baby boomers).
These numbers translate into real opportunities for marketers that take the time to segment their audiences versus just lumping them into different generational groups. Where you still need a presence on mass platforms like TikTok and Instagram, for example, the messaging itself must be customized, targeted, and experiential.
Not Just Another Number
Marketers who overlook traditional platforms just because they assume Gen Z or Gen Y can only be reached on pure digital platforms are setting themselves up for failure. That’s because both generations are obviously still digesting video content, movies, and TV series via cable, a connected TV device, or on a platform like YouTube.
Target your audience properly, customize it for that consumer group, sell that group an experience (not the product itself), and you’ll come out a winner.
Regardless of which platforms you’re using, remember that Gen Z and Gen Y aren’t cohesive, homogeneous groups. As you use geotargeting and other strategies to segment your audience, be sure to personalize your messages in a way that makes your customer feel like a VIP — and not just another number.
While we all hunker down, work from home, and stream video content, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to talk to one of the original greats in long-form video advertising, Tim Hawthorne, founder of Hawthorne Advertising. On June 1, Tim will be bestowed a “Lifetime Achievement” honor by Marketing EDGE in New York as part of its EDGE Awards. Here, he shares valuable perspective on a video advertising career in an increasingly rich, ubiquitous medium for consumers, brands, and marketers.
A ‘Love Story’ for Film
Chet: Tim, first of all, congratulations! I’m so happy to see you recognized by Marketing EDGE – with its mission of marketing education and professional development, bringing the best and brightest into the marketing field. When you graduated from college – Harvard University no less, in 1973 (really, I mean, “Love Story“) – did you have any inkling that you would build a career of first in direct-response television (DRTV) and video advertising?
Tim: No, I had no idea in 1968 as I matriculated to Harvard that I would eventually become a pioneer of direct response television marketing. (First of all, yes, “Love Story” for sure. I was wandering through the Harvard Yard in the fall of 1969 when they were shooting exteriors. Not sure, but I might be one of those students hurriedly rushing to class in the background.)
It was turbulent times while I attended Harvard – 1968-1973. (I’m actually Class of ’68 but took a year off after my sophomore year to teach school in Ethiopia with the Harvard Africa Volunteer Project, so I graduated in ’73.) Initially, I intended to study chemistry, then switched to social psychology, influenced by the turbulent social times in the late 60s. But after getting my hands on a still camera in Ethiopia, I decided I’d take a still photography/documentary filmmaking course when I reentered Harvard in the fall of ’71. I was fascinated with the process of editing film, and then determined I’d pursue a career in filmmaking.
Searching for a job post-graduation in my hometown of Minneapolis, I was fortunate to be hired by the investigative documentary unit of the local CBS station, WCCO-TV. I worked there for almost five years, advancing from production assistant to editor to cinematographer, learning the craft of long-form storytelling. Our unit produced amazing documentaries that were often the No. 1 rated television programs in the Minneapolis/St. Paul market and won multiple awards, including the du Pont-Columbia and Peabody awards. I then became a producer/director/writer when I moved to the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia and eventually worked for a number of LA-based network primetime reality-based shows such as “Real People” and “That’s Incredible.”
Chet: Did you grow up having a love for industrial films of the 50s and 60s – which I think were a great precursor to the infomercial age and video advertising?
Tim: No, I didn’t have any particular love for industrial films (which in the 50s, 60s, and 70s were the height of boring and simplistic video communications!) It’s my background in documentaries – telling a long form story on people and subjects – that seemed a natural basis on which to pioneer telling long-form consumer product stories.
Like many consumers, I’ve never liked being “sold” especially when I’ve felt manipulated. And of course, short-form TV commercial brand selling is very much about manipulating emotions (via humor, poignancy, excitement) and associating strong positive images (sex, strength, beauty) with a product – a very subtle and often deceptive way of selling.
Infomercial or long-form advertising has always been based on factual selling – the exposition of features and benefits – of course, in as entertaining a way as possible. But at least the channel is up-front about its message: Here’s a product, here’s what it can do, and here are the benefits to you. This “truth in advertising” has always appealed to me. Producing documentaries is also about discovering the truth about a person, group, or issue.
