5 Performance Marketing Trends to Watch in 2022

From new payment solutions to the continuing convergence of social media and shopping, brands must navigate several purchase paths

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Brands that can stay flexible with the current environment while delivering products and services consumers are looking for will always come out ahead, writes Jessica Hawthorne-Castro.

As consumer preferences change and the various ways to reach them continue to proliferate, finding the right approach can be challenging. There are generational factors to consider, emerging opportunities to explore and new hurdles to jump along the path to finding the right marketing mix.

To complicate things further, every new year seems to bring a host of new opportunities worth exploring. To help, we’ve whittled down our list of trends to watch to five key points all performance marketers will want to pay attention to in 2022. Here they are:

1. New ways for consumers to pay for their purchases

From cryptocurrency to Venmo to simplified multi-pay financing arrangements like Afterpay and Affirm, your customers expect these and other options to be at their fingertips as they hit “buy now” on your website. They’re also looking for a seamless experience enabled by QR codes, which cut down on the number of clicks it takes to look at, read reviews about and buy a product or service. These and other trends took hold in 2021 and we expect them to continue and even escalate over the coming months.

2. Social media continues its reign

Try as they might, the powers that be have yet to come up with a more engaging and interesting way to connect with customers and prospects online. For now, at least, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube continue to offer marketers the most affordable and direct way to achieve that goal. And because younger generations are among the biggest users of social media, it’s also an effective way to reach Millennial and Gen Z consumers on their own territory. The social media fire has been stoked and 2022 may be the year that these platforms become the go-to media opportunity for a wider range of companies.

3. Marketers are obsessed with monetizing TikTok

Within these social media circles, TikTok stands out as one of the biggest opportunity areas for the year ahead. That’s because marketers spent much of 2021 figuring out how to monetize this platform and, from our own research, some of them have found the right combination. And while TikTok doesn’t offer video creators the opportunity to monetize their videos, it does provide an Ads Manager service that companies can use to choose a goal, select an audience, set a budget and design an ad. TikTok may be considered one of the newer social media platforms, but it’s already proven to be a major competitor by doubling the number of Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter users within a short timeframe. Amazon even created an entire page based on popular products recommended by TikTok users at Tik Tok Amazon Finds.

4. Subscription delivery services evade the supply chain challenges

The global pandemic disrupted supply chains to the point where products lingered unfinished on the manufacturing floor; container ships sat stacked up outside of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles; and stores left entire store aisles empty for lack of product to place on them. Any company that made, sold or distributed products likely managed disruption at some point during 2021, but organizations whose models incorporated subscription delivery services were able to avoid some or all of this strife. Software companies, TV networks, travel services, publications and others all fulfilled orders virtually, thus avoiding the supply chain snarls. We see this continuing during the year ahead as more companies add virtual subscription opportunities to their product offerings.

5. YouTube continues to morph into a shopping destination

In November, YouTube launched a weeklong livestreaming event called “Holiday Stream and Shop.” According to BNN Bloomberg, select social media stars sold their own merchandise and brand-name products directly on the platform. In the weeks that followed, YouTubers could hawk goods from their videos, a concept known as “shoppable video.” The publication says this is all part of the company’s “biggest push yet to become a shopping destination.” This will likely be a game changer for 2022 and beyond, seeing that purchases made on social media exceeded $36 billion in 2021. We can’t wait to watch the continued convergence of video and social media—an opportunity that will be open to both emerging and established brands over the coming year (and beyond).

As we usher in 2022, brands will continue to need to meet consumers’ growing needs with the discussed payment method expansion and reaching them across streaming and social media platform. The types of brands that can stay flexible with the current environment while delivering products and services consumers are looking for to enhance their lives will always come out ahead and succeed.

11 Expert Predictions On The Future Of Video Marketing

Video has been consumers’ favorite method of content delivery for some time now, but marketers are always finding unique ways to utilize it in their outreach to current and prospective customers. From short-form videos on TikTok and Instagram Reels to various livestreaming platforms and influencers unboxing products, the biggest trends in video marketing that compel consumers to check out brands and purchase their products and services are constantly evolving.

