Generation Z, Gen Z, iGen, or centennials – whatever you call them, there’s no denying they have lived through quite the life already. They’ve survived a pandemic, gotten accustomed to remote Zoom classes, and had to mask up just to visit the grocery store.
When it comes to your job as a marketer, you know it’s essential to keep an eye on changing generations. As mindsets, priorities, and circumstances change, so do the ways in which you can best reach and connect with your audience in a meaningful way.
As for the market, the COVID-19 pandemic has had some residual effects that have shaken up industries across the globe. A few key statistics:
- The unemployment rate reached 14.8% in April 2020—the highest observed since data collection began (1948).
- The labor force participation rate declined to 60.2% in April 2020.
- A November 2020 report from Morneau Shepell showed that roughly a quarter (24%) of American adults said they were considering a job or career change due to the pandemic.
- The 2021 Work Trend Index by Microsoft shows that 41% of the workforce is considering leaving their employer this year.
- In September, a record 3% of the American workforce, or 4.4 million people, quit their jobs as part of the Great Resignation.
That is a lot of people resigning. So how did all of this influence Gen Z?
In a big way.
They may have seen their parents take substantial financial hits from job losses or reevaluate their priorities. Flexibility became key through this time, and employers across most industries were forced to adapt to remote work or hybrid work environments – or risk losing key employees. The work-life balance was put under a magnifying glass, and many decided that they valued their personal relationships over work.
All of these disruptions tend to shift priorities and values for the next generation. And what about those that are already in the workforce?
The current state and mindset of Gen Z
Let’s start by saying – it’s not great.
According to Microsoft, “Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized.” 60% of those between 18 and 25 say they are either “merely surviving or flat-out struggling right now.”
A lot of this has to do with the social implications of the pandemic, as small talk with co-workers is replaced by remote work and meaningful connections are harder to form across organizations.
Another way to look at this? 61% of business leaders say they are ‘thriving’, which is 23% higher than their employees. These decision-makers tend to be Millennials or Gen X, while their employees? You guessed it – Gen Z. Being younger and thus earlier in their careers, they struggle with feelings of isolation caused by working from home and, in turn, find it hard to feel motivated. This leads to unhappier employees, and lower productivity, and it’s really just a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
The pandemic and resulting changes have culminated in Gen Z placing a high value on economic security. This may sound like a relatively small change, but it can significantly shape industries.
For instance, the number of Americans who felt that the tech industry had a positive impact dropped 21 points from 71% in 2015 to 50% in 2019. While this reflects the opinion of various generations, it shows that Gen Z may be far less willing to enter the tech sector than their Millennial counterparts.
According to this telling infographic by the World Economic Forum, Gen Z has a more pragmatic approach to money – with a whopping 75% saying that college is not the only path to a good education. In fact, 88% of graduates from 2017, which was the first graduating class of their generation, chose their major with job availability in mind. In addition, 77% have a side hustle, so to speak – earning extra money through freelancing, part-time work, or an earned allowance.
Diversity and Inclusion
Alongside shifting financial priorities, another significant facet that matters to this generation is diversity and inclusion. Gen Z is the most diverse generation of consumers so far. According to one study, 67% of Gen Z workers have witnessed discrimination or bias based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation in the workplace.
With this in mind, it’s crucial that your organization not only embrace diversity in your marketing strategy but embrace diversity and inclusion in all respects, from hiring to ensuring there is fair representation throughout different departments. This rings true no matter which industry you belong to – for instance, according to Law.com,
“Legal professionals, too, are reassessing and prioritizing needs. Attorneys, especially those in Generation Z, are setting boundaries with employers and are actively seeking out workplaces that suit their needs for engagement, creativity, opportunities for growth and development, and investment in their careers and futures.”
And in another study by Monster, 83% of Gen Z candidates reported that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer. To take it one step further, they want to work for and have equity in organizations that demonstrate sound principles and strive to make the world a better place. They won’t hesitate to criticize their employers if they feel that your actions don’t match their social or moral beliefs.
Marketing to a new generation
So, how does all of this impact your approach to marketing?
On a fundamental level, understanding these generational differences is crucial if you want to recruit, retain or market to Gen Z. They expect your commitment to social responsibility and inclusiveness to hold up – they’re looking for legitimate changes and expect brands to pave the way. Authenticity is key, and they’re looking for dedication to the causes that matter to them.
From a marketing standpoint, this generation prefers ‘snackable content’. This is understandable, particularly with the ever-increasing amount of content out there. Some that immediately come to mind include infographics, memes, short videos (here’s looking at you, TikTok), or even tweets. Keep it simple, short, and engaging.
According to a survey by Kantar Media, Gen Z consumers are often said to have lower attention spans than older generations. However, they recall advertising content better, too, especially when it comes to skippable video ads that last under two seconds.
So once again, how should this shape your marketing strategy? To offer up a cheeky reply, there is no straight answer.
With the incredible experiences they have already lived through, trying to lump Gen Z into a simplified audience is a mistake. While trends such as shorter content may increase your chances of going viral, the real way to connect is to be authentic in your relationship with them. Try not to make assumptions about their values, but instead strive to understand them.
After all, the pandemic has been tough on everyone, but at least we didn’t have to receive our high school and college diplomas over Zoom!
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