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Breaking down Gen Z marketing myths: Insights from creative minds

Gen Z’s social media consumption patterns have fascinated marketers across the globe. However, there are many misconceptions limiting the potential of marketing to Gen Z. We reached out to Gen Z Creative Minds from the advertising industry, who also recently won 30 Under 30, to break down marketing tactics that work for them, under-utilized mediums and more.

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Shamita Islur
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Gen z marketing

Being known for staying chronically online with access to unlimited information, Generation Z (Gen Z)’s social media consumption patterns have fascinated marketers across the globe. 

Born between 1997 to 2012, this group makes up 26% of the world’s population which means there are approximately two billion people in this world with disposable income. According to a report by Bloomberg, these young professionals and students account for $360 billion in disposable income. 

Furthermore, studies have suggested that 54% of Gen Z spend at least four hours daily on social media, and 38% spend even more time than that. Their most used social platforms are YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. As per Statista, 63% of Gen Z purchased an item they had previously seen on social media.

With this data available on the internet, marketers tend to believe that understanding their online habits could turn into opportunities to reach this consumer cohort and tap into their purchasing power. We try to dissect what Gen Z really wants from marketers, including some underexplored opportunities to reach them. 

Gen Z consumer behaviour: Common Misconceptions 

As youngsters are known for using social media, especially investing their time in short-form video content, brands leverage the power of reels and influencers to connect with them. A Gen Z consumer survey shows that 40% of Gen Z users prefer Reels, Stories and short-form videos when seeing brand ads on social media. 

However, increasing social media is getting infested with subpar reels, which creates white noise instead of the dent a brand wants to make, mentions Sanjana Dora, ACD, Ogilvy India. 

“GenZ wants whatever every other generation before them wanted from brand communication. Talk to them instead of at them.”

She points out that brands should look to create experiences to connect with Gen Z and not to use technology for the sake of it. Instead, they should use it only if they can add to their social currency. 

When it comes to leveraging influencers, she believes that an influencer doesn't have to be a pretty face with a million followers. “Instead, an influencer should be a personality with a distinct tone of voice the generation resonates with.”

Sahil Chauhan, Head - Digital Post Production, Dentsu Creative alludes to the use of social media amongst the age group and says a misconception he commonly hears is that Gen Z is solely defined by their attachment to technology. 

“Technology is surely a significant part of Gen Z, but it is also important to note that they value authenticity, real-world experiences, and personal connections as well.”

Brands should collectively think of ways to effectively balance digital and offline experiences for the audience, he suggests. Further, he mentions that brands need to stop assuming that all Gen Z individuals have the same tastes and preferences. 

“A thorough audience research project to understand the specific segments within Gen Z is a must. Sharpening the messaging with the right content also resonates with different subgroups,” he continues.

The third most common misconception surrounding the Gen Z is that they have an extremely short attention span and cannot engage with longer content, as per Chauhan.

“While YouTube shorts and Instagram reels are now too handy, Gen-Z can engage with longer content too, but it has to be compelling and relevant enough.”

Resonating with Gen Z

When it comes to the elements that resonate with the age group, Gurdiksha Kaur, ACD, Creativeland Asia believes that the tenets of advertising haven’t changed over the years. She comments, “Gen Z, like every other generation that came before them, thinks they could have done a better job.”

Gen Z likes to be a part of things that are counterculture, things that question the norms and work that puts a fresh spin on age-old traditions. 

“This generation refuses (and rightfully so) to be impressed by brands trying to seem woke just for the sake of it, they need brands to step up and match their words with their actions.”

Sharing an example of a campaign, she mentions Duolingo’s work for World Tattoo Day, ‘#TattooDuoOver’. The language learning app’s offbeat approach to not take itself too seriously but still doing some insightful work was what Gen Z needed to connect with a brand, according to Kaur. 

 

 

“Gen Z chooses content that reflects their own experiences and values, whether it's through user-generated content, transparent storytelling, or partnerships with influencers who align with their beliefs,” continues Khyati Sharma, ACD, Interactive Avenues.

They have a thing for authenticity, discerning between marketing gimmicks and honest brand messages. In line with this, she believes that Cadbury Silk’’s Valentine's Day - ‘Unforgettable Love Tips’ campaign captures the essence of Gen Z and uses influencers in the best way while giving out a message of celebrating healthy love.

 

 

She also talks about a global campaign by POKER, a local beer in Columbia by AbinBev called ‘Influencers’ Friend: Being Authentic and Real’. The brand faced the challenge of using famous influencers and celebs to talk about it. Breaking the rules of influencer marketing, the brand reached out to these celebrities’ best friends with whom they are usually seen and made them the brand ambassadors. 

The chosen BFFs lived moments of genuine friendship while creating content with their famous friends and always had a Poker beer nearby and were shared on the social media accounts of the influencers' friends, which helped the brand achieve excellent reach results. 

Dentsu Creative’s Sahil Chauhan also suggests brands to ensure that their internal practices and values align with the social responsibility messages they want to convey. 

A campaign that made a difference by addressing the problem of manholes was ‘TVS Responsible Manhole’, which brought about the change by implementing the use of innovative technology. 

Chauhan comments that it subtly highlights that problems are always exciting and even solutions are raised, but it is Gen Z that adds a unique flavour to it that the audience now needs. This campaign was a Cannes Lions entry this year.

 

 

Underrated mediums to explore

When it comes to the under-utilized mediums that can be capitalized to connect with this age group, Creativeland Asia’s Gurdiksha Kaur says, “Niche platforms like Reddit, Omegle and Tumblr have a lot of untapped potential for advertising in India because that is where I am found lurking around.”

It has been found that Gen Z makes up 26% of Reddit Users and 51% of the users say they are attracted to the platform's user-driven features, such as subreddits, comments, and upvotes. 82% of Gen-Z trust the platform when learning more about products.

Interactive Avenues’ Khyati Sharma points out that Gen Z's profound interest in music, there's room for more innovative and tech-forward marketing strategies in this domain. 

“Specialized platforms like Discord for gaming or Pinterest for fashion offer a goldmine for targeted marketing, catering to specific Gen Z communities.”

SXM Media and Edison Research released their Gen Z Podcast Listener Report stating that Gen Z's monthly podcast listening has risen by 57% over the past five years, with 47% of them (approximately 24 million listeners) engaging with podcasts in the past month.

“Advertisers can explore this medium further, creating sponsored content or even establishing their podcast channels to connect with this audience effectively,” Sharma remarks.

Dentsu Creative’s Sahil Chauhan observes brands overlook the content-sharing potential of messaging apps, focusing more on public-facing platforms, explaining that Gen Z relies heavily on messaging apps like WhatsApp, Instagram DMs, and Snapchat for both personal communication and sharing content. 

He also points out that gaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming are popular, and marketers sometimes don't consider gaming platforms as content consumption channels, missing opportunities to engage this audience.

To summarize, brands can effectively build connections and reach two billion potential consumers with Gen Z marketing techniques that present authentic, honest, engaging content and leveraging the underrated tools of communication. 

In the end, it’s about talking to Gen Z, instead of at them. Rightly said by Ogilvy’s Sanjana Dora, “With this particular generation, you can't get away with a monologue instead of a dialogue.”

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