Of course, determining the best way to leverage video in your brand’s marketing this holiday season and into the new year isn’t as simple as reading a “top trends” list, but that’s one good way to start. Here, 11 members of Forbes Agency Council share their top predictions for the future of video marketing to help guide marketers in making the best use of this increasingly critical tool for reaching and capturing the attention of target audiences.
Forbes Agency Council

1. Data Will Drive Video Content Strategy For Each Platform

Video is still one of the best ways to connect emotionally with a consumer. Data will increasingly drive content strategy and optimization, while the speed at which video content is produced will continue to get even faster. Creating tailored content for each specific platform will become increasingly important as well—such as TikTok versus Instagram, a TV commercial or even long-form content, for example. – James Schiefer, Schiefer Chopshop

2. OTT/CTV Will Capture More Advertising Dollars

Over-the-top, connected TV will capture increasing portions of marketing budgets for several reasons, including audience size, user modality, ad completion rates and measurability for performance advertisers, as we can now measure CTV ad exposure against actual business outcomes such as clicks, sales and return on ad spend. And perhaps the overriding reason dollars will flow into OTT/CTV is that the TV remains the most powerful, influential screen in our lives. – Jason Fairchild, tvScientific, Inc.

3. Livestreaming Video Will Continue To Grow

Livestreaming video will continue its explosive growth, especially via esports. For example, adding Twitch has been a key factor in Amazon’s OTT viewership surge. Livestreaming offers opportunities where traditional sponsorships are out of reach due to high minimums. Plus, it provides richer analytics that are a broadcast/digital blend and tie in more closely to brand KPIs versus standard impression delivery/reach. – Greg Garunov, Sightly

4. Soundless Influencer Videos Will Drive Conversions

Video continues to be a key driver to close the sale of your company’s product. Partner with influencers who successfully use or demo your product in a time-lapsed or simple version without sound or a voice-over. This is key to having the product pop up in consumers’ social media feeds, leading users to demo it and click through to purchase. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

5. Promotion Via Free Video Features Will Keep Users Engaged

Videos are the most effective and popular way to grow an audience on social media. At this moment, there are only two free features to promote your product or service on Instagram, and both are video-based content: Reels and Live Rooms. TikTok is growing faster than other apps because videos keep users engaged better than text-based posts. – Oganes Vagramovich Barsegyan, Digital Beverly Marketing Solutions

6. Video Marketing Will Get Even More Granular To The Viewer

Mass video consumption through OTT will become much more specific thanks to retargeting capabilities, and you’ll see a lot more advertising in mainstream media formats that are individualized for that viewer. – Spencer Hadelman, Advantage Marketing

7. Data and Artificial Intelligence Are The Future Of Video Marketing

As more brands than ever integrate products directly into video content, and as that content continues to be decentralized, tech will be critical in predicting which options will be most impactful. AI unlocks insight into optimized brand/creator/influencer partnerships, allowing brands to maximize return on investment and granting creators the ability to monetize content. – Ricky Ray Butler, BEN

8. Audience Quantification Will Replace Household-Level Data

As consumers increasingly adopt digital video, the household-level data used for measurement must be replaced with more accurate audience quantification to capture true frequency and reach across linear, streaming and CTV. Additionally, engagement and acquisition will play a larger role in video marketing as attribution becomes more sophisticated, video formats blend and buying processes become less segmented. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

9. Video Will Soon Become A Necessity For Marketers

If you look at the current trends in digital (social, paid, email), notice the amount of movement that you are seeing on each channel. Then notice how much more prevalent it is than before. Since platforms (such as Instagram) are favoring accounts that post video content, this will very soon become a necessity for marketers. My advice is to step out of your comfort zone; you will need video soon. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

10. More Niche Sites Offering Curated Videos Will Launch

Full-screen mobile video feeds, such as those seen on TikTok or Instagram Stories, will have a long shelf life with mobile users. These curated journeys provide an endless experience tailored exactly for each user. Expect to see more niche sites launch with similar forms of short-form, vertical video content. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

