How to Build a Marketing Campaign that Appeals to Generation Z

Teenagers addiction to smart phones and social media
Leonardo Patrizi — Getty Images

Technology enables brands to connect with audiences on a personal level cost effectively, at incredible scale. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat all provide customizable platforms for businesses to reach their customers.

However, just because you build a social media account doesn’t mean anyone is going to pay attention. This is particularly true for Generation Z-ers, or those of us born after 1996. We represent a huge portion of the consumer spending power, but it often feels as if brands aren’t even trying to understand us.

Which is a shame, because it isn’t hard! The root of the problem stems from one key (and easily fixable) issue: companies aren’t talking to their users.

That’s right. Brands are neglecting perhaps the most important factor in building their social media marketing strategies: collecting raw, honest feedback from real customers. This is particularly important for Generation Z, a group that hasn’t entered the workforce yet, and one that many brands regard as strangers.

The best way for brands to learn more about this segment is to do one thing: ask them what they do and don’t like. Creating this feedback loop through consistent, honest conversations is one of the best, if not the only way, to build relationships with Gen Z and learn more about them.

Modern digital channels make it convenient and affordable for brands to start conversations with Gen Z. The best brands leverage strategies like running Instagram contests or putting out Twitter polls so that they can interact with, and hear from their customers, on a daily basis. An active social media presence is one of the easiest ways that a brand can build credibility with, and get feedback from, an audience.

There’s no replacement for real, personalized feedback. That said, here are two general traits that Generation Z wants to see in your social media campaign.

1. Authenticity

“The first, and most prominent mistake I see brands make via their social media strategies is that they create an ingenious character to represent their image,” says Gregg Witt, executive vice president of Youth Marketing at Motivate Youth. “Gen Z wants real. Gen Z wants transparency. And Gen Z wants originality.”

Every day, it seems another company launches a Snapchat account in an attempt to reach a younger audience. You can feel the weight of this collective effort. Some have even started posting “behind the scenes” Snapchat stories to promote their products, a format that’s been used so many times, it feels unoriginal and uninspiring. Similarly, every time I see a brand promote another DJ-Khaled style Q&A on Snapchat, I lose a little respect. That’s just lazy.

The best brands on Snapchat are the ones that talk to their audience in a fresh, authentic way. Taco Bell is a great example of this. The company has elevated its brand above competitors on social media by with its creative approach to Snapchat marketing. One of Taco Bell’s most viral stunts was launching the Taco Snapchat filter, which was viewed a record 220 million-plus times during Cinco De Mayo. The customized lens hit all the right levers: it gave users a fun, humorous feature that also raised awareness of the company’s products. Taco Bell continues to strike the perfect balance between entertainment and value, which means it continues to win new fans.

2. Functionality

“As a brand, you should be building social strategies that your customer will want to digest. You should not try and force them to view or read anything,” says Logan Young, director of operations at BlitzMetrics, a New York company that creates, small-scale targeted social media campaigns for its clients.

I couldn’t agree more. If there is one thing Gen Z values most, it’s time. The best brands leverage new technology to provide customers with an added layer of functionality and convenience.

For example, luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Everlane are using Facebook Messenger to provide shoppers with seamless customer support. Through messenger chat, these brands answer questions, provide shipping updates, and help shoppers find new products, all in real time.

This is a huge advancement over antiquated forms of customer service. Particularly for Generation Z, a group used to instant feedback, having to wait for a response is a good way to kill customer engagement and satisfaction.

A great way to provide value is to focus on one of two things: functionality or entertainment. If you can hit on one, or ideally both metrics, Generation Z will pay attention.

– Connor Blakley is a youth marketing strategist.

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