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6 Tips to Making Your Brand Cool to Gen Z on Social Media

“Ugh, Mom! You are SO uncool.” For parents of a tween or teen, these words may seem as common as “Whatever” and “When will dinner be ready?” But substitute “Mom” for a brand’s name… well now you are in BIG trouble.  How can brands hope to stay ‘cool’ in the eyes of the world’s most misunderstood creatures: tweens and teenagers?

As if trying to reach youths wasn’t hard enough, brands are now  faced with a new breed, a “me” generation born and raised in the digital age.  Generation Z’s are true digital natives, growing up with the world at the tip of their fingers -- or on their laptops and smart phones.  Social media and the internet are one in the same, and being connected is a right, not a privilege.  

So why do brands even bother?  The nearly 21-million-strong group of U.S. 9-13 year olds wields $43 billion in annual spending power.  Even more impressive? Their “nag effect” or ability to influence the shopping habits of their parents to the tune of $150 billion dollars each year.  The combination of their buying power and influence makes them a force to be reckoned with, and a group that shopper brands should never overlook.

We have broken down the 6 steps every brand should consider when talking to Generation Z:

1. Be authentic -- tweens want a friend not a brand

Generation Z is unfortunately very brand agnostic; they view their brand choices as an extension of themselves or a form of self expression.  They want products that express their personalities and seek ‘real’ human connections with a brand.  

2. Find the right channels -- and be on all of them

Younger generations are constantly  seeking an instant connection, and older forms of communication like email are considered a thing of the past.  Gen Z’s flock towards video- and photography-based platforms that encourage self expression and satisfy their need for peer validation.   YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat, and Vine have emerged as Gen Z favorites.  Remember, to Gen Z, social media IS the internet.  They fully expect your brand to available at every touchpoint of their “internet” experience.

3. Make them the star

Gen Z not only craves, but expects, their 15 minutes of fame. Luckily for brands, that fame doesn’t have to mean the cover of People Magazine --  social media fame will satisfy their hunger.  Share their pictures with your fans, and like and comment on their photos; the opportunities to engage with user-generated content are endless.  Some brands have even featured a few lucky fans in marketing campaigns, the ultimate Gen Z prize package.  You have the ability to make them a star... now you’ve got their attention.

4. Play up their creativity -- offer DIY and customized experiences

Gen Zers tend to create their own trends, rather than to follow the ones set by others.  We know that they are highly motivated by self expression and peer validation, which presents a huge opportunity for brands. Create an experience that gives them the opportunity to participate, customize, and make it their own.  By revolving the brand experience around them, you give them motivation to share their creativity (and your experience) with their friends, and ultimately become true brand ambassadors.

5. Find the right ambassador

The definition of celebrity has been shaken up by Gen Z.  No longer are celebs confined within the big screen. Celebrities or influencers can get their start from anywhere, even on social media - just ask Justin Bieber and Lana Del Ray.  We aren’t recommending you hire “The Biebs” as your next spokesman, but simply consider the vast array of social media stars that exist.  Paid influencers are a highly targeted and effective media strategy for brands, their recommendations have a huge influence on shopping decisions and also allow your product to be pushed in a native environment.

6. Offer an experience instead of a prize

Gen Z has grown up through a recession, climate change debates, and the threat of terrorism.  As a result they are incredibly socially responsible, lack the assumed childlike naïveté, and are cautious with their money. While promotions are great ways to foster brand engagement, be selective when choosing the grand prize.  They will be much more motivated by an unique life experience than a cash prize.  

Gen Z is not the exception; they are the rule.  Authenticity and adaptability aren’t two words you typically associate with large brands, but will be the key in any brand/consumer relationship of the future.  Consumers of all ages have come to expect more from their brands -- more value, more personalization, and more transparency.  To stay ‘cool’ in the eyes of all consumers, not just Gen Z, brands need to adopt a more flexible marketing strategy.  Because, like we say at redpepper, “If we aren’t changing, we’re dying.”

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