How to Innovate Your Marketing for the Next Generation of Consumers
Nov 29, 2023
Marketing is evolving rapidly to reach new generations of consumers, especially tech-savvy Gen Z. As the first true “digital natives,” Gen Z relies heavily on social media and online content for information and purchasing decisions.
Studies show Gen Z already holds $360 billion in spending power and will account for over 40% of all consumers by 2025. Reaching these new consumers requires brands to take an innovative approach to Gen Z marketing.
Gone are the days of glossy ads and passive one-way messaging. Today’s next-generation marketing is all about building authentic connections. Strategies include championing social causes, collaborating with nano-influencers/ college students, creating interactive content, and providing personalized digital experiences. The key is constantly experimenting across platforms and using data analytics-driven technology to forge genuine relationships.
Brands that embrace next-generation strategies have seen impressive results. For example, Target’s #targetholiday TikTok challenge drove engagement and brand visibility. The challenge generated over 111 million views. With that number, it can be estimated to have a reach of about 680 million and sales of about $224 million.
The future success of brands depends on marketing innovation to build lifelong loyalty with young consumers.
Know Your Audience
Gen Z marketing requires in-depth research into their values, habits, and preferences. Compared to previous generations, Gen Z relies more on social media and peer recommendations for information. They value authenticity and transparency from brands. Causes like diversity and sustainability resonate strongly with them.
Studies from AECF Org show over 70% of Gen Zens consider a brand’s stance on social and political issues before buying. They also favor brands that celebrate diversity — 62% say increased representation is positive for society by Pew Research. Gen Z also consumes high volumes of short video content on platforms like TikTok and YouTube.
Build an Authentic Brand
Align your brand mission and values with causes Gen Z cares about — racial justice, sustainability, mental health, equality.
For example, skincare brand Cocokind communicates its values outwardly through campaigns supporting diversity and inclusion. But it also reflects those values internally through practices like publishing workforce diversity data to hold itself accountable.
Actions speak louder than words. Bring your mission to life by donating to related charities, partnering with activists, or involving Gen Zers in creative ways. Empower employees to participate as well. Ultimately, Gen Z will reward brands that live their values with loyalty.
Spotlight real people, stories, and UGC
User-generated content (UGC) resonates strongly with Gen Z’s quest for authenticity. Spotlight real customers and stories in your marketing materials rather than overly polished, stock imagery.
In addition to UGC, transparency efforts like publishing workforce data and interviews with employees allow you to spotlight the real people who bring your brand to life each day. This human-centered approach forges connections and trust.
Use bold and fun brand personality
Skincare brand Starface cleverly leverages its name and products through social content filled with smiles, stars, and yellow color motifs. This engaging, bold, and fun personality attracts their target younger audience.
The key is balancing your brand mission with moments of levity. Gen Z will see through inauthentic attempts at humor, so the content must still reflect your values. But injecting appropriate fun gives Gen Z content they enjoy engaging with.
Meet Them Where They Are
Gen Z spends much of their time on major social platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. To connect with them, create channel-specific content tailored to each platform’s audience and features.
Keep content short, entertaining, and interactive
Gen Z has a short attention span, so shorter is better when creating social content. Videos should be under 60 seconds, ideally 15–30 seconds. Use concise but eye-catching captions.
Entertaining Gen Z means embracing humor, adventures and behind-the-scenes moments. For example, Proctor & Gamble drove engagement through a music challenge with rapper Jason Derulo on TikTok. Make content interactive with polls, AR effects or by asking followers to post UGC.
Whenever possible, collaborate directly with Gen Z followers or employees to create content. This gives you insider expertise on crafting content that grabs attention.
Add emerging platforms like Discord and Twitch
Look beyond major networks to engage Gen Z users on emerging or niche platforms like Discord and Twitch or even college campuses (i.e., consider student marketing). Choose communities relevant to your industry — for example, beauty brands using live streaming for virtual tutorials and sports brands leveraging effective college marketing by tapping into D1 college athletes.
Participate in trends, challenges, and hashtags
Jumping on trends and challenges specific to each platform allows your brand to tap into viral moments. But move quickly before momentum is lost.
Hashtags unite communities around topics, so make use of relevant hashtags in your content. You can also launch custom hashtags for user-generated content campaigns. Aim for authentic participation rather than hijacking a trend solely to promote products out of context.
Connect with Influencers
Nano and micro-influencers with under 100k followers often resonate more with Gen Z than celebs. Forbes states their engagement rates are higher, around 20%.
Identify creators who genuinely fit your brand — don’t just pursue big names. Negotiate long-term partnerships, not just one-off sponsorships, to build deeper ties. College ambassador programs for college students are a great way to activate this pipeline.
For example, Dunkin’ drove success by partnering with various college students and nano-influencers on Instagram as part of their espresso campaign. Chances are, you can get the same results if you hire college students as part of your marketing campaign
Provide Personalized Experiences
Personalization is key for tech-savvy Gen Z consumers. Collect behavioral data, transactional history, and feedback to tailor content and product recommendations to each customer.
For example, Sephora uses AI to analyze purchase data and serve personalized product suggestions on its website. After a customer buys a specific makeup item, they receive an email with complimentary products tailored to their purchase.
A survey by McKinsey & Company shows 71% of consumers expect personalization and 76% get frustrated with generic outreach. Continuously refine segmentation and messaging based on response rates.
Leverage data to segment your audience and create highly targeted email and social media campaigns. Avoid blasting the same generic content to all users. Dime is a company that champions Gen Z data and provides direct insights and reach toward Gen Z.
As Gen Z’s influence rises, brands must prioritize marketing innovation to build meaningful connections with this digitally savvy generation.
By championing social causes, collaborating with nano-influencers/ college students, and providing personalized experiences, companies can craft authentic relationships. Data and continuous experimentation enable brands to engage Gen Z where they are, on the platforms and causes they care about.
For brands struggling to authentically reach this audience, solutions like Dime help brands by leveraging networks of college ambassadors via their college ambassadors program to share branding amongst Gen Z’s largest communities — campuses nationwide (college marketing). With a university marketing approach, Dime funnels brands directly to the next generation.