Memes. They’ve become a pop culture phenomenon. A way for millennials and Gen Z to share ideas, humor, news, and ponder existential crises. They’re also a new form of marketing. Okay, memes aren’t the only way for marketers to reach their Gen Z audience. But it is indicative of just how much the marketing landscape has changed when it comes to reaching younger audiences.
Traditional marketing approaches aren’t going to have the same impact and consumers have become a lot savvier. They’re quick to ignore anything even resembling an ad, especially if it doesn’t instantly captivate them or feel authentic to their worldview. Seeing as they’re turning into the biggest portion of consumers, let’s explore what kind of content Gen Z responds to the most.
First up… Who is Generation Z?
Generation Z (Gen Z), also sometimes known as “Zoomers” probably by the same people who like to say “boomers”, are people born between 1996 and 2010. Or 1997 and 2015. This isn’t exactly a precise science and no one can definitively agree on anything. Anyhow, that puts them somewhere between 5 and 24 years old.
Creating Content for Gen Z
At the heart of any successful marketing content is the question, “What does my audience care about?”. For Gen Z, that answer is entertainment. Technology has been a part of this generation’s lives since they can remember and smart little gimmicks aren’t going to work for them. They use the internet for everything and know exactly how to avoid or tune out content they aren’t interested in.
They spend most of their time on the web, however, looking at some form of entertainment. Whether memes, Tik Tok videos, Twitch streams, YouTube videos, or content on Instagram. These aren’t the only platforms they’re using, of course, but they are the most popular ones.
So brands that are able to emulate or reference the content that they enjoy will be able to capture their attention. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting a YouTube channel if the product or service doesn’t call for it. Instead, it can simply mean creating an online persona that they want to interact with. Whether that means stylizing content in a way that makes them laugh, feel good, or provides a message that they connect with.
Finding a Purpose
Of course, a growing bottom line is what drives most businesses. But for Gen Z, it has to be about more than making money. The concept of brand loyalty has shifted, and it’s become as mercurial as the shift of social media herd mentality. People don’t respond to “this is the best product for you because these 3 people said so” ads anymore.
They respond to brands that fit their worldview, whether it means talking about social issues, incorporating environmentally-friendly practices, providing inclusivity, or providing a space that feels exciting or familiar.
The Viral Effect
These days, there’s a fine line between authenticity and entertainment for entertainment’s sake. Normally, advertisers get better feedback when they make their intentions clear and stick with an established brand voice. However, that type of content can also get stale very quickly.
This is why many brands opt for less directly-related content, where they focus on creating something people want to see instead. The brand still gets exposure and the brand image is still subtly weaved in, but it’s not a blunt product push.
A well-known example is Wendy’s Twitter account. The brand has become known for its “roasts” and “zingers” that have little to do with the restaurant but it gets a lot of attention. This tactic has to be approached with caution, however, as it can quickly become confusing or even muddy the brand image.
A Common Connection
Being “relatable” is probably one of the hallmarks of Gen Z-centered content. Hyper successful brands find a way to make their content connect with the audience in some way. Many brands try to find this common connection by bringing on an influencer to help market their brand. It’s a solid tactic with proven ROI.
However, it’s not the only way to forge a connection with an audience. Take Microsoft, for example. The tech company sells software – that’s not a very relatable thing. So the company’s blog posts and other social content often don’t even mention Microsoft software at all. Instead, it shows how software like AI can help blind people or how cloud-based solutions help people with cystic fibrosis.
The marketing landscape is always changing, and it can feel like a mysterious mine-filled field. This is especially true for brands that don’t have a defined brand voice and try to cater their content to everyone.
It doesn’t work.
What does work is knowing what the audience (in this case, Gen Z) wants and responds to, and finding an authentic way to reach them where they are.