Generation Z: the Holy Grail for brands?

Yahoo omg!: celebrity gossip site has found the sweet spot of engagement says Patrick Hourihan
Yahoo omg!: celebrity gossip site has found the sweet spot of engagement says Patrick Hourihan

In order to reach and connect with Generation Z, brands need to know what's really important to this digital generation, writes Patrick Hourihan, head of research Northern Europe, Yahoo.

Generation Z is a highly diverse, social generation who have grown up in the digital age. While there is no consensus on their exact demographic, they range in age from teens to early twenties and are often referred to as digital natives. A tricky group to reach, they are notoriously fickle, but well worth the investment in understanding a prime target for so many brands with their disposable incomes and astronomic levels of online engagement.

In order to increase the chances of engagement, brands need to first understand what is important to Generation Z and what excites them. Our research into this demographic shows that online networks and communities give Gen Z a feeling of belonging and connection, with 28% saying that online networks make them feel part of something, even if they don’t share personal views with those within the communities. Brands that create or enhance these communities have the opportunity to connect, inform and assist Gen Z – an excellent way to build loyalty and engagement with a brand.  

Sweet spot

Creating communities is not the only way to tap into the desire to belong – brands can use ready-made communities driven by shared interest in content to engage. Yahoo omg! has found the sweet spot of engagement; as a brand, the celebrity gossip site doesn’t expect people to just blindly follow them – they interact back with their readers, following them and build mutual respect. The omg! team’s playful  language, tone of voice and perspective on celebrity gossip helps nurture this relationship – like talking to friends. 

Working with key influencers to develop content that they want to see is another route to the holy grail of Gen Z – their approval. 

To this end, brands must talk the talk. Every message must be authentic and engaging with consistent content created through all brand channels. Content needs to be both relevant and insightful 47% of Gen Z say that good content helps them become more knowledgeable. If you look at Nike’s social media presence, rather than talking about its products - ie, new running shoes  Nike engages with its followers as if it were one of them, sharing favourite training routes, times, personal bests and tips.

When brands are creating content it is important to make sure that it is punchy and short, keeping young people interested and tuned in. Working with key influencers to develop content that they want to see is another route to the Holy Grail of Gen Z – their approval. Many of this generation live and breathe social media and tapping into the power of peer recommendation is a great way for brands to drive connections.

Creating longevity with this audience is a significant challenge, and as well as creating the right content, brands need to keep on top of the latest trends – after all, it is Generation Z that are driving these. Brands need to be brave in embracing the latest fashions. The reason that the Topshop’s Harlem Shake video received more than one million views and went viral was that the brand was ahead of the curve in delivering topical and relevant content to their followers.

Established networks

But it’s not as simple as always doing the new thing or using the new tool – the old ones still have value with this generation. Facebook in isolation is not enough, but neither is Vine or Snapchat – keeping a footprint in an established network where this generation resides is important. However, social activity must be tailored for each platform for the right campaigns; brands cannot recycle social activity for one platform such as Facebook and roll it out on Vine. 

Trust is exceptionally important when looking to build a long lasting relationship with Gen Z – they want reliable content, first. Building their own online identity is extremely important; brands that give them the right content quickly will help them create a great social profile for themselves. There is so much information on the internet that is incorrect  making sure that all information is correct is a great way of building a reputation as a trustworthy and credible source.

The truth is that many of those making marketing decisions are not part of the generation they wish to speak to. However, there will be those in the team that are. If I had one final comment, it would be this  research can give fantastic insights to a target audience, but personal experience is invaluable  ask junior members of the team what would work for them. It’s an easy and important way of road-testing ideas and ensuring your brand is relevant and keeps up.


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