In 1984, having moved from LA to Iowa for lifestyle reasons (wanting to raise our daughter Jessica in the Midwest where I grew up), I was open for new opportunities. A local real estate investment entrepreneur heard of my background and approached me about producing a long-form commercial. It would be an hour long … and a challenge. That was November 1984, one of the first infomercials on air. Within 12 months, the infomercial had grossed more than $60 million dollars and dominated the long-form air waves. Fairfield Television Enterprise was the company I formed to market the infomercial and over 18 months we revolutionized long-form TV direct response.
Chet: How did early success stories translate to business growth? Were there mentors you paid close attention to? (Alvin Eicoff comes to mind).
Tim: Eighteen months after launching Ed Beckley’s real estate investment infomercial, I became disillusioned with the way the company was moving forward. I resigned in April 1986 and took a couple of months off before starting Hawthorne Communications, later to become Hawthorne Direct, and then become Hawthorne Advertising. In late June 1986, I was a one-person company with the goal to persuade Fortune 500 companies to add long-form TV commercials to their marketing mix. We were the first infomercial ad agency in the world and I was confident that virtually all products had, somewhere at their hearts, a fascinating story we tell and hold viewers’ attention for 28 minutes and 30 seconds.
The agency had a singular focus: TV long-form advertising. There was no road map for the industry. We invented it as we went along. Certainly Al Eicoff was the reigning master of DRTV (and his book “Or Your Money Back” a short-form DRTV bible) but his company focused on short-form DRTV (2 minutes or less). So I and my growing team began to innovate, and I began to write about and present the long form story to marketing groups and corporations literally around the world. There was no road map; we were the trailblazers.
A Litany of Firsts and Video Advertising Innovations
Chet: Trailblazer indeed. What are some of the innovations you have brought to the field of DRTV, infomercials, and more recently digital video programming? How has digital disruption affected the traditional DRTV and broadcast channel, from a marketing perspective?
Tim: I’ve been called a “leading architect” of the DRTV industry by producing an impressive string of “firsts”:
Co-founder and president of the first infomercial direct marketer to break the $50 million revenue per year mark, Fairfield Television Enterprises
Founder and chairman of the first infomercial advertising agency, Hawthorne Communications
Produced the first infomercial for: a Fortune 500 company – Time Life; a major music company – Time Life Music; a major credit card company – Discover Card; a major health insurance company – Blue Cross Blue Shield; and a retail driving campaign for a brand name product – Braun
Infomercial Agency of Record for the first infomercial for: a major computer company – Apple Computers; and a major weight loss company – Weight Watchers
Infomercial Agency of Record for the first “promo-mercial” – a half-hour promotion for a primetime TV series (NBC’s “JAG”)
Published the industry’s first newsletter: “The 1-800 Report”
Published the industry’s first hard-bound textbook on infomercials: “The Complete Guide to Infomercial Marketing”
Created the first long-form TV media buying computer analysis system – “Time Track”
Purchased the first long-term cable TV bulk media contract: Discover Network, for $50 per half hour, six hours per night
Established the first infomercial agency/traditional agency alliance with Earl Palmer Brown
As for innovations to digital video, Hawthorne was one of the first agencies to actively use video promotion on websites (late 1990s) and we pioneered the “drive online direct sales” with short-form TV commercials, which were designed to motivate new visitors to our web-based clients.
Yes, the digital economy has significantly disrupted DRTV, as it has the television entertainment model as a whole. With a 35% drop in primetime adult (18-49) viewership from 2015-2019, the era of aggregating mass audiences on broadcast TV is long over.
A Family Affair – and an Investment in the Future
Chet: Was it a great leap – or expansion – from Fairfield, Iowa (hey, I’m from Nebraska) to Los Angeles? What brought Hawthorne Advertising to LA (and beyond)? Was there a talent pool you needed there?
Tim: From the beginning, Hawthorne was somewhat disadvantaged being a national advertising agency headquartered in a small Iowa town. We did have a small LA office (two staff) from the early 90s to keep in touch with our West Coast clients. But when Jessica (my daughter) came on board in March 2007, she brought an energy and vision to the company previously unknown.
Her goal was to build the LA office and lead the company into a digital future. And she has done that in spades, making LA our headquarters, while our Iowa office strongly administratively supports LA to this day. Our LA office certainly had access to talent we always struggled to persuade to move to Iowa, as you, being a Nebraskan, are probably aware of. It was a brilliant move by Jessica which has allowed the company to continue to thrive going into our 35th year.
