Commentary & Analysis
Gen Z Marketing Madness: What Was Old is New Again!
Gen Zers—despite being branded as digital natives—are embracing more traditional media types. This article explores how Gen Z consumers interact with communications and discusses how increased knowledge about this generation can be turned into actionable implementation of direct mail marketing, TransPromo communications, and advertising support.
By Pat McGrew
Published: February 14, 2019
- According to a January 2018 Forbes article, older Gen Z consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 are expected to account for more than $140 million in direct spending by 2020.
- When it comes to the media that Gen Z consumes, they seem to be leaning toward things like newspaper ads, signs in brick-and-mortar store locations, and individualized messaging.
- If you engage their interest, Gen Z consumers will stay with you and share their experiences with others…but the customer experience must be superb.
- Gen Zers like brands that speak to their hearts, so establishing the right relationship is crucial.
The wheel of time is turning, and it almost had to happen. In the transition to the next segment of the cycle, the generational shift we so often see in effective marketing strategies is telling us that older Gen Z consumers (between the ages of 18 and 24) do not behave like Gen X or Millennials. Instead, Gen Zers—despite being branded as digital natives—are embracing more traditional media types. This is important because, according to a January 2018 article in Forbes magazine, they are on track to become the top consumers in a very short time. By 2020, these young adults are expected to account for more than $140 million in direct spending.
What Makes Gen Z Different?
There is no doubt that the members of Gen Z consume information and react to marketing messages differently, but how can this knowledge be turned into actionable implementation of direct mail marketing, TransPromo communications, and advertising support? The first element of the chase is to understand what Gen Zers are doing differently. The oldest members of this generation are coming online financially with their first real jobs and financial responsibilities. They are buying cars, renting apartments, paying utility bills, and often diving into the world of credit cards and loans.
The Forbes Development Council reminds us to meet them where they live, which is sound advice for any generation. When it comes to the media that Gen Z consumes, they seem to be leaning toward things like newspaper ads, signs in brick-and-mortar store locations, and individualized messaging. They are heavy users of video, so the new postal incentives from the USPS that reward mailers for using Augmented Reality solutions may be a good strategy. If you are one of the more than 120 companies already registered for the USPS Tactile Sensory Interactive promotion, congratulations! Early results indicate that the active participants are already realizing increased revenues in addition to their postal discounts. As an added benefit, this is just the type of marketing that will appeal to Gen Z.
As new research emerges about how Gen Z consumers interact with their world, it is important to understand these nuggets of information so we can lay the appropriate groundwork with our marketing campaigns. According to a Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends study entitled In Search of Business Opportunities: Finding the Right Prospects, digital marketing, sales and marketing materials, and print publication advertising are the top three ways that enterprises communicate with their customers. This aligns with the way Gen Z pulls information, but it still speaks to the needs of Millennials and Gen X—who have different preferences for the communications they consume.
Figure 1. Methods Used to Communicate with Customers
N = 749 Enterprise Respondents
Source: In Search of Business Opportunities: Finding the Right Prospects, Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends 2017
Discussed in a recent Business Insider, a new study by The Atlantic’s creative marketing group Atlantic Re:think, Comscore, and Harvard College Consulting Group made the point that Gen Z consumers read older media titles more than twice as much as digital outlets like BuzzFeed and Cheddar. At the same time, however, the Forbes panel reminds us we must be concise—Gen Zers have little patience for long-winded value propositions. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean they have a short attention span, it does mean that they make quick decisions about relevance. If you engage their interest, they will stay with you and share their experiences with others…but the customer experience must be superb.
Are you adding a marketing message to your regulatory communications? Make it easy for Gen Z consumers to access the offer directly from the document, either online or on paper. If you’re creating a direct mail marketing campaign, remember that Gen Z likes paper…but it needs to be interactive! A great design and unique finishing characteristics are great ways to develop interactive direct mail. It is also important to remember that Gen Z is not the email generation—they are the texting generation. Mobile apps that learn who they are, respect their time, and focus on a quality customer experience can create a winning path forward.
Another place where Gen Z holds different values involves how much they are willing to share with brands and organizations. Although the study cited in Business Insidersuggests that slightly more than half of Millennials are concerned about privacy and how much information they share with the brands that they buy from, just over 40% of Gen Z survey respondents had similar concerns. Gen Zers like brands that speak to their hearts, so establishing the right relationship is crucial. They are also willing to share feedback, which opens the door to a wide variety of interactive experience options. Although Gen Z consumers are willing to share usable, actionable data with brands, they do expect a payoff for doing so. Campaigns that push “special offers” that are not special, promote targeted offers that miss the mark, or appear to serve the brand more than the consumer can jeopardize a relationship, so they should be taken off the marketing table.
The Bottom Line
Brands should view up-and-coming Gen Z consumers as an opportunity to leverage print and mail that is linked to mobile. These individuals expect a consistent and stellar experience across all channels, and properly executed campaigns will grab their attention and get them excited. Print service providers should take a look at the products that they are offering to clients and consider developing programs that can help them get in touch with this emerging group of buyers.
Leveraging more than three decades as an evangelist for technology in communication, Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ Pat McGrew uses her technical and marketing background to lead the industry toward optimized business process and information workflows. She has worked with companies to help them define their five-year plans, audited workflow processes, and developed sales team interventions and education programs. She educates the industry in production workflows to promote effective communication. If you have stories to share, Pat would love to hear from you! She can be reached via Twitter (@PatMcGrew), LinkedIn, or e-mail (Pat.McGrew@