11. Brands Will Need To Leverage Influencer Video Content

The future of video marketing is going to rely more on the content produced by a brand’s customers than the content produced by the brand itself. Regardless of what you think of influencers, the fact is their content is enjoyed more than any brand’s content. Smart organizations will need to leverage influencer video content if they want to stay ahead of their competitors. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

Understanding Why TikTok Appeals to Young People Is Key to Brands Reaching Them

It’s no secret that young people gravitate to the newest things, the latest trends and the hottest styles as they grow and establish their individual identities. For many teens and college-age students right now, social media newcomer TikTok stands out as the preferred conduit for watching, creating and sharing short videos.

TikTok AdWeekSolen Feyissa, Shingi Rice/Unsplash

In July, TikTok upped its video length limit from 1 minute to 3 minutes with the goal of supporting even richer storytelling and entertainment. “With all the ways our community has redefined expression in under 60 seconds, we’re excited to see how people continue to entertain and inspire with a few more seconds and a world of creative possibilities,” the company said.

“A lot of times you don’t even have to search for what you’re looking for on TikTok. It’s just there.”

A prime target
With a longer video format to work with and a young user base to tap into, TikTok is a prime target for performance marketers looking to rise above the digital clutter and reach new audiences. Offering a continuous stream of content that users can scroll through, the platform curates the videos for each person based on their viewing history.

“A lot of times you don’t even have to search for what you’re looking for on TikTok,” said one college student. “It’s just there.” She especially likes content such as fashion videos that provide information about where to buy the clothing and accessories, and clips about what to bring to college, where to buy your books and how to manage your time.
TikTok also helps to break down some of the social anxieties that younger consumers may have naturally developed as part of the social media generation. That’s because it’s more helpful and collaborative than other social media platforms. It encourages questions and collaboration, for example, and is known for its supportive, less-judgmental tones.

Finally, TikTok promotes individuality and helps users cope with the stress of the global pandemic and isolation by helping to connect people.

Types of TikTok advertising
Similar to the early days of digital advertising, TikTok creators may display “I’m not being paid for this” disclaimers on their clips, while influencers who create ads label them as such at the bottom of their videos. I would estimate that most of endorsements fall into the first bucket, and are seen as genuine, organic recommendations. And while these may not be official, paid advertising relationships, it’s likely that the creators are getting free products and/or teeing themselves up to become influencers.

Many of these influencers have millions of followers and have previously signed brand deals on platforms like YouTube and Instagram to promote products and services to their audience. “TikTok is no different, and the power of followers can be harnessed the same way,” Ruth Matthews writes in 6 Easy Ways to Use TikTok for Marketing in a Gen Z World.

Because successful content on TikTok isn’t overly curated and relies on user input, influencers can get creative with how they promote brands. “Some examples of this are wearing a piece of relevant clothing or filming themselves using one of your products as part of their day-to-day lifestyle,” Matthews writes.

Still, the balance between brands and influencers over creative license is delicate—and desire to go viral often comes up against a brand’s stricter standards of what it can get behind.

Another opportunity for brands on the platform is ecommerce. TikTok recently announced a partnership with Shopify, including the launch of TikTok Shopping, a partnership with select Shopify merchants. The introduction of new tools will allow Shopify merchants to create, run and optimize their TikTok marketing campaigns directly from the Shopify dashboard. Kylie Jenner is among the early adopters of the new service for her Kylie Cosmetics brand.

Taking that first step
For performance marketers, TikTok is a viable platform for reaching younger consumers and getting their products into the algorithm for recommendations (e.g., back to school, trends, clothing, electronics, etc.) The return on investment can be high because this is where younger audiences are spending their time right now. Meeting them where they are with relevant, useful content and product offerings can be well worth the effort.

Making Up for Lost Time: How Younger Consumers Are Spending Their Summers

What Gen Y and Z are doing and how performance marketers can reach them where they are

As the world continues to open up, marketers are rethinking how they connect with and engage Gen Y and Z consumers, many of whom have been cooped up for the last 16 or so months.

