Connecting with Gen Z is a top priority for businesses looking to succeed in today’s market. But in a sea of self-proclaimed experts and marketing gurus, finding the right partners can be a daunting task. While young people claim to know their generation best, older individuals assert their mastery of the industry.
So how can brands distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate marketers? In this article, we outline seven common scenarios that businesses face when trying to engage with Gen Z, and provide guidance on how to identify the right partners who can help them achieve their goals.
1. OUT-OF-TUNE LANGUAGE USE
Verbiage of the illegitimate gen z marketer:
Youths, gen zees, Z’s, kiddos, youngins, younglings, kiddiewinks, newbies, pipsqueaks, whippersnappers, mini millennials, rugrats, pubescents, juveniles.
Using language that talks down to young people or are out of touch with youth culture may make you seem disconnected from your target audience. It’s best to avoid using such language in any context except for when it’s a parody, Western, or a new Star Wars episode.
It’s important for marketers to use language that is respectful, relatable, and age-appropriate when targeting young audiences.
Language of the legitimate gen z marketer:
Young people, teens, tweens, young adults, younger consumers, youth, youth culture, gen zers, gen Z, adolescents, next generation, next-gen, students, digital natives, iGen, young innovators, ZEO’s.
Legitimate Gen Z marketers know that it’s essential to use inclusive and respectful language that accurately reflects the diverse and constantly evolving nature of youth and their interests. By using clear and accurate descriptors such as “young people,” “tweens,” “teens,” “young adults,” and other appropriate terms, marketers can effectively speak to their target audience without sounding condescending or out of touch.
2. ALL IN THE FAMILY INSIGHTS GATHERING
Insights gathering from the inexperienced gen z marketer:
Illegitimate Gen Z marketers often use family members for their point of view, leading to biased or skewed data. This practice overlooks the importance of diverse and representative samples in research or co-creation. Legitimate Gen Z marketers gain insights into young consumers through reliable and ethical research methods, as well as immersive experiences. However, citing personal experience, such as that from one’s own family, is often a clear warning sign that the marketer may not be as “in tune” with the demo as they claim.
“My kids and their friends say ______ is the go-to choice”.
Using family members as the sole source for insights gathering and ideation in youth marketing is not reliable or effective. Having family members within the target audience is awesome (good for you!) but it provides fractional insights at best.
Insights gathered from the intelligent gen z marketer:
Legitimate Gen Z marketers actively engage and immerse themselves in youth culture to gain ongoing insights and develop co-creative relationships. They are committed to understanding the evolving interests and needs of their target audience through continuous research, exploration, and collective ideation.
It works because these Gen Z marketers are committed to ongoing insights gathering and co-creative exploration through methods such as thoughtfully-orchestrated ethnographic studies, creator councils, and co-creation projects and similar forms of interaction with the target audience.
Because true collaboration leads to actionable insights and effective ideation
3. OVER-EMPHASIZING “I’M THE DEMOGRAPHIC”
A truly capable Gen Z marketer doesn’t need to state: “I’m Gen Z” to prove their value. Age doesn’t always equate to expertise (whether older or younger).
“If you’re not hiring a Gen Z marketer like me, you might as well be throwing your marketing budget into a black hole”.
“I’m like a Gen Z whisperer. I can hear their thoughts and desires, and translate them into killer campaigns for your brand”.
The best way to solve problems is by bringing together a diverse team with a combination of cross-generational and cross-cultural skills. While younger generations like Gen Z bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas, it’s also important to tap into the knowledge and experience across generations. As a modern marketer, it’s important to be confident in your skills, but also acknowledge that you can’t always see the forest from the trees.
4. “SECRET SAUCE” SNAKEOIL PITCHES:
Don’t be fooled by the classic snake oil pitch from illegitimate youth marketers who promise unrealistic solutions for Gen Z engagement. Beware of agencies that claim to have the “secret sauce” for authentic Gen Z engagement, as their solutions may be as effective as snake oil.
Ah yes, the elusive ‘secret sauce’ for Gen Z engagement. I’m sure it’s right next to the fountain of youth and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
There’s no formula for tapping into youth culture. Beware of agencies that claim to have a secret sauce for authentic Gen Z engagement. To effectively reach this demographic, you need strategic frameworks, technical know-how, creative storytelling, relationship-building, creator neworks, and community engagement that are tailored to your brand and business.
Experienced Gen Z marketers know that the theory of the 8-second attention span is all relative to the situational context and certainly not bound to one generation.
The only time anyone should care about an 8-second attention span is when a Gen Z marketer is trying to pull you into their sus pitch. You’ve got 7 seconds to run!
There is a widespread belief that modern technology and the demands of daily life have led to attention span issues across generations. However, empirical evidence to support this claim is scarce. While certain factors may contribute to attention problems, it’s crucial to acknowledge that attention issues are multifaceted and cannot be solely attributed to a single cause or generation. Most often the 8-second attention span claim is an agenda-based ploy from the marketer seeking to instill and leverage fear.
6. WE HAVE INTERNS!
Illegitimate Gen Z marketers position Gen Z interns to mask their lack of expertise in the field.
Many agencies and service providers are trying to tap into the lucrative Gen Z market, but not all of them have the necessary expertise or understanding. Some illegitimate Gen Z marketers resort to leveraging Gen Z interns to give the false impression that they are in touch with the latest trends and insights. However, this approach only serves to exploit young talent and ultimately undermines the authenticity and effectiveness of their marketing strategies.
7. SPEAKING FOR THE GEN Z HERD:
Avoid Gen Z marketers and experts who frequently speak in the voice of the “herd mentality” when it comes to Gen Z:
True expertise requires a nuanced understanding.
“Gen Z wants this ________from brands”
“Gen Z feels like ___________ about the issue”
“Gen Z cares about this ________ more than anything”
The truth is, generations are diverse and complex, and we can’t paint them all with the same brush. And let’s not mistake social media fame for actual expertise in creative problem-solving.
Shielded from Illegitimate ‘Gen Z Experts,’ You’re Now Ready to Partner with An Experienced Youth Marketing Specialist
Best Practices for Reaching Gen Z: Collaboration, Authenticity, and Respect
To sum up, understanding the attitudes and behaviors of Gen Z is crucial for any marketer who wishes to reach this demographic. Legitimate Gen Z marketers know that using appropriate language, conducting ethical research, and avoiding snake oil pitches are essential to success in this market. They also know that collaboration, cultural immersion, and diverse teams are key to creating effective campaigns. By following these best practices, marketers can engage Gen Z with authenticity and respect, and ultimately increase their chances of success.