In June, our Marketing Manager Alice went to the Youth Marketing Strategy (YMS) event on Brick Lane, in London’s famous East End. Hosted by VoxBurner, YMS aims to help senior marketers better understand, engage and target Gen Z audiences.
Youth Marketing Strategy events are attended by brands from all sectors, marketing agencies and non-profit organisations as well as representatives from universities. Youth marketing is a fast-paced environment so events like these bring together marketers to learn about current trends and the habits and attitudes of young consumers.
The first day of YMS LDN was hosted by Platform 13 founder, Leila Fataar. After working in cultural branding for 20 years, Leila was the perfect choice to host the first day of the event.
Conversations from guest speakers were heavily focused on the significance of being culturally aware when working within marketing. Thought-provoking questions were asked like, “What cultures do your brand, the product and services talk to?”
Leila described cultural relevance as a business growth driver. Successful campaigns that are aware of the cultures their brand or products speak to and have an emotional connection to, can build their communities and create intersections where different backgrounds, interests and demographics collide with one passion point.
Gen Z is not linear. They do not live, breathe, and think the same. They can have overlapping interests and fit into several subcultures. Learn to understand the world that your audience lives in; sharing success stories, empowering communities and facilitating success will strengthen your consumer loyalty and, if your brand has enough influence, it can become a key player in setting the cultural agenda. Cultural insights are completely different to traditional research, if you can speak to an inner community, you will find the real insights that will benefit your brand.
The first panel of the day, ‘How to create the ultimate Gen Z marketing campaign’ was hosted by Josh Gaventa, Brand Manager at 8original. He put questions to Tamar Riley, Managing Director of Refinery 29, Amy O’Connor, Director at Movember, Audrey Madden, Senior Creative Strategist at Huel and Matt Eldridge, Propositions Lead at VOXI.
Amy from Movember, a men's health charity, spoke about getting the perfect campaign blend between fun and entertaining, whilst also getting the end message to hit home. When arranging brand collaborations, to attract a Gen Z audience and capture their attention, it’s important to get the talent right – Movember needed to know who Gen Z males were engaging with on social media and what content creators had the right audience. They needed creators to maintain the engagement of their audience through their usual style but ensure they effectively deliver the message of the partnership with Movember.
Tamer explained that brands often forget about the less popular platforms to find their target audiences. Twitch is a streaming platform with 31 million daily active users, but some brands have never even stepped foot there. Refinery29 streams on a weekly basis to a community of predominantly female gamers, with one general interest and plenty of intersecting interests.
Your community are real people – so throw out the word ‘user’ from your marketing lingo. Spend time sitting on the platforms where your community lives and get to learn what they love and what they hate. Forget what you want to be perceived as, instead think of how you want your audience to feel. That’s cultural relevance.
Brands should take the time to measure metrics that are not traditional. Some of the traditional ‘vanity' metrics like awareness and reach are important, but brands should do more to measure cultural impact or brand community.
A panel hosted by Leila saw her be joined by Belinda Boakye from Pinterest, Steve Dool from Depop and Stephen Mai from Planet Woo.
This panel agreed that the attributes most associated with Gen Z are not just limited to this demographic. The ethics, morals and mindset do not solely belong to those born after 1997. “Gen Z began the narrative; the passion points have always been there.”
Being a digitally native generation with easy access to online platforms means that Gen Z has elevated the voices of those who care about social causes and have values that align with sustainability, honesty and integrity.
One question that arose due to this conversation was “Could we say Gen Z is anyone who cares about the macro-environment with aligned passion points and values?”. They all agreed that the morals and values we align with this generation, are not unique at all.
Apparently, there is little difference, which was backed up by research conducted by Channel 4 as part of their Beyond Z report. None of the characteristics we see in this generation are different to what we have seen in generations before. They are just young people growing up in a different world with access to more, as technology and media evolve.
However, one of the most significant findings was that Gen Z is a sober-curious group. Research from Voxburner shows that from a group of 1,000 Gen Z’ers aged 18-24, 40% of those would consider giving up alcohol completely. 35% of people said that alcohol had a negative effect on their mental health. One contributor to this data could be the amount of ‘wellness’ content young people are consuming on social media. Research shows that 60% of those would consider going sober to improve their overall health. Many marketers are reportedly surprised by young people’s sober-curious minds. Alcohol consumption and over-indulging in hedonistic drinking behaviour is something often associated with young British culture.
Data also shows that the young generations are more stressed, anxious and self-conscious than generations before. They have grown up during lockdowns, a cost-of-living crisis and a time of war. They are a resilient generation who have adjusted from their normal lives during their formative years but have felt their mental health has suffered due to it. Almost half (46%) of young people have reported that they have experienced some type of mental health problem.
Unfiltered, off-the-cuff and ‘real’ content is very much in. Young audiences don’t want to see the over-filtered and edited internet versions of influencers anymore. TikTok has been the fundamental change in how young people consume content. The short-form videos offer an authentic glimpse into the lives of content creators.
However, the young generation knows when it’s being sold to. #Ad and a smiley face holding a bottle of perfume doesn’t make them want to splash their cash. They’re hyperaware of when they are being sold to. Working with creators that have credible and relevant ties to your brand will make partnerships more genuine and leave a greater impression on the minds of your audience.
And how do you communicate with a generation that is becoming less and less trusting of social media? 57% of young people said they believe the positive effects of social media outweigh the negative effects. But young people are more and more frequently blocking social accounts that they deem to be negatively impacting their mental well-being.
Gen Z can see through the ‘quick win’ influencer collabs – partnerships need to be relevant for the brand and creator. They want the content to not feel like an ad, they know when they’re being sold to. Some of the biggest e-commerce brands still don’t know what to look for when working with influencers. The metrics they think are most important, like number of followers, are some of the least important. Gen Z is more connected to and engaged with smaller influencers/ content creators that can engage with their loyal following.
All in all, the event showed just how critical it is to get the marketing right when speaking to Gen Z audiences. There are plenty of brands that just don’t know the kind of language, content or messaging Gen Z will engage with.
Brand managers or marketers that talk about Gen Z as a monolith are adding nonsensical narratives to a generation that is no different from what we have seen before. Painting young people with the same brush has never worked and won’t work this time. Like all generations, there are contradictions, likenesses and general struggles.
Gen Z is the audience who popularised binge-watching Netflix but can’t consume content for more than 8 seconds. The Gen Z demographic is more than happy to act like ‘the elephant in the room’. They’ll question your motives, actions and decision-making in an unfiltered way. They’ll leave you thinking, “What the hell are we doing?”.
That’s why we launched BIG Shot, our collective of young people born after 1997, to help brands curate the right message, in the right place and at the right time for this audience. Genuine, cultural insight cannot be found behind a desk – it belongs in the minds of Gen Z’ers and that’s exactly what our panel offers. Brands can tap into the minds of young people to gain valuable feedback. And even better it's run by our in-house Gen Z duo, Maya and Lili (18 and 17).
Want to find out more? Chat with us.