Chet: Well now we know why Marketing EDGE named Jessica Hawthorne-Castro a 2015 Rising Stars honoree. (You must be very proud!)
Tim: Yes, I’m very proud of Jessica’s ownership and leadership of the company. And it wasn’t by design. Jessica was a thriving talent agent at Endeavor, one of the few women agents at that male-dominated business with six years’ tenure. But she recognized that industry was missing certain business and spiritual values important to her. In February 2007, I coincidentally asked her if she had time to monitor a commercial talent audition in LA that we needed someone to attend. She did it, enjoyed it, and said she would be open to coming on board at Hawthorne. Over the next five years she soaked up the business, brought much-needed youthfulness to our efforts, advanced from client service associate to CEO, and built our LA office to 50-plus employees, while transforming the agency to a digital foundation.
Chet: As an author of several business books on DRTV and infomercial formats, and likely a bevy of company alumni in the field today, you’ve contributed so much to the professional development of data-driven marketers, marketing measurement, attribution and the like. What part of giving back to the field do you find most gratifying? Is there a particular “lifetime” achievement you’re most proud of?
Tim: My greatest achievement? Creating a company that has endured for 35 years and allowed hundreds of staff to learn, thrive, and grow in marketing knowledge and experience, while realizing greater personal achievement and confidence. We created a company that was a home for our staff to do great work amid friendship and respect. Undoubtedly my greatest achievement, far beyond any creative work for a client.
Thank you Tim – and we’re so happy to celebrate your contributions at the EDGE Awards come June 1. And much more video success ahead!
The world is changing. And while one can point to AI, machine learning, privacy literacy or blockchain when referring to change in the world of tech and marketing, the most impactful change will come from a massive shift in consumer behavior. Brands should not wait to witness this impending shift—they need to envision it and embrace it.
The confluence of several trends will lead to a significant paradigm shift in how Gen Z will behave as consumers:
The undeniable effects of climate change are now upon us. Both Gen Z and future generations will endure the effects of climate change that they do not deserve unless necessary action is taken now, and there is significant momentum pushing in that direction.
The urgency of climate change and the realizations surrounding it have driven a rapidly increasing demand and necessity for the sustainability of goods and services across all sectors.
The rise of impact investors (defined as investments made into companies, organizations and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return) will allow for more ethical, sustainable business models to take shape and compete in the marketplace.
The slow but continued persistence of the sharing economy, the adoption of a “rent, not own” mentality and the proliferation of on-demand, hardware-intensive services (think Lime or Bird scooters) will lead to decreased personal capital expenditures.
The explosion of “capacity capture” businesses such as Lyft and Airbnb point to a future where each and every resource will be utilized to its maximum capacity, not only for profitability, but also to reduce the unnecessary production of new goods.
All of this points to a future where sustainable products are not an option, but rather a requirement for a new generation of consumers. According to Cone Communications, Gen Z will account for 40% of global consumers in 2020 and 94% of them believe that companies should address urgent social and environmental issues. As Gen Z rises in the ranks of the workforce and they increase their purchasing power, they will judge and evaluate products and services with an expansive and decisive set of criteria when deciding on a brand or making a purchase—and brands need to be ready to compete.
According to Greenmatch, 72% of Gen Z would spend more money on goods and services produced in a sustainable fashion. However, in order for your product or your service to even be part of the consideration set, the baseline requirement will be that your brand has a positive impact on the environment—and moreover, that your brand is fully committed to sustainable and ethical practices. Most companies want to participate in sustainable practices, but some do not know where to start. Here are five tactics a company can use to embrace sustainability and be competitive in the marketplace:
Open up. Provide visibility into your sustainability model, including, for example, your supply chain.
Start small. Limit new sustainable product launches to smaller, focused audience segments; include higher price points to stress test price tolerance.
Iterate. Test messaging and product options with proven, direct-to-consumer playbook tactics to better understand actual product-market fit.
Be real. Don’t Greenwash. If you aren’t there, don’t spin it. Talking about how your product is eco-friendly because you source one sustainable component while the rest of it is associated with toxic practices will not fly.
