Andy Culbert on how best to cater to Gen Z’s wants, needs, and habits

Fol­low­ing in-depth re­search into Gen Z’s wants, needs and habits, Andy Culbert re­veals how to gain their at­ten­tion

Computer Arts - - Contents - ANDY CULBERT Part­ner, MERó­

Dubbed “more in­flu­en­tial than mil­len­ni­als” by the Fi­nan­cial Post and with an es­ti­mated spend­ing power of £109 bil­lion, it’s no won­der de­sign­ers are up­ping their game to grab the at­ten­tion of Gen Z – the co­hort of dig­i­tal na­tives now en­ter­ing the work­force.

Our own re­search sup­ports in­dus­try find­ings that Gen Z has a strong level of self-di­rec­tion. Com­prised of sel­f­re­liant in­no­va­tors, they’re driven by ex­pe­ri­ences (good or bad) to af­fect change through the dig­i­tal spa­ces they oc­cupy. De­sign that’s em­pow­er­ing, pre­sented to en­cour­age per­sonal growth and the ca­pac­ity to shape sur­round­ings res­onates with this au­di­ence. Stereo­typ­i­cal de­sign el­e­ments and im­agery will have the op­po­site ef­fect, so con­tent should feel real, per­sonal, ca­sual and in­for­ma­tive. And never com­mit the sin of ‘de­sign­ing for young peo­ple’.

Be­ing ‘unique-seek­ers’, Gen Z is also a co­hort that pushes bound­aries. This can be re­ally ex­cit­ing for de­sign­ers. Im­agery can be ex­per­i­men­tal; colours con­fi­dent and clash­ing. It even has its own colour – Gen Z yel­low.

There’s scope to ex­ploit the un­ex­pected; a con­cept we ex­plored dur­ing a re­cent re­brand for Beauty Bay. In de­vel­op­ment, a bold propo­si­tion of break­ing the rules was favoured by the Gen Z au­di­ence. We chal­lenged the tra­di­tional idea of what a beauty brand should be and pushed the idea as far as we pos­si­bly could.

As well as mak­ing things look ap­peal­ing, brands need to fa­cil­i­tate Gen Z’s de­sire for ef­fi­ciency. A slick on­line ex­pe­ri­ence is the only way to en­gen­der its loy­alty and de­sign should be dig­i­tally in­tu­itive – just like the au­di­ence is.

All con­tent needs to be scal­able – en­sur­ing fonts are avail­able for dig­i­tal and leg­i­ble on mo­bile is a must. De­signs must work in the small­est of dig­i­tal spa­ces first and then be scaled up­wards – not for­get­ting that cre­ative still needs to work off­line.

Gen Z wants to align it­self with peo­ple, brands and causes that re­flect its care­fully cu­rated on­line per­sonas. Re­search has also shown that, while Gen Z is open-minded and di­verse, iden­tity is dy­namic; it doesn’t see it­self as hav­ing de­fined roles or traits. Brand flex­i­bil­ity is there­fore needed in or­der to stay ahead.

Brand guide­lines cre­ated at a mo­ment in time to de­liver con­sis­tency can date eas­ily – par­tic­u­larly when com­pet­ing against a con­stant in­flux of fresh new brands. To grab Gen Z’s at­ten­tion, brands don’t need to be con­stantly rein­vent­ing them­selves, but they do need to re­fresh more fre­quently.

A flex­i­ble iden­tity sys­tem will al­low brands to stay cur­rent, whereby con­sis­tent brand iden­tity, deep rooted in the brand’s values, is sup­ported with reg­u­larly up­dated flex­i­ble guide­lines that flex ac­cord­ing to trends.

For ex­am­ple, a fixed pri­mary brand colour pal­ette, logo and ty­pog­ra­phy style can be sup­ported with sea­sonal, trend-led iden­tity packs – a flex­i­ble pal­ette of colours and icons that re­flect ‘trends’. It’s a way of re­fresh­ing the brand in line with ex­ter­nal in­flu­ences while main­tain­ing con­sis­tency and con­trol. Within this sys­tem, brand­ing can sup­port cam­paigns and im­agery to greater ef­fect; there is less dis­con­nect when photography and visual as­sets evolve.

The first co­hort born into the dig­i­tal age, Gen Z is ac­cus­tomed to flit­ting be­tween nu­mer­ous screens with a per­ilously short at­ten­tion span. If brands thought grab­bing (and keep­ing) au­di­ence at­ten­tion was tough be­fore, Gen Z take it to an en­tirely new level.

The up­shot is that this au­di­ence is quicker to de­cide if some­thing is rel­e­vant to them, mak­ing them more open to aban­don­ing brands that don’t keep up with their pace.

To cater for their fast and flighty rules of en­gage­ment, the most ef­fec­tive ap­proach is to de­sign in their lan­guage. Short videos, im­age se­quences, im­ages with text over­lays and quotes will cut through the noise, as well as vi­brant, eye-catch­ing colour com­bi­na­tions that twist con­ven­tion. Leg­i­ble type­faces that work across all me­dia are a must to al­low for eas­ily di­gestible mes­sages that Gen Z can in­ter­pret quickly.

And the holy grail is to use bite-size, sharable con­tent, mo­bil­is­ing an army of hy­per-con­nected so­cial me­dia na­tives who can am­plify a brand like never be­fore.

The dig­i­tal age presents us with un­ri­valled op­por­tu­ni­ties to un­der­stand real-time con­sumer be­hav­iour, both within a brand’s plat­form as well as prominent so­cial chan­nels.

De­sign­ers no longer have to hope that a de­sign will con­nect with a spe­cific tar­get au­di­ence when they put it live. It also means it can be tested with real au­di­ences and then eas­ily adapted con­cur­rently as con­sumer be­hav­iours change.

Un­der­stand­ing Gen Z’s nu­ances is cru­cial if you want to de­liver what it needs at ev­ery touch point – whether that’s through your plat­form or In­sta­gram. So ig­nore on­go­ing user test­ing at your peril. To be truly cus­tomer-cen­tric, the only way to re­ally know if a de­sign or fea­ture will pro­duce a pos­i­tive re­ac­tion is to test it with real users in real time.

In­tro­duc­ing a new brand iden­tity can re­vi­talise a decade­old busi­ness but, with this gen­er­a­tion, the new iden­tity must re­flect the brand ethos. Claims must have sub­stance and Gen Z is quick to call out brands that aren’t au­then­tic. Through so­cial me­dia they have an au­thor­i­ta­tive means to do this.

The chal­lenge for es­tab­lished brands im­ple­ment­ing an up­date is how to re­main true to core values and make the new brand part of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s DNA. To suc­ceed in this area of de­sign, ex­plore the busi­ness, its cul­ture and au­di­ence in great de­tail. Any brand re­vamp needs to work from the in­side out, with in­ter­nal teams own­ing the brand. ‘Live the brand’ work­shops with staff can help to de­fine the com­pany’s vi­sion and what new di­rec­tion it needs to move in.

Suc­cess with Gen Z will come from be­ing orig­i­nal, in­no­va­tive and au­then­tic, rather than a ques­tion of who shouts the loud­est. Cater for its needs with em­pow­er­ing and in­tel­li­gent de­sign. Cou­ple that with a slick on­line ex­pe­ri­ence (that works how it’s sup­posed to) and it shouldn’t be too dif­fi­cult to en­gen­der its loy­alty. For a short time at least.

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