Stratnxt

The Power of GenZ in the new attention economy

JH
16 Jun 2021

By Jérôme Hiquet

Gen Z is a unique demographic and reaching it requires the application of nuanced psychographic criteria. Given this context, brands need to consider four key aspects when trying to reach this generation.

Finding your own North Star

Gen Z places great importance on social relevance. Therefore, to reach this generation, brands need to come up with a new social value contract. This generation also needs to feel connected by an authentic anchoring to the brand, i.e. not only focused on the product but also on social responsibility issues, such as diversity, inclusion and the climate crisis.

Gen Z also likes to test the relevance and coherence of brands by asking: “Why does the brand exist?” A brand’s relevance is often put to the test in specific unforeseen social events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement or the climate demonstrations led by Greta Thunberg.

Obviously, it is difficult for organisations to build in this social relevance from the outset, and even harder to become an activist brand like Patagonia or Ben & Jerry’s. However, all brands need to find their own ‘North Star’ with clear cardinal points and a social responsibility goal that resonates with their audience and remains consistent day after day, social movement after social movement

GenZ selfie

Attracting Generation Z

Gen Z also aspires to a new form of interaction with brands based on dialogue, listening and, sometimes, even taking control of the brand. This ‘democratic’ interaction is not an option, it’s already happening. It is not about controlling every single aspect of the interaction, but rather embracing it and seeing it as a unique opportunity to truly connect with this generation.

A good example of successful interaction between brands and their target audience is Overtime, a media outfit specialising in US sports. The company has employed user-generated content (UGC) in an organic and effective way to increase company awareness and engagement to such an extent that even American sports and media giants like ESPN and the NBA are envious.

Similarly, TikTok – Gen Z’s preferred platform by far – has become an incredibly powerful tool. TikTok’s ‘mobile and video first’ approach draws on an incredible pool of Gen Z creators, as well as providing them with the opportunity to appropriate and redefine brands using their own codes and means of expression.

Defiant Loyalty

Finally, Gen Z is redefining brand loyalty with ‘defiant loyalty’. This new form of engagement is based on a combination of 5 key factors. Gen Zedders want convenience. They’d rather access products and services than owning them. For them, the need to form an authentic emotional link in their relationship with a brand is central. They favour new sources of trust and decision-making support (celebrities and influencers) over traditional media. And while belonging to a community is central to their lives, they are also keen to maintain their individuality.

Certain brands like Nike have understood that this generation is not like any that came before. They have managed to create strong direct links with their audiences, mainly due to accelerating their ‘direct to consumer’ strategy while also allowing high levels of personalisation. These brands cleverly activate trusted sources (contracted athletes and celebrities) to support their cause and create a strong community feeling around their mission.

A generation with multiple identities

Gen Z is also a multi-faceted generation. Brands would be wise to see Gen Z through the prism of a triple identity:

  • A real life identity
  • A virtual identity
  • An identity as channeled through a virtual assistant

Several key elements must be considered in this new paradigm.

Firstly, virtual human experiences, such as games, virtual reality experiences and avatars, are becoming an extremely important aspect of Gen Zedders’ social lives. These 24/7 barrier – and judgement-free ecosystems enable new means of expression and new dedicated communities.

Consider the success of virtual concerts, such as Travis Scott in Fortnite, which had 12 million simultaneous views, or the emergence of CGI influencers like Lil Miquela who has millions of followers on social networks; these examples are symbolic of how this generation connects to their virtual identities.

At the same time, Gen Zedders also seek out immersive real-life experiences that allow them to reconcile their on – and offline identities to create ‘Instagrammable’ moments that showcase their passions and interests (rather than just consuming products). The recent emergence of immersive experiences, such as Rose Mansion, Candytopia and Electric Gamebox or the growing number of events -based pop-up stores in major cities (before the COVID-19 pandemic) demonstrates the need to go beyond the product to reach and connect with Generation Z.

The 5 principles for winning the customer engagement battle with Gen Z

Winning the battle for customers’ attention will be one of the greatest challenges in coming years. To be victorious, especially with Gen Z, winning brands will have to respect 5 core principles:

  1. Brands will need a foundation that allows them to connect with their audience and employees around a mission, a vision and authentic shared values.
  2. Brands will need to take ownership of the entire customer journey, which is not just about buying or consuming their products and services, but also about how they can add value to the daily lives of their customers.
  3. Brands will also need to master every aspect of a customer engagement strategy, e. having well-defined editorial guidelines, a global and adapted content strategy, a clear plan of innovations, especially in terms of digital services and improving the customer experience, all underpinned by a global Customer Marketing approach.
  4. Strategies will have to shift from traditional marketing plans to transmedia marketing by prioritising the frequency of interactions and relying on real ‘tent pole’ marketing operations. This implies more storytelling, a schedule of activations and moments, a high frequency of audience interactions, the ability to be always in touch through the creation of content in all its forms and also (but not only) via an adapted media plan.
  5. Finally, brands need to create a direct relationship with their audience, as well as prioritising direct data acquisition and use strategies (AKA the famous ‘first-party data’) to create personalised relationships with their audiences. This is key. Each brand must become a digital destination for its audience.

In the context of the attention economy coupled with the acceleration of 5G and AI, we are entering into a period of phenomenal opportunity for brands. Gen Z is the first generation to demonstrate its full potential. We are just at the beginning of a fascinating and exciting adventure.

Jérôme HIQUET, founder of StratNXT and former CMO of Formula E, Tough Mudder and Club Med North America.

You liked this article? Share it!

Get all new articles in your email box :