Consumer behavior is always changing, of course. However, this juncture in human history is wildly different given the climate changes upon us and the effect they will have on how we use our purchasing power. The future is bright, and brands will do well by preparing for this impending shift, embracing it and taking this opportunity to have a positive impact on the world for everyone’s greater good.
Every day, advertising trends are emerging. These trends and tactics are newly developed as a means to best reach a target audience, whomever it may be. As such, advertisers are utilizing new marketing methods to reach the newcomers on the scene of consumerism: Gen Z. Here are some vital dos and don’ts advertisers should take into account when advertising to the Gen Z audience.
DO: Seek to Make an Authentic Connection With Consumers
Authenticity is paramount to a brand’s success in selling to the Gen Z audience. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, making connections has a whole new meaning for Gen Z, with the rise of technology. Social platforms have allowed for connection to feel more personal and more real than ever. As advertisers, taking advantage of this can make all of the difference. The more personalized social media marketing tactics present today make it inherently easier to reach your consumer. As a result, brands are more closely connected to their consumers than ever. Using this close contact to maintain an authentic relationship will go far with Gen Z. Interact with us and stay transparent; keep it real.
DON’T: Stick to Surface Level and Hope the Consumer Comes Knocking
With the tools at hand, not only is it easier than ever to make authentic connections with consumers, but it’s also more important than ever. The deep-rooted marketing tactics that credible companies have long used must be challenged to continue on successfully. Unless a brand’s marketing efforts dive deeper and seek to strike a chord with the emotions of Gen Z, they’ll likely have little to no luck. Remaining surface-level with the message advertised, along with how and what marketers choose to share about their products, just won’t work for a Gen Z audience. As consumers, Gen Z will never resonate with a brand unless there is a deep connection or story that sells the relationship between them and your product. This can only really be done if the campaign messaging hits hard on the reasons why it will truly enhance the lives of Gen Zers.
DO: Genuinely Care About Social Responsibility
One of the more exciting trends Gen Z can’t get enough of is social responsibility. Gen Z cares about the world they live in and the people in it, and are hungry for change to make a better tomorrow. They crave equality and want to help. Though these initiatives going mainstream have inevitably created some misconceptions, the overall adoption of these ideologies by brands is still a positive change, and Gen Z is excited about it. Whether products are ethically sourced and sustainably grown, or a company openly expresses its pro stance for transgender equality or that of female women employees, Gen Z feels incredibly satisfied to see these topics being taken on and embraced by brands.
DON’T: Stretch the Truth About Giving Back
If a company is moving toward more socially responsible initiatives, but isn’t quite there yet, that’s OK. The one thing that’s important to keep in mind as brands work to adopt more sustainable and socially responsible initiatives is to not stretch the truth. Becoming a socially responsible company does not happen overnight. As consumers, younger generations understand that. But during the process, brands should not market their products as sustainable or beneficial to a social justice cause, unless they truly are. Doing so will cause brands to look inauthentic to Gen Z when they do some online sleuthing and quickly find out the truth, ultimately driving away their business. Companies should simply state they are working toward it, and continue to do so. Gen Z prefers and appreciates sincerity and transparency as companies work toward a better future.
DO: Tap Into Trending News and Pop Culture
Pop culture is basically determined by young people. What’s cool, who’s not, and what’s funny on the Internet are some of the things Gen Z have precedence over, as generations prior have also ruled during their adolescence. This is nothing new. Tapping into pop culture can be one of the easiest ways to appeal to the Gen Z audience. Newsjacking, which is when brands creatively tailor trending news stories to bring attention to their own content, has proven successful on a number of occasions. Taking advantage of a situation for a brand’s own benefit seems intuitive and a win-win, as both the story/topic and the brand gain more exposure. However, when specifically targeting a young generation, it is vital to have a deep understanding of the topic before applying it to a brand inaccurately or overdoing it.
DON’T: Overdo the References in an Attempt to Relate to Gen Z
The easiest way to understand Gen Z is to pay attention to the media they consume. With that said, however, it’s important to remember that just because you’re in on a meme about Baby Yoda or Billie Eilish secretly being the same person as Lil Xan, doesn’t mean you can seamlessly relate to them. Though utilizing a pop culture reference can go extremely well in selling to Gen Z, it’s pretty easy to spot when it’s been done incorrectly by an older generational brand. This may seems like a simple way to get on the radar of Gen Z, but it’s really important to make sure it’s done right. Don’t take advantage of pop culture references and don’t overuse them for the sake of a potentially easy connection. Only newsjack pop culture and trending news if it really fits in with your brand identity and if you really understand the happenings.
