Generation Z

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the ‘Engaging Youth – Hot Trends & Insights’ Conference at the Museum of London Docklands and it certainly lived up to it’s name.  A jam packed day full of largely client side speakers from the likes of Twitter, BBC, Cancer Research and News UK to name a few, sharing their experiences and work they have done with teens and young adults. Each and every paper was fascinating, with the stats and stories they shared reminding me how important it is that we recognise the differences between this group and those who have been before. Whilst debated amongst speakers whether we can really call Gen Z ‘digital natives’, (with some arguing only children today are true ‘digital natives’) it was most certainly agreed that this is an audience, that as challenging as they may be, brands need to win over.

At Razor, we’ve been doing lots of work with this age group, talking everything from soft drinks to Vlogging so it was great to hear directly from clients the challenges and struggles they’ve face and to be given examples of how they’ve found success. What was apparent across talks, and a real ‘PHEW!’ moment as a market researcher, was a consensus that for brands to successfully talk to teens and young adults, they haveto engage with them and spend time in their worlds. Dan Walsh, Head of Marketing at the BBC, addressed this issue head on when he said we must ‘quit making marketing for marketers and make campaigns that build and develop the real dreams and ambitions of your audience’ – he described how BBC 1Xtra listened to and spent time with young adults, understanding their worlds in order to make campaigns that inspire them and importantly, give something back to them.

Tariq Slim (Head of Tech and Telco at Twitter) gave some good examples of how brands can give back by engaging in two way conversations, listening and responding to what young people want in real time. He confirmed what we hear from a lot of the young people we’ve spoken to, that brands need to be having these honest, ‘live’ conversations and talking to them on their platforms and at the times they are online, because if they aren’t, someone else will be. And when it comes to platforms, trends are changing faster than ever before, ‘social media’ can no longer just be bundled into one bucket so brands need to understand the different purposes different social media sites fill – Ben Whitelaw from News UK boldly claimed that “Facebook is now a graveyard, used to arrange events” and “video is no longer a 16:9 media format that you just ‘play’, it’s become something that’s experienced” – this is clearly apparent in the rise of platforms like SnapChat, Vines, YouTube and Periscope and I wonder whether brands could be doing more in their comms to reflect the tone and content that Gen Z are watching

I left the conference with my brain working overtime thinking of all the new facts, figures and ideas I’d learnt, Gen Z are certainly a savvy bunch who very much want to know what brands can do for them and I for one will be keeping a close eye on this important generation.