Summer is looking very different for Gen Y and Z consumers right now. Now aged 13 to 39, these generation groups are spending more time with their families, taking outdoor hikes, enjoying time off from school and hanging out with their friends. For entertainment, they’re going to the movies, taking vacations and watching summer sports.

According to a recent YPulse survey, Gen Y and Z are doing more of all of these things as the nation continues to emerge from the global pandemic. For example, 80% of the under-40 set is spending time with family this summer (up from 66% in 2020), 62% are enjoying barbecues (versus 41% last year) and 60% are going to the beach or pool (36% in 2020).

“Summer 2020 was shaped by the pandemic,” YPulse points out. “And while there has been uncertainty around whether ‘normal’ would make a return this year, [our] data shows that young people are planning to get out and make up for lost time this summer.”

Meeting them where they are
Tired of only being able to socialize via mobile phone or Zoom, Gen Y and Z want to get outside, hike, explore the mountains and take a dip in the ocean. As they get back to experiencing some of life’s simple pleasures, they’re also spending more time with friends and family.

“Everyone’s been stuck inside for months, so we want to get outside. It’s not necessarily about doing a big activity; we just want to get out,” said one 20-something Hawthorne employee who shared her thoughts with me for this article. With TikTok as a favored social channel, she says she’s been seeing more targeted ads on that platform plus more billboards and signpost stickers popping up around her town.

Here are four more avenues that marketers can explore as they attempt to pin down their Gen Z and Y audiences this summer:

Social media ads. The TikTok “For You” pages feature continuous, scrolling videos that feature subtle ads made to look like other TikToks. Viewers may not realize they’re watching an ad until they’re halfway through it. Snapchat stories takes a similar approach, but using articles that people can read by clicking through to them, while Instagram stories include sponsored feeds—also subtle and not as noticeable for viewers.

Music to their ears. Streaming music services like Spotify, Apple and YouTube also present opportunities for marketers, knowing that Gen Z’ers heading to a beach barbecue will probably take along a speaker with them. With audio ads, marketers can reach active listeners on any device, in any environment, throughout the day. That’s because the ads are served up between songs, while there are no distractions.

Geotargeting. The delivery of different content to visitors based on their geolocations, geotargeting helps companies reach Gen Y and Z consumers when they are out and about. If they’re gathered around a firepit set up in a restaurant’s outdoor seating area, for example, these youngers are constantly checking their phones and social feeds. The group that plans to hit the beach within the next few days may need new beach towels, umbrellas or coolers for the outing. Using geotargeting, marketers can hit them while they’re making plans and writing up their shopping lists.

Video games. They may be heading outdoors, but Gens Y and Z still love their video games. This presents an opportunity for marketers to create in-app ads on the popular gaming platforms. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Digital Media Trends survey, Gen Z consumers say video games are their top entertainment activity, with 87% of them playing video games on a daily or weekly basis. “Video games were already growing significantly before Covid-19, but have been amplified during the pandemic,” Deloitte points out. “Many are playing daily to fill idle time, connect with friends, compete with opponents and escape into stories.”

Rethinking connections and engagement
As the world continues to open up, marketers are rethinking how they connect with and engage Gen Y and Z consumers, many of whom have been cooped up for the last 16 or so months. And while the national vaccine rollout is still in full swing, and the worldwide impacts of the pandemic have yet to subside, individuals are looking to make up for lost time this summer. For marketers, it’s the perfect opportunity to meet consumers where they are and give them valuable information, content and products that they’re hungering for.

7 Engaging Ways to Advertise to Upcoming Generations on TikTok

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.

TikTok

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. Branded Filters and Effects: These are branded 2D or 3D camera effects users can add while creating videos in a fun and interactive way.
  5. 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.

COVID-19’s Impact on Millennial and Gen Z Media Habits — And How Marketers Should Pivot

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.

COVID 19 Millennial Phone

“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.

Tailoring Your Marketing Messages to Gen Y and Gen Z Consumers

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.

Gen Z

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.