Millennials and Generation Zers are both notorious for shaking up the status quo in more ways than one. They’ve both broken out of a shell that generations prior were determined to mold themselves to. This fact, along with their closeness in age, have led many to believe that they have a lot of commonalities that can accommodate similar generational marketing strategies.
While they are adjacent generations, the qualities in which they have gained notoriety differ, especially as consumers. The rise of the newest wave of consumers, who make up roughly 40% of all customers in the market, is certainly creating changes as Gen Z’s desires are not perfectly aligned with their older generational neighbors. The people who make up this group were born between 1997 and 2012.
At the same time, this does not imply that advertisers should stop pushing their marketing efforts toward Millennials. Simply put, Millennials largely contribute to the U.S. economic capital with a generational wealth estimated at $24 trillion. This group is made up of people born between 1981 and 1996.
With these statistics in mind, it is important that brands learn how to make the most of both unique generational consumer behaviors. Here are different elements advertisers should keep in mind when targeting a Millennial vs. a Gen Z demographic.
Before we break down the differences these two generations have as consumers, it’s important to acknowledge they do still have quite a bit in common. First, both groups are well-versed in social media and the amount of time they spend plugged in doesn’t vary too drastically.
Even at an average of 20 minutes less per day, Millennials were young and impressionable when the age of the Internet came to be and, as such, they are just about as savvy in social media as is Gen Z.
Though there are undoubtedly many similarities in the grand scheme of things, these generational differences must also be considered in order for marketers to successfully cater to both.
Attitude Toward Spending
Interestingly, the way Millennials’ and Gen Zers’ finances differ is quite great.
Many Millennials were young adults when the Great Recession hit the U.S. in 2007. Growing up with a poor economy at large taught this group to place value on quality over quantity, as they remain mostly optimistic about their personal finances.
How Can Brands Successfully Cater to Both Spending Behaviors?
For Millennials, quality over quantity means they are looking to invest their money in brands that create a unique product or experience that will noticeably enhance their quality of living. Millennials are inclined to do significant research before making a purchase, ensuring they’ve found the most beneficial product or experience for them. This is good news for marketers, as Millennials are constantly on the lookout for the next best thing to help them in their everyday lives. All brands need to do is prove they are the ones Millennials should be investing their time and money in, and they may have customers for life.
For Gen Z, it’s best to get right to it. Let the consumer know exactly why the product or experience is the best one for them and why it’s worth the money. As previously mentioned, this generation is very focused on responsible spending as a result of their early memories of the Great Recession. So, if you want to sell to Gen Z, make sure you keep your brand’s feet firmly planted on the ground. Approach selling in a practical manner and make sure your product has a clear purpose for its consumer.
Feeling Connected Through Social Media
It is apparent that both generations are avid social media users, and the feeling of connection that social media creates is well enjoyed by both. However, the ways they best receive those feelings of connection vary.
How Can Brands Leverage Connection in Their Marketing Efforts?
Millennials prefer the more traditional social media platforms and sharing techniques, because they’re easy ways to feel seen and heard. Brands can leverage this in their customer journeys through interaction: asking consumers questions, encouraging them to communicate in comments sections, and more. This creates a space where Millennials feel valued and contributes to their attitude that a brand can better their lives on a deeply personal level.
Gen Z’s short attention span makes their marketing needs exclusively geared toward them. Cut to the chase and get down to benefits of the product — this is the best way to reach them on their preferred social platforms. Utilizing influencers for brand marketing is an effective way to connect to this audience. With 10-second Instagram stories and #sponsored posts, brands can use their preferred social platforms to connect in a unique way that feels authentic to Gen Z.
