The influence of Gen Z
How to make millennials work for you
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.