Understanding the Assignment – Gen-Z Hits Different

By Lance Wolder, Head of Client Strategy, PadSquad and Diya Basu, Marketing, American Dairy Association North East

Comprising individuals born between 1997 and 2012, Gen-Z is set to reshape the market with its distinctive behaviors and substantial economic influence. With $140 billion in direct buying power and a significant influence on household purchases, Gen-Z is not a demographic to overlook. According to data from eMarketer, in just one calendar year, 45.5 million internet users from this generation made at least one purchase online, underscoring their comfort and preference for digital shopping environments.

A Window to Gen-Z’s

Attracting Gen-Z through marketing and advertising has become as tangled as the internet itself. For a generation that has grown up in front of a screen, reaching Gen-Z in a meaningful way comes down to engaging with them in a manner where they are comfortable. That comfort level lies in video.  According to the State of Video Technology Report, 90% of Gen-Zers expressed a preference to receive more video content from brands. More importantly for marketers, Gen-Zers aren’t looking for traditional videos. The same survey found that 59% of Gen-Z consumers prefer videos that offer interactivity. Interactivity leads to engagement and memorability.

Above and beyond interactivity, the importance of personalization cannot be overstated, with approximately 81% of Gen-Z appreciating ads tailored to them. This preference for customization also extends beyond advertising into the content they consume thanks to the algorithms of YouTube and TikTok for their streaming video and music apps.

The Tech-Savvy Nature of Gen-Z

With many Gen-Z’s being exposed to screens seemingly since birth, it’s not a surprise that 94% own a smartphone. This constant connectivity has led to a generation whose natural tendencies gravitate towards multitasking and an integration of their online and offline worlds.

Marketing Strategies That Resonate

To tap into Gen-Z’s market effectively, brands must adopt several strategic approaches:

  1. Enhance Interactivity: Given their preference for interactive content, incorporating elements that allow Gen-Z to spark their curiosity and engage actively with the brand—be it through customizable videos or interactive ads—can significantly boost engagement rates.
  2. Champion Authenticity and Transparency: This generation places high value on honesty and social responsibility. Brands communicating their values clearly and demonstrating a commitment to social issues resonate well with Gen-Z.
  3. Embrace Digital Platforms: Since Gen-Z spends significant time on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, these should be integral to any marketing strategy. Brands should be thinking about how these interactions, methods of communication, and preferences for concise storytelling influence their efforts more broadly or in other channels.
  4. Optimize for Mobile: Since Gen-Z favors smartphones over other devices for accessing content, ensuring that all digital content is optimized for mobile is crucial. This not only improves the experience but also aligns with their consumption habits.

Farm to Table, to Screen

The American Dairy Association North East launched a unique College Cooking campaign for Savor Recipes that showcased an innovative approach to engage Gen-Z, a key demographic traditionally underrepresented in dairy consumption statistics. The initiative leveraged strategic insights to develop dairy-forward, easy-to-make dorm room recipes specifically tailored for college students. This move was based on research identifying Gen-Z’s high affinity for dairy despite their lower spending power, making college an ideal setting for cultivating long-term dairy enthusiasts.

The campaign employed high-impact, advertisements tailored to resonate on mobile platforms, recognizing Gen-Z’s reliance on these devices. Ads were designed to overcome ‘banner blindness’ with engaging, interactive content that captured attention more effectively than traditional ads. As a result, Savor Recipes increased its engagement rates and saw a significant 275% boost in traffic to its website, indicating a successful conversion of interest to action among students. When compared to a similar 2022 campaign, which only used standard display banners, the high-impact creative from 2023 delivered 44.5% more impressions, 165% more clicks, and an 84.6% higher click-through rate.

This strategic initiative on select college campuses, which leveraged video and high-impact creative, is a master class in how to influence Gen-Z’s purchasing habits.

The influence of Gen-Z will only grow, both in economic terms and cultural impact. For marketers, the challenge is to adapt and innovate continuously to meet the expectations of this digitally forward generation. The key to reaching Gen-Z ultimately lies in understanding these unique consumer behaviors and crafting marketing strategies that are not only effective but also resonate on a deeper, more personal level with Gen-Z. By embracing technology, more specifically video, and fostering genuine connections; brands can unlock the immense potential of this emerging powerhouse of consumers.