Embracing Generational Differences as Marketers and Advertisers
As two groups who came one after the other, it’s no surprise that Millennials and Generation Z are very similar. Both known for questioning common ideas the predecessing generations easily accepted, the two generations have redefined marketing in a new era for brands. They value authenticity, social responsibility, and inclusion. But both have different consumer behaviors when it comes to their finances and how they connect. For marketers, it is more important than ever to optimize and strategize based on their ever-changing habits as consumers
For all intents and purposes, Instagram’s latest power move has an alibi: The platform claims to be more concerned with the well-being of its users than with making a profit. Whether or not the company’s true motives are in line with reducing mental illness in its young users — including their stress, anxiety, and depression — the test has certainly changed the way the platform operates.
Diving into the many possible outcomes of this potential change is essential for marketers and Instagram users, alike, in order to best understand what to expect from the future of social media.
It comes as no surprise that many of the users who are angry fall under the influencer and celebrity category. For many of them, Instagram likes have completely built their platforms as social media stars. Many of them uncovered the amount of engagement it took from early on and were able to build a fan base of loyal likers in order to gain enough clout to start being paid for promotions. It has been hypothesized by some influencers that Instagram doesn’t actually care at all about the well-being of its users. In fact, while its CEO claims the company “will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s health,” others are claiming that the test goes deeper than that, and is ultimately in favor of Instagram’s business: It has been hypothesized that this is being done as a means for control.
While influencers do have a home on Instagram, the brand deals and partnerships they forge on the platform do not currently have anything in them for Instagram. Thus, the removal of likes could make it so that marketers opt to spend their advertising dollars directly through Instagram, more heavily utilizing Instagram’s advertising tools. This begs the question(s): Why would they no longer go through influencers? Can they still get a feel for the overall engagement a user has? Unfortunately, because the metrics marketers rely on when selecting influencers will no longer be visible, it may become challenging to obtain real and true metrics, as these numbers can be easily manipulated if sent over from the source.
More obviously, many Instagram users are excited; particularly younger users and their parents. Having the platform to rely on for social status and humble brags has created uncharted territory in the adolescent social scene. Likes are the most obvious cool factor when looking at a user’s profile. For regular users who peruse Instagram as a social tool and not to create a business, the pressure to depend on likes as a means of validation, a measurement of self-worth, and a ranking of social status, could completely shift the way young users post. This feeling of “not being enough” if you don’t have the most likes in your social circle is exactly what Instagram claims to be tackling head-on with this test.
But this may not just be a positive change for common users; some influencers have actually expressed their excitement and support for the change, as well. As mentioned, Instagram has evolved over the years from a simple photo-sharing tool to a space where people are constantly trying to be the very best on the scene.
For those who have felt the need to conform to the more popular style of posts, removing likes would mean they may no longer feel constricted or bound to posting things that are guaranteed to perform well (i.e. attract enough likes to deem them relevant enough for the top of the feed). This may allow for a more fruitful array of postings from influencers, celebrities, and young users of Instagram, bringing back into the picture a sense of creative freedom and self-worth.
What It All Means for Users and Marketers, Alike
Whether or not the test is here to stay, the statement it’s made so far has shaken many of its users, and most have an opinion. From regular users — particularly those in Generation Z — to influencers and celebrities, and brands that use Instagram as part of their sales funnel, the feelings of frustration and utter glee are certainly worth evaluating as Instagram chooses how to move forward.
Generation Z, the post-Millennial group of digital natives born after 1997 who have an insatiable desire for instant gratification and personalization in all aspects of their lives, is arguably the most unique generation to come. Advertising to the emerging Gen Z consumer is both as challenging and simple as it has ever been, which is an oxymoron in itself. But it perhaps explains the complexity of this 32% of the global population, which is edging out Millennials.
Before we get into methods for marketing to Gen Z, it’s important to understand who this generation is and the qualities that make them unique. Generation Z has never lived in a world without the web. The Internet has always existed for Gen Z; though it has evolved into an entire entity in the last decade or so, life without an online presence is but a vague and distant memory to them. In this day and age, 96% of Generation Z members own a smartphone and, on average, they spend more than three hours a day perusing their devices. Social media is the beast that lies within these smartphones and has proven to be a powerful tool highly utilized by this generation.
