How best to reach the youth of today – Generation Z – a demographic that prizes individualism and authenticity? Waldi Hoon answers the question.
What impact will the roll out of a student media channel at South Africa’s top universities have for brands looking to reach this influential market?
Access. It has been notoriously difficult to attract the attention of Gen Z within their campus environments. With BOO!’s Student Media solutions, brands are able to reach students in a non-obtrusive, hard to ignore way, and frame their brand message within an environment where students may be more open to marketing, especially if it is underpinned with a positive brand message.
How should brands best market to this youth demographic?
By being as relevant to their audience as possible. Think about what makes this market tick, what do they relate to and how is that relevant for the brand, product or service targeted at them? Relatable stories, characters or environments will immediately spark interest in this audience and if brands find a clever way to integrate their product within this, it will form a positive association for this youth audience, which will make them more open to receiving messaging from the brand. This audience is loyal to brands that align with their values and ways of thinking.
Another important consideration is focusing the key messaging around what the youth can get out of it. How does this brand, product or service personally impact this individual’s life for the better?
At the end of the day it boils down to a balance of message (content), distribution and audience. Gen Z is a novel audience accessed through many distribution platforms. A brand’s message should be tailored to be relevant to this generation on the platform they are receiving it.
Brands should collaborate closely with their desired distribution partners at the strategy phase so that their creative teams are informed of the capabilities of the distribution platforms and can best develop their campaign for the audiences within these environments. This is applicable to all campaigns, not just those targeted at Gen Z – but with Gen Z this is extremely important as they are hyper-critical of advertising and will expect excellence from brands targeting them.
Why, in your opinion, are Generation Z one of the most influential population demographics of modern times and how do they differ from Millennials?
Gen Z has grown to be a resilient, strong and fearless generation. They have grown up with access to platforms that allow them to showcase their views and opinions easily, and it is a big part of who they are. Their online presence is a mirror of their personal perception and therefore encompasses everything from what they like wearing, to their opinion on climate change.
Beyond this they are incredibly well informed. Growing up ‘Googling’, they have always had access to an endless supply of information on any topic. Being ‘Tech Innate’ (as opposed to Millennials who are ‘Tech Savvy’), there is nothing they can’t find out, can’t figure out, can’t solve. They are very aware of the social and economic pressures of our society, and also believe that they can have an impact on solving it.
They are influential because they’ve grown up with immediate access to likeminded communities where they can immediately publish their ideas and ideologies.
What tips can you give brand managers and marketing managers wanting to reach Generation Z?
I recently workshopped this with a wonderful intern we had, a second year student at Vega, who himself is Gen Z, and we came up with the following core pillars to focus on when communicating to Gen Z:
Be Real: Don’t downplay the social and economic pressures of the youth today. Brands that don’t try to sugar-coat reality are better received and tend to win the trust of Gen Z faster.
Be Fluid: Gen Z consists of a myriad of individuals who don’t all fit into the same box even though we tend to deal with them this way. Individuality is key for this demographic and brands that celebrate individuality, inclusiveness and originality in their content will resonate better with this audience.
Be Honest: Gen Z is curious and investigative, they will see through any falseness quickly. Understand that many people in this audience may understand marketing (especially on digital platforms) as well as, if not better, than we do and do not take lightly to feeling manipulated. There are no secrets from Gen Z, so playing it straight is the only way to go.
Research, research, research – speak to people who are dealing directly with this audience on a regular basis. We continuously collaborate with our university partners to better understand the youth today and we love sharing this with brave brands who want to create impactful campaigns.
Why is digital OOH and OOH media one of the best channels to reach Generation Z?
Digital OOH and OOH is a great amplifier of content and digital platforms. In OOH we have the opportunity to create campaigns that are impossible to ignore as they are part of the physical environment we all live in. You don’t get to unfollow the wall surrounding the stairs you have to climb to class each day, BUT as marketers we have to engage and excite this audience in a very short space of time in order for the campaign to be a success.
I believe that OOH/DOOH can be a brilliant amplifier of digital platforms and a key driver of traffic – catch someone’s eye with OOH and direct them to the digital platform where they can find out more. OOH is not a competitor of other media, but rather an excellent driver and amplifier.
Waldi Hoon (nee Du Toit) is general manager and executive producer of BOO! Surprising Media Solutions. The company launched its student media solution, including Campus TV, in February at South Africa’s top universities.