Marketers have a tough time grasping the trends that emerge in Gen Z’s world. In many studies, Gen Z is presented as a group of individuals full of contradictions. They are the most educated generation to date, but have no confidence in their future. They consider social media to be just another communication tool, yet they can’t live without it. They are greatly concerned with ethics yet continue to consume products from brands whose practices they condemn. Lucie de Closets, content strategist at Sid Lee, shares her views on how generation targeting is a faux pas when it comes to developing brand content.
Gen Z is seen as contradictory, but the contradictions may reside more at the group level than in the individual. Can we really trust that several million people, whose one commonality is the era they were born in, all form a homogenous group? Why not instead target people motivated by their passions, interests and limitations, and who are influenced by where they live, their social environment, and their stage of life? It’s a long list of possible factors of influence, and it usually goes beyond birth dates since these factors are transgenerational. People from different generations can go through the same stages in life at the same time, and you can presume that their attitudes towards this experience aren’t so much influenced by their year of birth as by the context and era in which they’re experiencing it. For example, older Gen Zers are starting to have kids, just like millennials. These young parents from different generations share certain behaviours, like searching for guidance from blogs and social media.
Given all the data that’s available nowadays, we can allow ourselves to step away from these generational groupings and create targets by stages in life, by the feeling of belonging to a community, or by interest – but we can go even further than that. Let’s go back to the basics and investigate our clients’ identity and their values, and the needs and desires they’re trying to fulfill with a product, service or experience. From there, let’s ask ourselves whose interest we could attract, especially if there are related areas of interest.
We need to keep in mind that a piece of content, whatever it may be, is not an ad in and of itself. It is created to be interesting, useful or entertaining, and has as much added value and consumer appeal as if it came from a piece of media or from a content creator.
That doesn’t mean that we should – or can – turn on backs on generations as a category. Media consumption, and therefore content consumption, is directly linked to the available technology and its evolution, whether we’re talking about devices and platforms or media and formats. If there’s one thing Gen Zers have in common, it’s their digital agility and their massive presence on TikTok, where they account for 60% of all users. Many online platforms, whether they’re social media or something else, offer an enormous amount of data that allows them to determine the types of formats most consumed by a certain type of user, including users segmented by date of birth, if needed. As far as what story a brand should be telling, it all depends on what that brand sells. And if what they sell corresponds to a life event, there’s a strong chance that it may interest people across different generations.