For some, reaching Generation Z may seem difficult for this very reason — from the outside in, they are seemingly out of touch with the real world. For advertisers, however, it has made Gen Z more reachable than any preceding generation. Making a connection has a whole new meaning in advertising, due to the realm of social media and smartphones. Here are best practices on how to reach and engage with the Gen Z audience:
Reaching the Gen Z Audience
While Gen Zers have earned a reputation as arduous customers, there are various methods advertisers can tap into to successfully sell their brands/products to this tenacious bunch. As a well-informed and arguably opinionated generation, they generally respond well to brands that earn their loyalty as customers. This is unique to Gen Z, as other generations have typically chosen what they consume based on tradition. And just how can advertisers earn their loyalty? Sell the all-encompassing brand and its story to give it a sense of relatability.
When determining how to best reach this demographic, one word should be kept top of mind: authenticity. Research shows that 63% of Generation Z want marketing from “real” people, as opposed to celebrity endorsers. I put “real” in quotation marks, because this category does not stop at trusted friends and family of Gen Zers. A trusted source or friend can be found anywhere from an inner circle to their favorite social media influencers and bloggers. Influencer marketing has proven successful with this generation, because hearing about a product from an average, everyday person (with 10,000-plus social media followers, that is) resonates more deeply with Gen Z than seeing a high-profile celebrity endorse everyday items.
Influencers are more trusted by Generation Z because they don’t seem like they’re trying to persuade; rather, they’re just filling their audience in on something they enjoy. In turn, influencer marketing does not feel like corporate manipulation. Furthermore, their followers are just that: people who follow and are invested in their lives. They are already sold on the person, which makes it easy to trust their opinion.
Keep Reaching Out/Retargeting
Online retargeting is key in engaging this generation and staying top of mind. Once Gen Zers begin researching a brand, it is vital to remain relevant to them, and retargeting is one of the best ways to do so. It is an easy way to take them through the buying process, so they end up as loyal brand advocates. As a generation obsessed with fast-paced, instantaneous moments, it can be easy to forget about something if it’s not reinforced. Retargeting — by means of social media and banner and display ads — is paramount to success with Gen Zers.
With the power of online retargeting, however, it is important to put a cap on the frequency, as to not fatigue the potential buyers. If a member of this group sees an ad too frequently, it can wind up in lost interest. They may feel it is being pushed too hard on them — which is quite the opposite of feeling authentic and caring.
Online reviews are another important factor when Generation Z considers a product. Creating a space where they can hear from people of a similar background in a written or spoken testimonial to the product can make all the difference. Reviews get customers involved and allow their voices to be heard, tying in an element of personalization. In order to receive genuinely positive and highly regarded reviews from Gen Z, it’s important a company is honest, maintains the quality it guarantees, and makes them feel special throughout the process. They don’t want to be considered another number; rather, they’d like to feel included and impactful.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Generation Z also cares deeply about brands that have a positive social or environmental impact. It is of the utmost importance for a brand to come across as one that cares — in all aspects. Though Gen Z can seem like they lack character or substance, because they spend so much time disconnected from the world around them, this group actually has a tendency to express their values online and want to vocalize those beliefs. Therefore, they appreciate when a company does the same. Voicing inclusivity, social justice, and sustainability can majorly impact a Gen Z target while they determine whether a brand is worthy of their purchase. Typically, members of this generation look at a brand from a holistic standpoint before deciding to become a customer or not. This is why a company’s social media presence is one of the most important upkeeps. Serving as a place to express oneself, it’s the prime method to communicate a brand’s progressive values.
Ultimately, the best way to engage with Gen Z and make them purchase is to foster a connection that does not feel contrived. They love realness above all and prefer that a company is upfront with what it has to offer and what it values holistically. With technology at the tips of their fingers, Gen Z members have almost always done their research before purchasing. This is why marketing to them is more crucial than ever: the way a brand portrays itself online and the decisions it makes can make or break its profitability. Advertising geared toward Gen Z should always pique their interest and keep that interest alive until they decide it’s time to buy. The initial point of contact in getting this audience’s attention will push them to look further into a brand to ensure it’s something they’re interested in putting their money toward. As such, it is vital to a company’s success to maintain strong marketing and advertising tactics — from start to finish, throughout the buying process.
Brands: Show You Care About Gen Z
The bottom line of advertising to the Generation Z audience is that you should always sell the brand as one that cares not only about its own success, but also about the success and ultimate happiness of its customers. Maintaining happy customers, at the end of the day, is the main driving force behind the success of any Gen Z-focused company.