The in­flu­ence of Gen Z

How to make mil­len­ni­als work for you

Business First - - FRONT PAGE - Mel­lis­sah Smith is the founder of Mar­ket­ing Eye.

The cur­rent mar­ket­ing plat­form is fail­ing the very gen­er­a­tion it needs to at­tract. It is a cruel sce­nario for mar­keters, even for the fresh-faced kind who are re­cent grad­u­ates to the in­dus­try. Let’s put things into con­text: mar­ket­ing stu­dents, who have the best chance of at­tract­ing like gen­er­a­tions, spend four years study­ing, a year in­tern­ing and are then hired into ju­nior po­si­tions. By the time they find them­selves in a po­si­tion where they can in­flu­ence brand de­mo­graph­ics, they are in their mid to late 20s. By this time, things like the next Bieber phe­nom­e­non seem like a whole life­time away. Keep­ing in touch and up to date is a lot harder than you would think.

The harsh re­al­ity is that mar­keters are un­able to keep up with younger gen­er­a­tions, par­tic­u­larly in a world in which so­cial media com­mu­ni­ca­tion moves quicker than most can re­act. The ques­tion mar­keters have to raise is “are they the best mar­keters for the job?”

In this cur­rent cli­mate, those lead­ing mar­ket­ing firms are too old to mar­ket to Gen Z and newer gen­er­a­tions.

I was speak­ing re­cently with John Mos­sop, co-founder of fash­ion start-up Vissla. John has cre­ated a cat­e­gory niche in surf fash­ion. As a for­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions ex­pert for the Bil­l­abong la­bel, he is well versed in surf cul­ture. And his ex­pe­ri­ence counts. Like many of the old guard, Mos­sop worked in the surfwear in­dus­try when it was at its height of trans­for­ma­tion. But what he took into his own busi­ness was the point of dif­fer­ence, rein­vent­ing the way busi­ness is done in the surf in­dus­try, whilst also re­pur­pos­ing the prod­uct

to reach a more in tune surf mar­ket.

To do this, Vissla adopted a smart mar­ket­ing ap­proach. The com­pany’s grow­ing rev­enues are based partly upon its Gen Z reach. Vissla is one of few busi­nesses to un­der­stand that in­flu­ence within Gen Z must come from the de­mo­graphic it­self.

In­stead of in­vest­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in mar­ket­ing agen­cies and advertising, Vissla is us­ing teenagers with a sub­stan­tial so­cial media fol­low­ing to pro­mote its prod­uct.

Imag­ine the power of the ‘selfie’ when taken by a teenager with 100,000 peo­ple fol­low­ing her on In­sta­gram. RubyGreen4 has 169,000 fol­low­ers. Esse­naoneill has 319,000 fol­low­ers. Put a Vissla dress on ei­ther of them and the reach is far greater than through tra­di­tional advertising strate­gies.

So­cial Media has over­hauled tra­di­tional econ­omy. It has cre­ated what is now re­ferred to as an in­vis­i­ble econ­omy. An ex­cel­lent ar­ti­cle writ­ten by Kyle Chayka for Paci­ficS­tan­dard states: “in­vestors are look­ing at users rather than rev­enue to judge a com­pany’s vi­a­bil­ity. This is a symp­tom of the ‘in­vis­i­ble econ­omy’, a phrase that’s in­creas­ingly be­ing used to de­scribe how dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy is over­haul­ing tra­di­tional eco­nomic struc­tures. Com­pa­nies like Twit­ter, Tum­blr, In­sta­gram, and Face­book don’t cre­ate value in the way that Ap­ple, Gen­eral Elec­tric, or Ford does (or did)—by pro­duc­ing and selling phys­i­cal prod­ucts to con­sumers. In­stead, they gather a com­mu­nity of users around a free ser­vice.”

What we know from this is that the value of be­ing in front of that com- mu­nity is high. A study by Cit­i­group found In­sta­gram has 58 times more en­gage­ment per fol­lower than Face­book, and a whop­ping 120 times more en­gage­ment per fol­lower than Twit­ter.

In re­spect of these num­bers, us­ing In­sta­gram as a mar­ket­ing tool to reach Gen Z is a no-brainer. The same goes with Snapchat, through which teenagers share 700 mil­lion photos a day.

There are, how­ever, se­ri­ous hu­man re­source is­sues to con­sider when fol­low­ing this path; there are ram­i­fi­ca­tions to re­cruit­ing ‘chil­dren’ to mar­ket to their peers. These in­clude an in­abil­ity to con­trol the be­hav­iour of teenagers, the brand dam­age that can be done by teenagers be­hav­ing badly and the cor­po­rate con­jec­ture that may oc­cur when clients and peers view that be­hav­iour.

Busi­nesses will now have to weigh up whether long-term dam­age, or even short-term brand dam­age is worth the risk of en­gag­ing a more youth­ful tar­get mar­ket, as well as the way in which en­gage­ment is car­ried out. It is cer­tainly a cost ef­fec­tive mar­ket­ing ap­proach to hire peo­ple who are in touch with mod­ern cul­tural touch­points, but what of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions?

In this day and age, we must ab­sorb the risk to the busi­ness, or risk los­ing a de­mo­graphic that in 2011 was es­ti­mated at $207 bil­lion.

A strong mar­ket­ing strat­egy now re­quires Gen Z to act as am­bas­sadors through their ‘life shar­ing’ apps and so­cial media func­tions. Fail­ure to in­te­grate this type of strat­egy means we are fail­ing this gen­er­a­tion, whilst also fail­ing to act in the best in­ter­est of the busi­nesses we rep­re­sent.

A study by Cit­i­group found In­sta­gram has 58 times more en­gage­ment per fol­lower than Face­book, and a whop­ping 120 times more en­gage­ment per fol­lower than Twit­ter.

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